“We must teach how to think, not what to think.” —Margaret Mead


Since the mid 1960’s, think tanks have been studying and documenting the ever-tightening throttle on free speech, the erosion of independent, critical thinking skills and the drumbeat of identity politics and victimhood in higher education, yet these issues not only persist, they have deepened and entrenched. Why? See Timeline of “The Long March Through the Institutions”.

Whitepapers, conferences and op-eds about the destructiveness of a one-party system on campuses, serve to surface and clarify issues, but a “ground game” and action plan—crucial for meaningful change—have been the “missing pieces”.

Alumni and Donors Unite was formed as an “action tank” to supply the practical action plan.  We access the decades of cutting-edge think tank research and pair it with the active engagement of alumni, donors, parents, students and lovers of freedom, to restore academic freedom on campus.


Who We Are

We are a team of diverse thinkers from a variety of professional and academic backgrounds who believe a college education must allow for thinking outside the box, pressuring testing ideas, assuming no “settled science”, taking intellectual chances and actually insisting on reasoned debate. 

We are committed to being a catalyst for action needed for reform. Join us to ignite a broad, grassroots effort to create lasting change.



Linda Sweeney, Founder and President

In recent years, dozens of college and university students, alumni, donors, faculty, and former college trustees have shared their alarm with Linda Sweeney about overt threats to free speech, open debate, and diversity of thinking on campuses.  In response, many students are considering alternative institutions; alumni and donors are refraining from providing financial support;  trustees are resigning; and taxpayers are pushing back. 

After connecting with numerous organizations that advocate freedom of thought and expression in higher education, Linda founded Alumni and Donors Unite as an “action tank” to inform, coalesce, amplify, and drive a coordinated movement that will insist on unbiased critical thinking and uncompromised learning.  When properly informed and organized, students, parents of students, alumni, donors and taxpayers can leverage their financial power and influence to compel desired change—and stop funding repression.

Linda has used her operations management degree to improve “what is” by streamlining, organizing, shortening connections, and growing organizations.  Linda spent 17 years as Executive Director of the Corporate Directors Forum, located in San Diego, California, where she built the organization from a nascent group to area directors and officers to one of national repute and influence in board governance.

A watershed moment of her career was the exposure at Enron of its lax oversight and the massive trickle-down impact that had on stakeholders and industry at large.  When that corporate debacle highlighted the need for a complete overhaul of corporate governance was identified, Corporate Directors Forum took a significant role in implementing reform and “best practices.”  Linda sees the escalating higher education crisis as no less a watershed moment.

Using her organizational, networking, and relationship-building skills, gleaned from nearly 20 years of working in a complex corporate environment, Linda has built a vision for ADU that can change higher education.  Together with a small team of diverse, energetic thinkers from various backgrounds and a shared concern for academic freedom, they have built a strategy for change.

Linda is a seasoned executive, not tied to academia, energetic, a never-give-up optimist, and a former women’s winner of the Kona Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, with a passion and commitment to restore academic freedom.  She is fully prepared to organize and grow the ADU outcomes.   


Michael Strong, Chief Visionary Officer

Michael Strong is founder of Expanse, a virtual educational program.  Previous projects include The Winston Academy, where middle school students passed AP exams; Moreno Valley High School, ranked the 36th-best U.S. public high school in the U.S.; and The Academy of Thought and Industry, the high school model for the largest Montessori network in the United States. 

Michael was educated at Harvard, St. John's College and the University of Chicago, where his dissertation advisor was Nobel laureate economist Gary Becker, under whom Michael wrote on “Ideas and Culture as Human Capital.” He is the author of The Habit of Thought: From Socratic Seminars to Socratic Practice, endorsed by brain-based learning experts Geoffrey Caine and Renate Nummela Caine, MacArthur “Genius” Award-winner Deborah Meier, authentic assessment expert Grant Wiggins, Eva Brann, former dean of St. John’s College, and 1994 National Teacher of the Year Elaine Griffin.

He is lead author of Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World's Problems, co-authored with John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, Mohammad Yunus, Nobel Peace prize laureate, and others. Michael has published in academic journals (Economic Affairs, Critical Review, Journal of Business Ethics), as well as in publications reaching a broader audience (HuffPo, RealClearPolitics, Policy Innovations, Carnegie Ethics, etc.). He has consulted for hundreds of schools and spoken at Harvard, Columbia, MIT, Dartmouth, Cornell, the University of Chicago and many other universities. Additionally, Michael is a co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, Peace through Commerce, and Radical Social Entrepreneurs.


Terry L. Gannon PhD, Independent Researcher and ADU Webmaster

Terry Gannon’s academic preparation and professional career were in the fields of solid-state device physics and semiconductor chip development.  As a PhD student, Terry also studied economics, free markets, and philosophy.  During his four-years as a member of the Air Force as a rocket testing data engineer during the Vietnam War, he observed society from a different perspective.  During his multiple decades in the semiconductor industry, Terry led project teams, held executive positions at major corporations, and mentored many individuals in industry and, as a volunteer, young individuals through Quest Scholars (now Quest Bridge) at Stanford and through Child Advocates—and served on both non-profit boards.

Since retiring from his professional career, Terry continues his passion for researching and advancing topics of significance in American and world society—climate science, education, health care, good governance, free markets, and freedom of expression.  He has become a prolific website creator for non-profits he supports, an accomplished photographer, and mentor to individuals locally, in Africa and in Nepal. 

While having the capacity to explore deeply technical issues, Terry has the ability to see the broader picture and the impacts of evolving situations.  Deeply troubled by the decline in education at all levels—resulting in repressing curiosity, free expression, debate, and critical thinking—Terry is highly focused on ADU’s mission and capability to help “turn the ship” of higher education toward classical liberal discourse and curricula.


Leif Smith, Adviser

Leif Smith and his partner Pat Wagner own Pattern Research, Inc. a Denver-based research and consulting business that supports innovators in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

Since 1975, he has helped inventors, writers, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists and other cutting edge thinkers further their personal and professional quests.

Leif founded the Explorers Foundation, which identifies and promotes the importance of the explorer in many cultural, political and philosophical contexts.


Carrie-Ann Biondi PhD,  Adviser

Carrie-Ann Biondi holds a B.A. and M.A. in American Studies and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy.

She is an Adolescent Program Manager and Coach with Higher Ground Education and teaches high school Humanities courses grounded in Montessori principles for Academy of Thought and Industry. 

Carrie-Ann translates ancient Greek and taught college-level philosophy courses for twenty-five years before deciding that helping students learn how to think for themselves was better achieved outside of higher education. 

Her research interests and publications range from Aristotle, citizenship, and virtue ethics to Socratic pedagogy and popular culture. She also serves as Book Review Editor of the journal Reason Papers.