Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A: Many successful people had little or no formal education Q&A: Many successful people had little or no formal education

Successful without a degree

I participate every year in the Great American Teach-In and some of the students are discouraged because they know they won't be able to go to college and think they will make nothing of themselves. I know Paul Harvey had a list of influential Americans without a college education. Do you have a copy?

We could not find the list from the famous broadcaster Paul Harvey. We even talked to Harvey's son, Paul Harvey Jr., from Chicago, who said he did not have that list or recall hearing it on a program. He did want to thank you. "I'm gratified that people remember the work and name of my wonderful father," he said.

So while we can't fully answer your question, we can offer some names of famous and influential Americans who succeeded without a college degree. Our list, which no doubt includes some of the examples Paul Harvey used:

Henry Ford, who started the Ford Motor Co. and was the first auto manufacturer to use an assembly line, didn't graduate from high school.

Winston Churchill flunked out of sixth grade and never attended college, but became British prime minister and rallied his nation to help win World War II.

Harry Truman is the only president since 1897 not to graduate from college. He ran a haberdashery business that failed, then got into politics.

Thomas Edison, inventor of the record player and lightbulb, was thought to be mentally challenged as a child and was homeschooled.

Benjamin Franklin was homeschooled, and went on to become an inventor, politician, publisher and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Mary Kay Ash dropped out of college when she married. When she was passed over for promotion by a man she had trained, she started Mary Kay Cosmetics, which now sells more than $2 billion worth of products every year.

Bill Gates dropped out of college but started Microsoft and is now one of the richest people in the world and a great philanthropist.

John D. Rockefeller dropped out of high school, but went on to found the Standard Oil Co. and became the first American billionaire.

Walt Disney dropped out of high school to join the Army. He was rejected, joined the Red Cross and was sent to Europe during World War I. Upon his return, he began an art career.

Mark Zuckerberg was a Harvard student when he quit school to develop the website Facebook and now, at 26, is worth $1.5 billion.

J.K. Rowling, author of the wildly successful Harry Potter novels, never attended college.

Charles Lindbergh left the University of Wisconsin after two years to learn how to fly.

Florence Nightingale was homeschooled and became the most famous nurse in history.

Will Rogers dropped out of high school but went on to become a beloved humorist.

Wally Amos left high school to join the Air Force, and later started Famous Amos Cookies.

For many, many others, you can go to this site:

Q&A: Many successful people had little or no formal education Q&A: Many successful people had little or no formal education 08/19/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 5:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tributes pour in for ex-national security adviser Brzezinski


    WASHINGTON — Well before he went to the White House in 1977, Jimmy Carter was impressed by the views of foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski. That Carter immediately liked the Polish-born academic advising his campaign was a plus.

    Foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski died Friday.
  2. One year after deaths, Sunset Music Festival kicks off with emphasis on water and security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Before the beat drops, or even builds, you hear Steve-O.

    "If you don't get water you're lame!"

    "Hey! Free water! Come on!"

    Steve "Steve-O" Raymond motions to guests making the line to grab free water bottle at the entrance of the Sunset Music Festival on the grounds of the Raymond James Stadium parking lot in Tampa. ( LUIS SANTANA   |   Times)
  3. Twins eventually cash in as Rays lose, fall back to .500 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays could only battle their way out of trouble for so long Saturday afternoon before succumbing in a 5-2 loss to the Twins.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 27: Brian Dozier #2 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates hitting a two-run home run as Derek Norris #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the eighth inning of the game on May 27, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Rays 5-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010973
  4. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  5. Fans in Florida and beyond won't forget Gregg Allman

    Music & Concerts

    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)