Monday, March 31, 2008

Few individuals choose to walk away at the height of their corporate career to dedicate their life to a social cause.

At age 35, John Wood did just that - quitting his position as Microsoft's Director of Business Development for the Greater China Region in order to found Room to Read. He has never looked back.

John's career at Microsoft spanned 1991 to 1999, where he ran significant parts of Microsoft's international business, as the Director of Marketing for the Asia-Pacific Division, Director of the Internet Customer Unit for Microsoft Australia, and Director of Marketing for Microsoft Australia.

In 1998, John took a vacation that changed his life. Trekking through a remote Himalayan village, he struck up conversation with a schoolteacher, who invited John to visit his school. There, John discovered that the few books available were so precious that they were kept under lock and key - to protect them from the children! Fewer than 20 books, all backpacker cast-aways, were available for more than 450 students.

What started with a simple email requesting friends donate used books has grown into Room to Read, an award winning non-profit that over the past eight years has established over 5,160 libraries, donated and published 4.3 million books, built 442 schools, and funded over 4,036 long-term scholarships for girls - impacting the lives of over 1.7 million students worldwide.

John strives to bring the lessons of the corporate world to the non-profit sector. Room to Read combines his passion with the discipline of a well-run global company. He has been described by Fast Company Magazine as "all heart, all business."

John has received countless honors for his work, including recognition as a "Young Global Leader" by the World Economic Forum and as one of Time Magazine's "Asian Heroes." Room to Read is a five-time winner of Fast Company Magazine's Social Capitalist Award, a recipient of the Skoll Foundation Award for Social Innovation, and a recipient of Draper Richards Fellowship for social entrepreneurs.

John holds a Bachelors of Science, magna cum laude, from the University of Colorado, and a Masters of Business Administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. He lives and works in San Francisco, CA.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

He Ah Lee - Four Fingered Pianist

Lee Hee-ah, 20, a disabled pianist who is making a deep impression on many people around the world by playing the piano despite having only four fingers, will release her first album.

Her album entitled "Hee-ah, a Pianist with Four Fingers" will hit the market around June 20.

The album will feature Lee's favorite classical numbers, such as "Fantaisie Impromptu in C sharp minor, op. 66" and "Waltz No. 10" by Frederic Francois Chopin, "Hungarian Dance" by Johannes Brahms, "Plaisir d'Amour" by Giovanni Battista Martini, "Serenade" by Franz Peter Schubert, and "Piano Concerto No. 21 -- the Second Movement" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The album also features "Amazing Grace," sung by Lee, and "Hee-ah's Song" written by Stephen Moon (Korean name Moon So-yon), a graduate of Seoul National University's Department of Composition who was in charge of producing the album. The recording began three years ago. Only "Hee-ah's Song" was recorded recently, but most of the other numbers, including "Fantaisie Impromptu in C sharp minor, op. 66," were recorded around 2002.

Lee's mother, Woo Kap-sun, 50, said she had originally intended to record her daughter's music in an album not to be sold, but to be kept in Lee's personal archive.

"In fact, I was concerned very much about the sales of the album, because Hee-ah's performing skills naturally fall behind those of normal professional pianists. The album was not designed for my daughter to play music for somebody else, but to represent her inner spiritual world," said Lee's mother.

Lee played with the Thames Philharmonic Orchestra in Britain on June 12. According to her mother, Lee received a standing ovation after playing "Hee-ah's Song" as an encore performance in Britain.

Taken from

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