Top 10 CEOs Who Never Went to College

Friend Amber Johnson asked me to publish this item on my blog. Because it contradicts in a certain way my recent pleas for learning I did hesitate for a while. But on second thought are these not examples of behaving in a more effective way (and is that what is learning all about).

Artist Anna Kharina
Artist Anna Kharina

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College is full of invaluable opportunities for self exploration, professional development, networking, intellectual stimulation and social experimentation, but is it really necessary? These 10 CEOs found wealth, fame and success with very minimal college education, if any. Here you can read about CEOs and billionaires who have influenced media, the arts, education, the oil business, technology and more without a formal education.

  1. David Oreck: Oreck Corporation CEO David Oreck founded his vacuum cleaner and air purifier company in 1963. Today, products like the Oreck XL Upright Vacuums, Canister Vacuum Cleaners and Cordless Zip Vac are top sellers, and David Oreck is in a position to donate money to museums and schools in Colorado and Louisiana. But despite his modern day success, Oreck never went to college and built up his company by working his way up the old-fashioned way. Born near Duluth, MN, in 1923, Oreck was fascinated with engines, electronics and engineering. He joined the Air Force during WWII, and when he returned, he worked for RCA as a wholesale distributor. Oreck stayed with the company for 17 years before coming up with the idea to start his own company.
  2. Richard Branson: English businessman Richard Branson was estimated to have a net worth of $4.4 billion in 2008 by, and he is best known for his Virgin business empire. Virgin Records was started in 1970, but since then, Branson has expanded to include airlines, global warming projects, media, comics, and more. Branson grew up in South London and struggled with dyslexia in school until he was 17. He never attended college, but he does have an honorary Doctor of Technology from Loughborough University.
  3. Andrew Carnegie: Andrew Carnegie is still known as one of the most famously successful benefactors, businessmen, and industrialists in American history. Carnegie, who was born in 1835, founded the Carnegie Steel Company and ultimately dominated the U.S. steel market with Federal Steel and U.S. Steel. Carnegie accumulated a massive fortune, most of which he donated or used to form endowments, museums and universities like Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Despite his immortalized fame and success, Carnegie started from humble beginnings in Dunfermline, Scotland. The family moved to Pennsylvania in 1848, where Carnegie immediately had to begin working to help his family survive and pay off debts. A local colonel helped educate young working boys in the area by allowing them to visit his huge library, which Carnegie valued.
  4. John D. Rockefeller: Another American icon and business legend was John D. Rockefeller, who was born in 1839 and who is credited with implementing the modern standards for corporate business strategy, philanthropy and the oil industry. Rockefeller was born in Richford, NY, but moved with his family to Cleveland as a teenager. Rockefeller began working at 16 as an assistant bookkeeper, during which time he supposedly pledged to donate 10% of his money to charity when he retired. During the mid to late 1800s, Rockefeller entered into and then began to dominate the oil business through his company Standard Oil. Though his success was controversial, Rockefeller became one of the richest men in the country and was also known for donating money to his church and to other projects, including the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
  5. Henry Ford: Henry Ford isn’t just known as the founder of the Ford Motor Co.; he’s also credited with establishing modern day assembly line operations and mass production systems. Born in 1863 near Detroit, MI, the innovative Ford grew up on a farm but ultimately left the country after his mother died. At just 16, Ford moved to Detroit and began working as an apprentice machinist. After returning to his home and gaining experience working with steam engines, Ford ran his own farm and sawmill. Nearly 10 years later, Ford turned to engineering and began experimenting with his own vehicles and gas engines. He founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903.
  6. Steve Jobs: Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, Inc. and former CEO of Pixar Animation Studios is worshipped by techies and everyday computer users alike. Even though he is regarded as one of the most innovative minds in the country, Jobs barely attended college. He dropped out of Reed College after just one semester, though he continued to audit calligraphy classes.
  7. Walt Disney: Walt Disney founder Walter Elias Disney created one of the most beloved, iconic and successful entertainment enterprises in the world and donated a significant percentage of his fortune to charities. Disney, who personally created Mickey Mouse, attended McKinley High School and the Chicago Art Institute as a teenager in Chicago. He dropped out of school, however, to join the Red Cross for which he drove an ambulance in France during WWI. After the war, Disney designed ads for movie houses, newspapers and magazines, and in 1920, he formed his first company, the Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists company.
  8. John Paul DeJoria: John Paul DeJoria has an incredibly inspiring story that has led him to become a billionaire entrepreneur and the co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems hair care products. DeJoria was born in 1944 in Los Angeles and was raised in a foster home. He was in a gang in high school but joined the Navy for two years after graduating. After the Navy, DeJoria worked at odd jobs, including at Redken Laboratories, until founding the John Paul Mitchell Systems with Paul Mitchell in 1980. In 2008, estimated DeJoria’s net worth at $3.5 billion.
  9. Barry Diller: Barry Diller, Chairman and CEO of IAC/InterActivCorp and co-founder of Fox Broadcasting Company and USA Broadcasting is one of the most influential figures in media and business and is married to fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, an extremely powerful figure in the fashion industry. Diller was born in San Francisco in 1942, and though he technically started UCLA, he dropped out after only one semester. He began his career in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency, and a few years later began working for ABC. In the 1970s and 1980s, Diller served as CEO of Paramount Pictures, and in 1984 became the CEO of Fox Broadcasting Company and 20th Century Fox.
  10. Bill Gates: Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, is one of the richest men in the entire world and a powerfully innovative entrepreneur. Gates founded Microsoft with Paul Allen in 1975, though the company didn’t reach its full potential until years later. Gates was born in Seattle in 1955, and although he was a gifted student and scored a 1590 out of 1600 on his SATs, he dropped out of Harvard soon after enrolling.
Artist Anna Kharina
Artist Anna Kharina

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