7 Highly Successful High School Dropouts
It’s a common belief in America these days that without a high school diploma, you have no future. This opinion may be true to some extent, but it’s certainly not a hard and fast rule. There are a lot of highly successful people in this world who never even completed high school.
One of these successful people is Flava Flav, who dropped out of school when he was only 13, although, admittedly, it shows. He’s now planning to return to school to get his G.E.D., and the ordeal may even become a reality show on VH1. He’s not the only celebrity that dropped out of high school and still did well though. In fact, some high school dropouts are actually pretty brilliant.
Image Via Jeremy Farmer Photography [Flickr]
The founder of Wendy’s, Dave Thomas started working in the restaurant industry at only 12 years old. His family was constantly on the move and at age 15, he refused to keep moving with his parents. He was working part time at the Hobby House restaurant in Fort Wayne and dropped out of high school to start working at the business full time.
After working as a mess sergeant during the Korean War, he began working for KFC, where he was able to help turn several of their failing franchises around. In 1969, he sold of the KFC franchises he owned and opened his own restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. He named the restaurant after his daughter, who was actually called Melinda, but was nicknamed Wendy. These days, Wendy’s is the third largest burger chain in America.
In 1993, Dave decided that he didn’t want to set a bad example for any youngsters out there, so he enrolled at Coconut Creek High School and earned his GED.
George Bernard Shaw
Famed Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw held an outright animosity towards schooling that he maintained throughout his life. He was quoted as saying, “schools and schoolmasters, as we have them today, are not popular as places of education and teachers, but rather prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept to prevent them disturbing and chaperoning their parent.” Not surprisingly, the writer never completed his own education, having dropped out of the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School.
His main complaints about schooling was the standardization of the curriculum, which he believed deadened the spirit and stifled the intellect. He also deplored the corporal punishment being used in schools, although most modern teachers and parents would agree with him on this issue.
Creator of the Kodak Camera Company, George Eastman, was forced to drop out of school due to financial circumstances. At only 14, both of his parents had died and the only way George could keep his two sisters alive was to quit school and begin working as an office boy full time. By the age of 26, Eastman found his true calling and began working to improve the emulsion process involved in photography. He though the liquid emulsions proved quite a problem as they were excessively sticky and had to be used quickly before they dried. In only three years, Eastman had perfected his dry emulsion plates and he started his own photographic business in 1880.
While a lot of famous directors hone their skills during college, Quentin Tarantino built up his film knowledge by working in a video rental store in Manhattan.
He not only never went to college, but he quit going to Narbonne High School in Harbor City, California in his freshman year. He started learning the acting craft in acting school at the James Best Theatre Company in Toluca Lake, but it really wasn’t until he started working at Video Archives with Roger Avery, also a director these days, that he really began sharpening his future skills. Some people complain about Tarantino’s movies having too much focus on the dialogue, but for a high school dropout, I’d say that’s not such a bad thing.
If comedy really is born from tragedy, then it is only logical that Richard Pryor became one of the top comedians of the seventies. Pryor had anything but an easy life.
He was raised in his grandmother’s brothel, where his mother “worked” and his father served as her pimp. At only ten, his mother abandoned him and his strict grandmother took over his care, beating him whenever she thought he was acting “eccentric.” With a home life like this, it’s not all to surprising that he ended up being expelled from high school at 14.
In the end, Pryor ended up proving the adage that “whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” and his comedy career was one of the longest lasting and most successful of the last fifty years.
Peter Jennings started broadcasting when he was only nine years old. He followed the footsteps of his father, a respected radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and operated as the host of a CBC children’s program called “Peter’s People.” Surprisingly, his father was out on assignment when Jennings was chosen for the gig and he was furious at the network for hiring his son solely because he was the son of a broadcaster.
When it came to schooling, Jennings was a great athlete, but a terrible student, which he said was due to “pure boredom.” He failed to pass the 10th grade and dropped out as a result. He tried to attend Carleton University, but “lasted about 10 minutes” before he dropped out there.
After school, he started working at The Royal Bank of Canada, but he dreamed of being a professional broadcaster. I’d say did pretty well at meeting those goals, wouldn’t you?
Before he directed the Lord of The Rings, or even his cult classics like Meet The Feebles, Peter Jackson was just a film-obsessed kid. He was trying to make his own film by age of nine, complete with the special effects he loved to see in shows like “Thunderbirds.” After he saw the original King Kong, he started trying to mimic the stop-motion from the film. He spent his entire childhood and all of his teenage years making short films and developing his own special effect techniques, which even included making his own minuscule models.
When he was 16, he dropped out of high school and started working as an apprentice engraver in a newspaper photography department. He kept living with his parents so he could save money for film-making supplies, which he soon used to begin production on what would become his first full-length film, Bad Taste. When you know that your future is film you don’t have a real need for the three Rs of “reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.”