10 Incredibly Successful People Who Went to Community College

by Staff Writers

As an online student, you're part of a new generation of learners. But you're also joining a much larger group of nontraditional students who have graduated from community colleges and junior colleges before going on to undergraduate and graduate institutions, or beginning their careers. Nontraditional students, as you probably know, can be just as successful as those who completed four-year degree programs from well-known universities. Just check out our list of 10 incredibly successful people who went to community college.

  1. Jim Wright: Jim Wright is a former Democratic U.S. Congressman and Speaker of the House who served for 34 years on Capitol Hill. First elected in 1954, Wright was appointed House Majority Leader in 1976. Eleven years later, he was named Speaker of the House and served as Speaker until 1989, when he resigned. Now a writer and professor at Texas Christian University, Wright prepared for his career in Congress when he attended Weatherford College, a junior college located in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Wright then transferred to the University of Texas at Austin before joining the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.
  2. Sam Shepard: Sam Shepard is a well-known American playwright and film director who has written such works as Icarus's Mother, La Turista, Cowboys and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child. Shepard, who has also acted in notable films like 2000's Hamlet, The Pelican Brief and The Notebook, was born in Illinois and began his acting career after dropping out of community college. He moved to New York in the 1960s, and despite trouble with drugs, joined the Off-Off Broadway scene as a writer and occasional actor before getting his big breaks in Days of Heaven and The Right Stuff.
  3. Jim Lehrer: The iconic media personality Jim Lehrer has been the news anchor for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer since 1975, when it was known as The McNeil/Lehrer Report. Lehrer was born in Wichita, Kan., but grew up all over Texas, attending high school in San Antonio and community college at Victoria College. After graduating from Victoria College, Lehrer attended the University of Missouri's School of Journalism.
  4. John Walsh: America's Most Wanted host John Walsh is more than just a TV personality: after the kidnapping and murder of his son Adam, Walsh has been a strong advocate for child safety and legislation reform. He and his wife helped create the Missing Children Act of 1982 and the Missing Children's Assistance Act of 1984, and also founded the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center, which continues their campaign to fight for legislation that protects children's and victim's rights. Walsh, who was born in New York State, attended community college and eventually graduated from the University at Buffalo, part of the State University of New York system. He worked in hotel real estate and management until Adam's murder inspired his campaign for legislation reform. In 1988, Walsh became the host of America's Most Wanted.
  5. Ross Perot: Former Presidential candidate Ross Perot ran as an independent candidate in 1992 against Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George H.W. Bush, and although he lost the race, is still considered to be one of the richest men in the United States: Forbes estimated his net worth to be around $5 billion in 2008. Perot accumulated his fortune when he sold his company Electronic Data Systems to General Motors in 1984, started the IT services provider Perot Systems four years later, and then sold that company to Dell in 2009. Dell reportedly bought Perot Systems for $3.9 billion. Besides his wealth, Perot is known for his small-town roots and twangy accent. He was born in Texarkana, Texas, in 1930, and attended Texarkana Junior College before joining the U.S. Navy.
  6. George Lucas: Star Wars creator and American Graffiti director George Lucas has won countless awards for his movies and contribution to the arts, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. He attended the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, which was one of the first such schools in the United States, and where Lucas met other filmmakers like Steven Spielberg. Before attending USC, however, the Modesto, CA, native attended community college and then junior college as an anthropology student. As part of his common curriculum at junior college, Lucas explored filmmaking and cinematography.
  7. Billy Crystal: Billy Crystal is a multitalented performer, director and producer who has contributed to American entertainment in film, TV, comedy, theatre, and as a long-time host of the Academy Awards. Some of Crystal's most famous roles include Harry Burns in the iconic When Harry Met Sally and Mitch Robbins in City Slickers. Crystal was born and raised in New York and originally wanted to become a professional baseball player, attending Marshall University in West Virginia before returning to New York to attend Nassau Community College. From Nassau, Crystal transferred to NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where he earned a B.F.A. and studied directing from Martin Scorcese. Just six years later, Crystal was cast as Jodie Dallas on the popular TV show Soap.
  8. Nolan D. Archibald: Archibald, the CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Black & Decker Corporation, was once the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 Company and has been celebrated by the American Marketing Association, BusinessWeek and Fortune as one of the most successful and "most wanted" business executives in the country. Exactly twenty years before being named CEO of Black & Decker, Archibald graduated from Dixie Junior College, which is today known as Dixie State College of Utah and can award bachelor's degrees. He then attended Webster State University where he was an All-Conference basketball player and Academic All-American player. Archibald graduated from Webster State and moved on to Harvard, from which he earned an MBA in 1970.
  9. Sarah Palin: Little known Alaska governor Sarah Palin became an instant spectacle when 2008 Presidential candidate John McCain chose her as his running mate. Palin became popular with conservative Republicans for her small-town cracks at Democratic candidate Barack Obama, which quickly morphed into campaign slogans. McCain and Palin lost the election, and ever since, Palin has been involved in tabloid-worthy fodder over her teen daughter's pregnancy, new book tour and alleged plans to run for president herself. But before she entered politics, Palin was a well-rounded student at four different colleges, including North Idaho College and Matanuska-Susitna College, both community colleges. Palin eventually graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor's degree in communications.
  10. Nolan Ryan: One of baseball's greatest stars, Nolan Ryan is now the president of the Texas Rangers. Ryan played for four MLB teams during his career, including the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers, though he is best known as the pitcher for the Rangers. After playing for the Rangers for 27 years — until 1993 — Ryan was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. Ryan was born and raised in Texas, where he played Little League and high school baseball. After high school, Ryan attended community college but was soon drafted by the New York Mets into a minor league team, the Marion Mets.