In the professional world, much is made of where someone attended college for their undergraduate degree. Large universities have equally large networks of alumni which the schools use to their advantage in placing recent graduates. Where one goes to school might affect one’s prospects immediately upon graduating, but it certainly does not hamper one’s prospects for long-term success.
Success comes with motivation and hard work, and some of the most successful people in America today share humble beginnings, having attended a state community or junior college.
No Starving Artist: George Lucas
Success in the arts depends on talent, hard work and not a little bit of dumb luck, but it does not depend on where an aspiring artist went for their higher education.
Filmmaker George Lucas, creator of the wildly successful Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, received an Associate of Arts degree in History from Modesto Junior College in California before he pursued his career in the movie business. Lucas’s natural talent, motivation, and shrewd business sense propelled him to his wild success following the good critical reception of his debut film, “American Graffiti.”
When Lucas sat down at the negotiating table with his proposal for Star Wars, he took a risky cut in pay in exchange for full rights to merchandising and any potential sequels. The wild box office success of “Star Wars: A New Hope,” allowed him to self-produce the subsequent films, creating from scratch a franchise that earned him more than 4.5 billion dollars.
Other community college graduates found comparable success outside of the arts, as well.
Fortune 500: Nolan Archibald
Businessman Nolan Archibald became the youngest Fortune 500 CEO in 1986 when he took the helm of the Stanley Black & Decker Corporation, a company that generates annual revenues of more than 9 billion dollars. Archibald was only 42 at the time, and he included on his resume his Associate of Arts degree from Dixie State College in Utah.
Archibald would go on to seek further education, eventually receiving a Master’s in Business Administration from Harvard University. Now, Archibald is one of the most sought-after business executives in America, serving on the Board of Directors of other high-profile corporations like Brunswick, Huntsman, and Lockheed Martin.
Revolutionary Innovation: Craig Venter
Craig Venter is a world-famous biologist known for his revolutionary work in sequencing the human genome and creating synthetic biological organisms. His higher education had its humble beginnings at the College of San Mateo in California.
Venter would go on to receive a Bachelor of Science and Doctorate from the University of California, and he successfully pursued a career in academics before beginning a project to sequence the human genome, a goal he rightly believed would radically change the health care industry.
Today, Venter works with his own institute conducting research in synthetic biology, and he began a private firm named Synthetic Genomics that seeks to employ synthetic microorganisms in applications such as the production of clean bio-fuels.
The Sky is Not the Limit: Eileen Collins
Eileen Collins was well known as being the first woman to command a Space Shuttle, and she overcame a great deal of adversity to do so. Collins received an associate degree in mathematics and science from Corning Community College in New York before seeking further education.
After receiving two Master’s degrees in aeronautical operations, Collins enrolled in pilot training in the United States Air Force where she earned her pilots wings and went on to teach both mathematics and flight at the Air Force Academy. She was finally selected as an astronaut in 1992, and she commanded her first mission in 1999.
Collins would log a total of more than 38 days in outer space before retiring from NASA in 2006.
Community and junior college graduates go on to achieve wild success in the arts, business and sciences, using their educations to great advantage despite their humble beginnings.
About the Author
Joshua Turner is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to business. In this article, he describes a few successful community college graduates of the past and aims to encourage further study with a masters of history.