When Dave Fullagar retired in 1999, he left behind some tough shoes to fill. Fullagar is well known in technical circles for designing the first internally compensated op amp, the ubiquitous µA741, while at Fairchild in 1968. He also designed the first monolithic FET-input op amp while at Intersil in 1972 and helped cofound Maxim Integrated Products in 1983.
But as is the case with many successful engineers, there’s more to Fullagar than his technical accomplishments. In retirement, he and his wife, Betsy, have worked unassumingly on getting children’s books to support African schools and libraries.
In May 2007, on a photo safari to South Africa, the Fullagars came to know their guide, Alweet Hlungwani, who invited them to visit his village of Boxahuku in the northeast corner of South Africa. There they fell in love with the small village and its people and got to witness firsthand the poverty, illness, and overcrowded classrooms that don’t get talked about in the tourist brochures (Fig. 1).
The Fullagars began traveling back to Africa every couple of months after that to work with the village elders on developing a plan to help address some of the educational needs in tribal African villages.
In South Africa, there are many local languages. But in fourth grade and after, the lessons are taught in English only. Young students struggle with English and often drop out before completing high school, so they can’t compete for the college scholarships that are only available to good English speakers.
It wasn’t long before the Fullagars formed InAfricanShoes.org. This non-profit organization focuses on the younger children and raises their English awareness and proficiency by making reading fun, creating a village library and learning center with donated children’s English picture books and computers (Fig. 2).
After helping raise funds, purchase land, construct a facility, and getting thousands of donated books shipped, the Fullagars opened the Boxahuku library in 2009. Since then, they’ve opened another library in the town of Gwanda in Zimbabwe.
For more information about volunteering opportunities, see the organization’s Web site at www.InAfricanShoes.org/InAfricanShoes/Get_Involved.html.