About Tom

Bio

As TED's Community Director, Tom created and runs the international TED Fellows program among other responsibilities. But he's found his true vocation as TED's resident satirist, a role he's played for more than a decade.

A lifelong performer, he found a second love in personal computing. He recognized early on the incredible power of Macs and the Web, co-founding Yale's Macintosh User Group in 1984, then working at SuperMac, Farallon and Voyager. Rielly is perhaps best-known for founding PlanetOut, the largest digital home for gays and lesbians. He also co-founded the influential nonprofit Digital Queers.

At TEDGlobal, Tom met our youngest TED Fellow, William Kamkwamba, whom he’s been mentoring for the last four and a half years. Rielly’s short film about William won Participant Media’s North American Filmmaker’s Award at the Pangea Day worldwide film festival. He is currently expanding it into a full-length documentary. William is now a student at Dartmouth College and author of two best-selling books about his experiences, one for adults and one for children.

Rielly is also Executive Director of Moving Windmills Project, a U.S. 501c3 organization that supports William's village improvement projects in his home country of Malawi in Central Africa. To date, MWP and William have created a solar-powered well, watertanks and free tap water, a community soccer team that put the Wimbe village on the map, and two new primary school buildings with three more scheduled for 2012.

He lives in New York City with entirely too many Apple devices.

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Languages

English, French

Education

  • New Trier High School; General
  • La Sorbonne; French Language and Literature
  • Georgetown University; English
  • Yale University; Literature

Job Titles

Fellows Director, Community Director, Executive Director

Latest Tweet

Incredibly gutted. I will miss jamming with Robin Williams… and more about my friend. http://t.co/HKEO5Rn974 http://t.co/rSulsngutb
12 Aug

About Tom Rielly’s work

Moving Windmills Project supports Malawian-run rural economic development and education projects in Malawi, with the goals of community economic independence and self-sustainability; food, water and health security; and educational success. Moving Windmills Project is inspired by the story of William Kamkwamba, a remarkable young man from a remote village north of Malawi’s capital city. Forced to drop out of school due to lack of funds, William turned to self-education and, after seeing a picture of a windmill in a textbook, decided to build one to power his family’s home.

Companies and organizations

TED, TED, Moving Windmills Project

Uploaded photos

Flickr

Projects

Moving Windmills Project

Jun. 01, 2007 - Present

Moving Windmills Project supports Malawian-run rural economic development and education projects in Malawi, with the goals of community economic independence and self-sustainability; food, water and health security; and educational success. Moving Windmills Project is inspired by the story of William Kamkwamba, a remarkable young man from a remote village north of Malawi’s capital city. Forced to drop out of school due to lack of funds, William turned to self-education and, after seeing a picture of a windmill in a textbook, decided to build one to power his family’s home.

Project website

TED Fellows Program

The TED Fellows program is designed to bring together young world-changers and trailblazers who have shown unusual accomplishment and exceptional courage. The program targets individuals from the Asia/Pacific region, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Middle East, though anyone from anywhere in the world, age 18 and over, is welcome to apply

Project website

Tom Rielly on the TED blog

News

What makes a TED Fellow? Tom Rielly tells all

April 21, 2014

Twice a year, we select 20 unconventional change-makers to join the TED Fellows program, a global network of innovators from a wide spectrum of disciplines. Last year’s TED Fellows class included an eye surgeon using low-cost mobile phone technology to make eye care more accessible across Kenya; photojournalists documenting conflicts in Palestine and Bosnia; a biological anthropologist researching cancer […]

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Ted Global2009

Watch TEDTalks from speakers at the upcoming TEDGlobal 2009

July 10, 2009

From TEDGlobal’s speaker list of more than 90 — including 18-minute talks, demos and TED U courses — 13 of our scheduled speakers already have TEDTalks online from previous TEDs and partners. To find them, check out our new theme, Speaking at TEDGlobal 2009, and watch archive gems from these returning speakers. All of these […]

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Watch the TED Fellows video — and apply for a TEDIndia fellowship

May 21, 2009

The TED Fellows program helps world-changing innovators from around the globe become part of the TED community. This short video conveys the intense, potentially life-changing experience of becoming a TED Fellow, through interviews with some of the TED2009 Long Beach Fellows and with TED’s Community Director, Tom Rielly: Inspired? Apply for a TEDIndia Fellowship! Applications […]

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