One million. It’s the number of disadvantaged students Appu Kuttan helps via the National Educational Foundation (NEF), the nonprofit he founded in 1989, dedicated to bridging academic, digital and employment divides through digital education. NEF’s mission is to make high-quality education accessible to everyone around the world, especially in the United States and India.
Kuttan received his bachelor’s degree in India in 1963. He came to the United States on the prestigious TATA scholarship, and earned a master’s degree from Washington University in 1966, and a PhD in industrial engineering from UW-Madison in 1968. He then launched what would become an illustrious career as a global systems expert.
Kuttan pioneered an influential management by systems (MBS) concept that has been applied around the world. In the 1970s, he helped the Puerto Rican government significantly improve traffic safety by implementing his MBS strategies. Invited by the Venezuelan government, he turned its social security and healthcare program deficit into a surplus, while improving services. He advised Indian leaders on how to turn its economy into an information technology powerhouse. His expertise also has made him a valued advisor to U.S. leaders, including the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He has published several books, including From Digital Divide to Digital Opportunity. His latest is Happy Executive — Nurturing Mind, Body and Soul.
In 1986, Kuttan purchased the world-famous Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida and helped develop three tennis world champions — Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Jim Courier via Total Tennis based on MBS. After pivotal conversations in 1993 with President Clinton and Intel founder Gordon Moore, Kuttan sold the tennis academy and used the proceeds to fund NEF, where he remains the CEO and chairman of the board.
The most visible NEF program is CyberLearning, which Kuttan launched in 1993 to provide students in the most disadvantaged U.S. schools with better science, technology, engineering, math, English, social studies, business and test preparation skills. In 2011, CyberLearning launched a program in India with IGNOU, the largest open university in the world, to train, certify and help place a million disadvantaged college students in information technology jobs.
NEF is based in Alexandria, Virginia. Kuttan’s wife, Claudia, a UW-Madison alumna; their son, Roger, a Stanford JD-MBA grad and U.S. Presidential honoree; and daughter Maya, a UCLA environmental law and USC award-winning film graduate, all serve NEF.