Charles Acklin

Founder | VOLTI

Lessons of a Lifetime

Survival Skills

At five years old, Charles Acklin was placed in the first grade. For 13 years, he struggled with undiagnosed learning disabilities and dismal scholastic performance. Nevertheless, he learned how to survive as the education system ‘prepared’ him for what was considered a ‘good job’ in area coal mines or as a Pittsburgh steelworker.

Charles wanted something different, a career in Biology.  His father taught field zoology at the University of Pittsburgh. Charles participated in field trips.  He became a highly qualified Nature Studies instructor at a Boy Scout Camp. After graduating in the bottom ten percent, somehow, he was admitted to a college.

Street Smarts

Scholastically unprepared, he was given one additional semester to improve his grades, provided he reported daily progress to the Dean of Students. Or he could leave college and return to the ‘good job’ the public schools prepared him for.

The College’s Dean of Students permitted him to join a campus Karate Club. With martial arts discipline and focus, his grades improved. He became a coach for the College Karate Team; and competed in two national championships. In addition, his classroom performance improved as he became educationally street-smart.  After graduating with honors, he was accepted into Graduate School on the medical school track. But Charles thought he could make a more significant impact in education than in medicine.

While teaching high-risk middle school students and drawing from personal experience, positive deviance worked. His students excelled! He attracted attention resulting in a C.S. Mott Foundation Graduate Fellowship.

High-Level Problem Solving

After mastering high-level problem-solving as a graduate student, he achieved national recognition for his contributions to rural community education. 

Charles took on the challenge of improving graduation rates in a small college. The rates were pathetic!

Groups of ‘special-needs, unemployable women’ were moved from a 76% failure rate to an 84% graduation rate. But, despite his successes, and six years of incessant administrative resistance to unconventional approaches, Charles did something different. 

He moved his innovative discovery from education into business and industry. 

“I appreciated VOLTI's insight and simplification of this pathway to improve.”
Matt Wybrow, Director of Quality Fresenius Medical Care North America 2001
“There needs to be more people in the world like Charles Acklin.”
Troy McGhee, Senior Vice President of Operations, North and South America, Fresenius Medical Care 2021
You gave me hope when others were ready to consign me to the trash heap. You made us think hard how to apply what we learned.
Tim Laarman, 1968 Middle School Student, Robotics Inventor, ABB Robotics, 2019
You Impress me as a young professional who is going to accomplish something significant in education.
James Taylor, Principal, Perry Intermediate School, Grand Blanc Michigan School District, 1972
Acklin is the only person I know who knew where he was going before he started.
Jack Pearson, President First National Bank Lovell WY, 1978
He is one of the most outstanding leaders I have ever met. He is continually searching for new ideas and techniques to build confidence, improve skills, and obtain the results necessary to be world-class.
Ray Bradberry, Night Shift Manager, Fresenius Medical Care North America.2009
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