podcastED: North Carolina entrepreneur offers affordable private education through network of classical schools in multiple states

Seniors at Thales Academy in Roseville, North Carolina, celebrate graduation.

On this episode, reimaginED senior writer Lisa Buie talks with Bob Luddy, founder and president of CaptiveAire, a commercial ventilation system company in the Raleigh, N.C. area, and founder of several schools.

The latest of these, Thales Academy, which Luddy started in 2007 in the CaptiveAire corporate office, enrolls 5,800 students at 13 locations. Two additional campuses are set to open this school year, with others in the pipeline for 2024 and 2025.

In addition to those in the Tar Heel State, there are Thales Academy sites in Virginia and Tennessee, with two campuses on the horizon in South Carolina. All told, Luddy has 15 more schools under development.

Beyond Thales Academy, Luddy developed Thales College, which is opening this school year and offers four-year degrees in classical education, engineering and entrepreneurship for a total cost of about $32,000.

Luddy talks about his deep commitment to education and how his model makes it possible for him to offer a high-quality education at the lowest possible cost.

“The classic curriculum, as I describe it, is learning from the masters. So, all the way back to Aristotle until now, we learn what the master thinkers have taught us, which leads to good communication skills, an understanding of history, of philosophy, and culture, and produces excellent students and thinkers who develop good judgment … Someone can be very smart and get through college, but if they don’t have a good character they’re going to fail. So, character formation is very important, and has been since the time of Aristotle.”


  • Luddy’s Catholic school education
  • A look at the charter and Catholic schools Luddy founded
  • The vision and mission of Thales Academy
  • The use of Siegfried “Zig” Engelmann’s “direct instruction” model for elementary students
  • How Luddy balances providing a high-quality learning environment with one that is also cost-effective





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BY Lisa Buie

Lisa Buie is senior reporter for reimaginED. The daughter of a public school superintendent, she spent more than a dozen years as a reporter and bureau chief at the Tampa Bay Times before joining Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, where she served for nearly five years as marketing and communications manager. She lives with her husband and their teenage son, who has benefited from education choice.