Midland School has honored alumnus Mathias Craig, co-founder and executive director of blueEnergy, for building a business that provides renewable energy, safe drinking water, and sanitation to highly marginalized communities in Central America and Africa.
Midland described Craig’s initiatives as tightly aligned with the values espoused and practiced by the school. To remind both current students and alums of those values, each year Midland, a college preparatory boarding high school in the Santa Ynez Valley, grants the John Dreyfuss Distinguished Alumni Award to an alumna or alumnus who has integrated Midland’s guiding principles into their lives and careers.
In his mid-teens, Craig became interested in the health and energy problems of isolated communities in Central and South America through frequent trips with his mother, who was a linguist specializing in indigenous languages. Eventually, these interests led him to enroll at Midland, where “there was a more intimate academic setting combined with the adventure of outdoors.”
After graduating from Midland in 1996, Craig studied environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, where renewable energy and water issues caught his attention. He was bitten by the entrepreneurialism bug at Berkeley, but he found it impossible as a student to raise the $30 million needed to build a wind power company in the hills east of San Francisco. Berkeley was followed by studies at MIT, where he took a course called “Entrepreneurship in the Developing World” and, remembering his experiences in South and Central America with his mother, the seed for blueEnergy was planted. He promptly founded the company when he graduated in 2003.
Since its founding, blueEnergy has delivered renewable energy, clean water, sanitation, and climate change solutions to over 36,000 people in Nicaragua. It has expanded into Africa and has made similar contributions to over 18,000 people in Ethiopia. In addition, blueEnergy has trained more than 430 college students and professionals in technical and intercultural skills through its immersive Global Leadership Program.
Like other Midland alumni, Craig periodically returns to Midland to give talks to students and help with projects. He has, for example, worked with the students and faculty to build wind turbines from scratch. He also leads social and environmental impact awareness discussions, especially as they relate to communities outside the U.S. that need expertise to solve their problems.
Craig is fluent in French and Spanish and has received eleven awards, including the Dreyfuss Award. In 2007 he receive the CNN Hero award and in 2010 he won UC Berkeley’s Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement by a Young Alumnus. He is a Fulbright Scholar and in 2008 he won an Ashoka Fellowship.
Midland School, which attracts students from Santa Barbara County and around the world, is a coeducational college preparatory boarding high school in the Santa Ynez Valley.