Like many Seattle Academy students, Alec Turnbull ‘04 tried just about everything once—theatre, music, speech & debate, advanced sciences, and more—just as SAAS so lovingly preaches. And this same mentality has echoed itself throughout his “After SAAS” life, as well, encouraging him to chase numerous pursuits, from lunar space elevator intern to Argentinian telenovela copy editor. Regardless of where he goes, however, New York continues to pull him back.
ALEC: After SAAS, I went to Columbia University. While there, I inevitably fell in with the theater crowd and started producing shows on and off campus. When Sam Johnson ‘07 showed up, we immediately cast him in The Real Inspector Hound, and we worked together on every other play I did while there. Saskia de Jonge ‘04 and Remi Spector ‘04 were at NYU while I was in school, and the chance to see them saved me from being stuck uptown.
SAAS Grad: What was your primary concentration at Columbia? ALEC: Inspired by SAAS Physics teacher Bill Woodman, I set out to study Physics and “Something Else.” That “Something Else” grew, pushed Physics out entirely, wound its way through almost every department, and finally coalesced into enough classes for a History degree in time for graduation in Spring of 2008.
SAAS Grad: What unique experiences have you had since leaving SAAS? ALEC: I’ve been restless since college, though the gravity of New York keeps pulling me back. I went to Beijing immediately after graduating from college. There, I freelanced for art galleries, went to the Olympics, and picked up any number of ridiculous odd jobs.
After Beijing, I headed to Argentina, and—out of work in Buenos Aires—I taught myself Spanish and found a gig editing telenovela scripts to earn spending money. In my free time, I taught myself another language: code.
Next, I moved to San Francisco and honed my self-taught coding skills at an agency there, as well as helped Devin Fitzpatrick ‘04 and another friend open an events / music space in the Tenderloin.
After a year, I moved back to New York and co-founded an education technology startup. We ran successful pilot programs in New York and Baltimore, but we struggled with funding because, sadly, investors are generally only interested in potential profits, and educational products are typically invented to help students and teachers, not make money. After a year of bootstrapping, I left and started doing consulting work on my own, building iPhone apps, websites, and business tools for clients around the country.
I recently returned to New York after spending July through October in Berlin where I took time to work on a few projects of my own.
SAAS Grad: Who or what were your most influential teachers or activities at SAAS? ALEC: The class trips stay with me to this day—The Seattle Challenge, Odyssey Trip, and Canyonlands [the former senior class trip]. I did Speech and Debate with Joel, Instrumental Music—such as it were: I believe one tri we were only made up of a clarinet, bassoon, and trombone)—and bit parts in a few productions. American Studies (then dubbed “Double Honors”) with Joe Puggelli & Rob Phillips was the landmark class of Upper School for me. I still love to see Stephen “Étienne” Schroeppel and Françoise Deeg-LeGal when I’m in town. What’s stayed with me most is the community and the friends I've made through it all. I see friends from SAAS whenever I’m in Seattle and run into them on the streets of New York. They’ve all enriched my life in a way I could never hope to articulate.
SAAS Grad: Where are you now and what are you up to? ALEC: I live in Brooklyn with two of my closest friends from SAAS, Morgan Harris ‘04—who’s training to become a master sommelier—and Devin Fitzpatrick '04. I will soon start work as the Digital Attaché to the French Consulate. My job will be to build connections between the digital communities of France and the US, based out of the Consulate in New York. In addition, I run a small web/mobile development consultancy and always try to keep a few creative projects going. I think the best preparation that SAAS provided during my time there was its openness, its willingness to trust kids, take risks, and try out controversial/off-the-wall ways of teaching.