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. For starters: Souza returns to lineup



  2. Actor John Heard dies at age 72


    John Heard, who played so many roles in the '80s but was probably best known as the dad in the Home Alone movies, has died, according to media reports. He was 72.

  3. Linkin Park cancel tour, including Tampa concert, after death of singer Chester Bennington


    This news is not a surprise, but it is now official: Linkin Park has canceled their upcoming North American tour following this week's death of singer Chester Bennington.

    Linkin Park's Chester Bennington
  4. Nurse backs Kriseman in St. Pete mayor's race


    Council member Karl Nurse has endorsed Mayor Rick Kriseman.

    St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman, left, is seen with Karl Nurse in the combination of two images.
  5. Spring Hill woman, 24, dies when car hits tree in Pasco County


    LAND O' LAKES — A 24-year-old woman died early Saturday morning after her Hyundai Elantra hit a tree, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.