As CEO of Google, Larry Page currently leads one of the most powerful companies in the world. So it’s not surprising to hear that he was the star of his college class at the University of Michigan.
Page received his bachelor of science degree in engineering at the University of Michigan in the early 1990s.
The year before he graduated, he attended Professor Elliot Soloway’s class, which focused on helping students brainstorm and carry out their senior projects.
According to Soloway, most students went with a safe (and boring) idea so they wouldn’t risk flunking.
But Page was different.
“He proposed a project, and I don’t remember the details, but I specifically remember I said ‘Larry, I don’t know if you can do that,'” Soloway told Business Insider. “And he said, ‘I don’t know either but I’m going to give it a shot.'”
Page’s project involved hacking the Palm Pilot to “do something that it wasn’t supposed to do,” Soloway said. He couldn’t recall any other details about the project, but was fascinated when Page managed to pull it off.
“The majority of students would never tackle a project like that,” Soloway said. “At the time I said, ‘Wow, if it doesn’t work out, I’m not even going to dock [his grade] because he was brave enough.”
Other professors would have “absolutely” penalised a student for a project that didn’t work out, Soloway said. But he was so impressed with Page’s enthusiasm in trying that he didn’t care whether the project functioned properly or not.
“It’s the willingness to take a risk,” he said.
And the risk certainly paid off. Page’s hack worked and Soloway said he gave him an A+.
“I remember it was successful and I was impressed,” he said.
Page’s success at Google hasn’t tainted his relationship with Soloway. The University of Michigan professor said he’s visited with Page as recently as “a year or two ago.”
“He’s got nothing to prove to anybody,” Soloway said. “He doesn’t have to be arrogant…he is just one good guy.”
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