July Alumni Spotlight: Kimball Thomas

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Kimball Thomas graduated from the University of Utah in 2005 with a B.S. in Finance “in exactly twice the number of years that are required for a four year degree.”  Kimball later earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and became the co-founder and CEO of PoolTables.com, baby.com.br and dinda.com.br.

During his undergraduate career, Kimball participated in a Hinckley internship at the White House for the Clinton Administration and was placed in the Office of Presidential Scheduling and Advance. During his internship, his roommate was fellow Hinckley alum, Peter Watkins, who later went on to work for the Bush administration. They remain close friends to this day.

“I was young and inexperienced and the White House seemed like the ultimate in professional settings.  I will never forget that feeling of looking over at the White House and being overwhelmed by the sheer physical presence of it. I spent my internship in the West Wing every day, it was magic. One of my jobs was to distribute physical copies of the president’s daily schedule to every office in the West Wing so I got to be friendly with people in most of the offices in large part because it’s a small place. Towards the end of my internship I sent out an email to most of the people I knew in the West Wing thanking them for such a meaningful experience. Betty Curry called down and asked for me to come up to her office, just outside the Oval Office. When I came in she walked me over to the door of the Oval where President Clinton was working alone and said “Don’t mind us, we’re just taking a picture.” To which President Clinton responded, “Well who is it? Bring him in?” I got a few minutes alone with President Clinton in the Oval and then we snapped a couple of pics.”

The White House had a packed social scene and I made full use of it. Concerts on the South Lawn with Sheryl Crowe, Eric Clapton, Al Green and BB King. The Millennium Party had so many famous people it’s hard to remember them all but I remember a great scene where the valet guys, who were totally overwhelmed, were unable to find cars for some of the guests. Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro were standing there talking and frustratedly waiting for their car. The valet came up and said I don’t know where your car is…and Robert DeNiro is shaking his head in anger just like his movies, his lips pursed and the valet says ok, ok, look, what’s your name again? And Robert DeNiro just looks like he’s going to explode at the question and he says “Bob! My name’s Bob!” The valet guy catches the connection and goes "hey wait, you’re…you’re…” and then hysterical laughter “…Robert DeNiro!”

After his internship, Kimball was called to do advance work for the president in San Francisco.  He then went on to business school and then started several successful companies.

“It’s tough to say how much my Hinckley internship impacted my life. Looking back I can say that it gave me some of the most thrilling, surreal moments of my life up until that point. The fact that we got [affordable] housing and a stipend was a huge enabler for me although I don’t think I realized it at the time. I’ve looked back over the years and thought about the generosity that was extended to me through the Institute and felt more understanding of how important it was. I think it gave me a lot of confidence, something that seemed to be a substantive credential at such a young age gave me a feeling of validation.”