Retired president, Starbucks

How did your interest in education begin?

When I retired from Starbucks I asked myself a question. How hard could it be to have all children at grade level by the end of 3rd grade. So I started doing research, interviewing and doing focus groups with professionals, parents and students.

It was so interesting but it only led to more questions. People seemed to know the answers but there were hardly any school districts that were getting it done. Why? Eventually we came up with 16 to 20 steps that it takes to have all third graders at grade level. Nothing earth shattering but just a lot of common sense.

How have you been involved in education, professionally or as an advocate, over the years?

I have really only been involved because I was interested. I'm not a professional except in the case that education was an important part of people development and growth at Starbucks. I am serving on two for-profit boards in the educational field. One being Education Elements, whose focus is on personalized learning in K-12, and the other being IDTech, which puts on high-quality tech summer camps for kids.

What one or two education issues are you most passionate about (and why)?

I would like the state to pick out two or three cities and fully fund the 16 to 20 steps through 3rd grade. They would have to pick out school districts that are small enough to get your hands around but not so small that they don't represent a broad spectrum of children. I believe that until we create successful working models we will never get the job done.

Tell us about an educator who made a particularly large impact on your life.

Mrs. Joncas, my 4th grade teacher, who knew I was having learning problems and cared enough to get involved. I will never forget her.

Share an unusual/fun fact about yourself.

Although I was not a good student in school I became a great student in life. I never received a real degree but a friend who was the president of Occidental College gave my an honorary PhD. I went through the graduation ceremony and now I have it hanging on my office wall. I always tease my wife Lynn who has a real PhD from the UW that mine looks a lot more impressive.