Thursday's intriguing people
Laura Deming, Faheem Zaman and John Burnham put their college graduation on hold to use a grant to start a tech company.
May 26th, 2011
12:38 PM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Laura Deming, Faheem Zaman and John Burnham

These three students dropped out of college to receive a $100,000 grant and mentorship to start a tech company. They are part of the first group of Thiel Fellows - 24 people under age 20 who have agreed to put their formal education on hold for two years for this one-of-a-kind opportunity.

Deming, 17, is developing anti-aging therapies; Zaman, 18, is building mobile payment systems for developing countries; and Burnham, 18, is working on extracting minerals from asteroids and comets. Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder and Facebook investor, announced the first group of Thiel Fellows on Wednesday through his Thiel Foundation. He says the fellowship addresses two of the country's most pressing problems: a bubble in higher education and a dearth of Americans developing breakthrough technologies.

"We're not saying that everybody should drop out of college," Thiel told The New York Times.

The fellows can always go back to school. The problem, he said, is that "in our society, the default assumption is that everybody has to go to college."

"I believe you have a bubble whenever you have something that's overvalued and intensely believed," Thiel said. "In education, you have this clear price escalation without incredible improvement in the product. At the same time, you have this incredible intensity of belief that this is what people have to do. In that way, it seems very similar in some ways to the housing bubble and the tech bubble."

Thomas Herrod

The lifelong Joplin, Missouri, resident's home was spared in the tornado Sunday that destroyed much of the city.

That home has now become a refuge for some of Herrod's neighbors as he spends his days checking on residents of his numerous rental properties throughout the city while working with his church on relief efforts. He told National Public Radio that he's anxious to start the rebuilding process and get people into homes as soon as possible.

Morris Wilkinson

The 91-year-old celebrated 70 years in public service Tuesday in Birmingham, Alabama. Wilkinson has been a letter carrier for the postal service since 1947 and was a U.S. Marine for six years before that.

Wilkinson told The Birmingham News that his last day working "will be the day I die. There's nothing much to do at home but cut the grass."

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. banasy

    Mr. Wilkinson is 91 and still working?!?
    As a letter carrier?

    God bless him!

    May 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |

    Im pretty interesting. I got a muslim guy arguing with me on another blog. That is pretty good since i am a 12 year old troll ! : )

    May 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jenn

    I completely agree with thiel!! I don't see why all of a sudden Americans think the only way you become smart enough to make it is with a college education. Use to many people only had high school educations and they did work that these college educated kids do now! Lucky for them they didn't have to go into debt from student loans!!

    May 26, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cesar

    At this time, I don't wish to comment. Thank you.

    May 26, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. anobody

    Comparing College to the housing or tech bubble What is this guy... on dope! The reality is if you do not have a college degree the MAJORITY of the population will not get a well paying job. Kudos for helping entrepreneurs, sadly he is way off base with the bubble comments.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. seventeen mile stroll

    I cant wait till I'm 91yrs..and still working..after all a retirement plan is such a waste.

    May 26, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joey

    I'll continue to work till I just fall over.
    I'm lucky to be able to work in ("classical") music, but it's still hard–very hard–work.
    I may have become slower when I reach 91, but I won't stop working.

    May 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cesar

    91 years old to retire? Good grief! Don't let the right-wing goons in Washington cause you to wait that long to retire. GW Bush withdrew from the SS system for that unholy,unwanted vicious war. The Washington thugs must go. It is as simple as that.

    May 26, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |

    Good post,thank you Cesar.

    May 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. banasy

    Good post,thank you TACO JOE.

    May 26, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jenn

    Good post,thank you banasy.

    May 26, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sarah Palin

    Will you all stop. Please?

    May 26, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • mark

      Sarah Palin should do playboy!

      May 27, 2011 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  13. JehseaLynn

    Sairy can't do Playboy! Didn't you hear? She's got "a fire in her belly." Lookout, the Palin girls have misplaced their birth control again! Playboy's OUT.

    May 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. fernace

    I plan to live to120 (lol) & will take the last 20 off to vacation & whatnot. I'm well on my way, half a century & all! Seriously, kudos to all these people, they deserve this recognition. Thanks to CNN for reporting such heartwarming newws! Peace, outti!

    May 27, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Venus

    fernace. I know who you really are. But I'm not telling. Ha ha, we've out smarted the social haters and the trolls.

    May 28, 2011 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |