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SAN JOSE -- At the announcement today of an agreement between San Jose State University and Silicon Valley startup Udacity Inc., to provide online courses, Udacity's Sebastian Thrun said the foundation for the agreement was laid in June, when he awoke to find "in my inbox an email from a guy named Jerry Brown."

The governor of California, Thrun said, wrote, "We need your help," then followed up with a telephone call a few minutes later.

Brown might have chosen to contact any of three leaders in the offerings of MOOCs, or massive open online courses.

Why Udacity?

"I was reading The New York Times on the weekend, since I don't take it during the week, and I saw his name, and it looked interesting to me, so I just went online, found out his email and sent him an email, and that's how it worked," Brown told reporters.

He said he looked at the other providers, Coursera and edX, but "wherever it was, I got to his email quicker."

"I said, 'Give me a call,' " Brown said. "And then I found his number."

Thrun was standing behind Brown, beaming. He is a part-time research professor of computer science at Stanford University and a fellow at Google. Someone in the crowd suggested the latter connection might have had something to do with Brown finding Thrun so easily.

The man said, "Helps to work at Google, doesn't it?"


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