America Online

Chapter Four: America Online

Tom played a founding role in developing ground-breaking educational and family offerings on the Internet at a small start-up called Quantum Computer Services, which later became America Online.

Dear Tom,

It’s been a million years since we worked together during AOL’s early days. But I continue to vividly recall your overall dedication, wisdom, humor, great intellect, and your unfailing love for (and commitment to) the field of education. You were and continue to be a true role model for educators around the globe, and I will always admire your commitment and enthusiasm. I feel so fortunate to call you a great friend— and on your 50th birthday, it’s a pleasure to wish you a wonderful, happy day, and the best year ahead!

— Much love and respect, Eileen Bramlet

5 Responses to America Online

  1. Paul Hyland says:

    Happy Birthday, Tom!

    Wow, little did I know that I was a month older than you! Perhaps it has something to do with your being a man ahead of his time. When I worked for you, helping manage online courses and Homework Help, AOL was light years ahead of the rest of the field of online learning. A decade later, major web services were just starting to provide the same sort of tutoring we enabled, and online classes have really just begun to gain widespread adoption at all levels of education in the past few years.

    Working with the dedicated contract and volunteer staff who really ran these services, and witnessing the vibrant online communities that existed on AOL, gave me a decade-long head start toward understanding the potential of social media – and you were one of the visionaries who lit that fire for me. The additional experience I gained working with major educational institutions such as Smithsonian and National Geographic, along with later content partners in the music industry, proved to be a great springboard into the world of online media.

    These diverse experiences continue to serve me well as I manage web technology for Education Week, and work on social media strategy and Internet policy for a variety of organizations. But I will always remember those days at a scrappy little online service called America Online, with its obvious commitment to education personified in Tom de Boor. As AOL grew and shifted its focus through sometimes tumultuous stages, it has always provided me with valuable examples of the power of simple interfaces and a robust online community. I thank you for giving me that opportunity and being my first teacher there, helping me to make the most of the experience.

    Best of luck as you continue to blaze trails in online media and education!

    Paul Hyland, CTO Digital Operations, Editorial Projects in Education

  2. Jack Daggit says:

    If you believe that the purpose of life, is a life of purpose, then Tom de Boor has lived a purpose-filled life. Interactive education has never had a better friend and more dedicated proponent than Tom de Boor. Tom was the single person most responsible for bringing to life the full potential of how education could be revolutionized using new media and the Internet. With a broad-based approach that encompassed organizations large and small such as the National Education Association, Teach For America, Scholastic, CNN Newsroom, Princeton Review, Homework Helpers and PBS, Tom dared to take online education in new directions for America Online. I say with great confidence that what Tom did for education has changed for the better the lives of millions of people.

    Tom, I hope the days of working late into the night and sleeping in your office are behind you especially now that you eligible to become an AARP member. Happy birthday and always the best of everything. You deserve it my friend.

    Jack Daggit, former senior executive @ AOL

  3. Lou Pugliese says:


    Wow! 50 years! There is not enough room in this comment box to distill the contributions you have made to our industry. I have long been envious of the eye for design you have and the ability to create meaning out of blank canvas. You are one of the few people in the industry who realy understand the proufound impact that an internet dominant eLearning environment can have in reshaping the formal and informal learning landscape. You also are are one of the few people who understand the importance and social dynamic of community and important social exchanges that create context, relevancy, dimension and depth of understanding that form the collective IQ.

    Here’s to another 50! (virtual wine glass clink)

    Lou Pugliese

  4. Gavrilo Gnatovich says:

    Dear Tom,

    To one of the most innovative and creative minds I know. Sometimes thinking outside the box is far too easy for you. It is always a learning experience working with you and you have taught me many, many things. I am remarkably proud to call you, “friend” and am honored to know you.

    Big Gav

  5. Bobbi Kurshan says:

    I have known Tom from when he started at AOL and he understood better than anyone there the power of the community for changing education. The Homework Help service was ahead of its time in the areas of tutoring, collaboration and online learning.

    Tom is one of the most thoughtful educators I know and he has a unique ability to put in understandable terms very innovative ideas. Over the years, working with Tom has always been special as he brings to the conversation the right questions, creative ideas and the ability to always “think out of the box.”

    — Bobbi Kurshan, Executive Director of Curriki – the Global Education & Learning Center

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