My friend and business partner Tom Pinckney started two companies with me and one company before. He invented many non-trivial patented inventions and raised many millions of dollars in venture capital, and returned capital to those investors many times over.
He got his Bachelors and Master degrees from MIT. He’s the nicest, smartest, and most decent guy you’ll ever meet.
But my favorite thing about Tom is he never got he never got a high school degree. High school students today optimize their grades and SATs and after school activities. They speak French and Chinese, play piano and paint abstract art. They dance around and play hockey and act like they help homeless people.
Tom grew up in rural South Carolina and mostly stayed at home writing video games on his Apple II. There was no place nearby to go to high school. He took a few community college classes but none of those places could give him a high school degree. It didn’t really matter – all he wanted to do was program computers. So when it came time to apply to college, Tom just printed out a pile of code he wrote and sent it to colleges.
Stanford, Berkeley and everyone else summarily dismissed his application on technical grounds – he didn’t have a high school diploma.
MIT looked at his code and said, “we like it” – we accept you.
For his Masters the best four CS schools – Stanford, Berkeley, Carniegie Mellon, and MIT — all recruited Tom He stayed at MIT, the school that gave him a chance without a high school degree.
MIT is a national treasure. If you believe in meritocracy and the American dream, you believe in MIT.