Fly Like a Drone
By Monty Harris, Director of Capital and Endowment Giving
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s drone power.
Last April, two dozen students, staff, faculty, and WDEL gathered in the library for a glimpse into the future. Theo Nix, Jr. ‘72 presented on why the sky’s the limit in opportunities for FAA-certified drone pilots. The former corporate counsel for DuPont has founded a business to train pilots in five states including Delaware – and he wants to expand internationally, starting in Kenya.
Imagine delivery times for medical supplies to remote areas dramatically reduced. Or, think of how farmers can increase crop yields by analyzing data captured by airborne cameras. That’s drone power.
Theo’s DWS Drone School (www.dwsdroneschool.com) has partnered with Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki to train urban youth how to operate drones and virtual reality cameras. His vision is to replicate this model around the world.
At the Lunch and Learn last April, Theo also announced his plans to form the Delaware Drone Soccer League. Judging by the students’ expressions, it may very well happen.
The compelling video and talk ended before an actual demonstration of drones in flight. After the students left for their next classes, Head of School Ken Aldridge operated a drone for the first time. He appeared to enjoy the experience.
As a student, Theo, who was known as “Ricky,” was a class president, started the Martin Luther King Scholarship Fund, and developed his passion for music. The apex of his Friends experience was performing in Violet Richman theater productions. “Violet Richman was a transformational teacher and person who brought out the best in everyone she taught,” he wrote.
There were few students of color when he attended Friends from 1967 to 1972. In fact, many were his family members: Sheldon Nix ’74, Denise Nix-Thompson ’75, and Crystal Nix Hines ’81.
“My siblings and I were the only African Americans in the Upper School. For me there were many moments of loneliness. Friends is an exceptional school with provocative teachers. It was always on the cutting edge of most things including the issue of race. However, we lived in two worlds, their white world and the Black world. Our classmates really didn’t know or ask what that African American world was about. But we thrived anyway and have benefited from the experience. I know our parents wanted the best education possible and nine Nix graduates later, Friends is part of our family DNA,” he reflected.
“The world will be better off when people of different backgrounds interact on less superficial levels,” he said on a visit
to the Jones House.
As an alumnus and a parent of two Friends students, Courtney Nix ’07 and Theo Nix III ’07, Theo Jr. had a serendipitous experience on the Friends campus. “I was working for a billion dollar, high-end developer at the time and was looking for a new gig and a way not to commute,” he recalls. “DuPont attorney, Mark Christman’s daughter, Meg Christman (’06) and my daughter, Courtney Nix, played volleyball together. While sitting in the stands, I asked Mark if DuPont legal was hiring. He didn’t know but said he would find out. It turned out that one year later, I was the first attorney hired in five years. I worked for DuPont as corporate counsel for fifteen great years. I learned early on you have to ask for what you want in this life.”
As a businessman, Theo has always had an entrepreneurial mindset. “I started the drone and virtual reality school and employment company to help the American middle class and our veterans who come from around the country to take our classes,” he wrote. “I believe passionately that having your own business helps to create generational wealth for families. When you are a W-2 employee, your employer pays you just enough to come to work the next day but never enough to get wealthy. I would rather create wealth for myself and my own family. Entrepreneurship does that.”
Theo believes “your network is your net worth” and that using one’s network and creating networks will lead to opportunities. He also finds that partnerships help grow a business. “I learned from being corporate counsel at DuPont that one of the keys to the company’s success is to create collaborations.” [At the DWS Drone School] “We have created scores of global partnerships that will help drive our school and employment company to create thriving jobs and careers in these technologies,” he wrote.
When asked how he thinks his industry will look like in five years, Theo says “According to Goldman Sachs, drone technology is a $100 billion industry of which $13 billion is in the commercial/civil space where we play,” he responded. “The virtual reality space is a trillion-dollar industry. These industries will be a significant part of every part of our global society. As an early adopter in these industries, operators will be able to create generational wealth for their families while making a transformational and substantive difference for their communities, neighborhoods and society. That’s worth getting up in the morning. Fly Away with Us!”