With subtle accompaniment by longtime friend Herbie Hancock, and a slide show that has opened the minds (and pocketbooks) of CEOs across the country, Bill Strickland tells a quiet and astonishing tale of redemption through arts, music and unlikely partnerships.
Why you should listen to him:
Bill Strickland’s journey from at-risk youth to 1996 MacArthur ‘genius’ grant recipient would be remarkable in itself, if it were not overshadowed by the staggering breadth of his vision. While moonlighting as an airline pilot, Strickland founded Manchester Bidwell, a world-class institute in his native Pittsburgh devoted to vocational instruction in partnership with big business- and, almost incidentally, home to a Grammy winning record label and a world class jazz performance series. Yet its emphasis on the arts is no accident, as it embodies Strickland’s conviction that an atmosphere of high culture and respect will enervate even the most troubled students.
With job placement rates that rival most universities, Manchester Bidwell’s success has attracted the attention of everyone from George Bush, Sr. (who appointed Strickland to a six year term on the board of the NEA) to Fred Rogers (who invited Strickland to demonstrate pot throwing on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood). And though cumbersome slide trays have been replaced by PowerPoint, the inspirational power of his speeches and slide shows are the stuff of lecture circuit legend.