The Whiz Kid
Howard Tullman is many things: an entrepreneur who's founded several hugely successful tech companies; the owner of one of the country's largest collections of contemporary art; and, as its president, the man who saved Kendall College from financial disaster a few years ago. One thing he isn't, though? Tullman, 62, isn't too set in his ways. Whether helping Rolling Stone build an early, massive website, or developing huge video game projects like Where's Waldo, Tullman is always looking forward. So it's no surprise that when fellow entrepreneur Ric Landry, 60, approached him about investing in and serving as chairman of Flashpoint Academy - the new two-year school for video game developers, filmmakers and special-effects and recording wizzes - Tullman didn't need much prodding.
"The story of this school is that these four disciplines are getting rammed together faster than we could ever have imagined," says Tullman as he guides a tour into a soundproof recording studio in the Burnham Center, where Flashpoint is located. "Employers these days are 100-percent about what you can do - 'How soon can you hit the ground running?'"
In other words, it doesn't matter to tech and new media empoyers whether one can riff on Paradise Lost or not, let alone whether they met their sophomore fencing requirement. "Sometimes, we kind of whisper to the kids when they come in, 'You know, you can keep your blue hair and your ear studs.' These are the last meritocracies - if you can fix someone's computer, they don't care what you look like," says Tullman, who flies his own eccentric flag, among other ways, with his enormous collections of Pez containers and lunchboxes, viewable on his website, Tullman.com.
To make sure they stay on top of the latest technology, Flashpoint - which is beyond wired - has made strategic partnerships with many companies, such as Apple, to secure the best equipment at reasonable prices. They've also teamed with companies and organizations such as Electronic Arts, Midway Games and the Chicago Film Office for internships, jobs and off-site instruction.
There are other advantages for the 400 students who will begin classes at Flashpoint this month. Unlike most college students, Flashpointers won't have to build their forearm muscles up over the summer just to keep pace with motor-mouthed profs as they take notes during lectures. Here, they'll simply check into their classroom with an electronic fob, and, after class, notes will automatically be e-mailed to their accounts. Pen? Paper? Passe!