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America's Richest People Who Dropped Out of High School

Updated on November 15, 2016

We all know the studies that correlate education with success in life, and in most cases schooling is a necessity for professional and social advancement. But there seem to be people who despite lack of a formal education have the intelligence and motivation to achieve great degrees of wealth. Here are some of America's richest people who never completed high school:

Richard Branson

Here's a man who made Forbes's list of richest people but never attended a high school graduation. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways, may have been too busy playing entrepreneur to devote time to formal study. He launched his first businesses at the age of 15, the initial one being a magazine called Student. This was followed by a mail order business selling records in the 1970's which predated the launch of Virgin Records in the 1970's. He subsequently went on to start Virgin Airways and amass a fortune of almost four billion dollars. All of this after leaving school at age 16.

Alan Gerry

This name may not ring a bell for you but the entrepreneur built the first cable television network in the mid-1950s in New York state after quietly leaving high school ten years earlier to join the marines After amassing a small fortune from the company, he sold it to Time Warner for 2.6 billion dollars and went on to make the Forbes list of richest people in 2006 with a net worth of 1.4 billion dollars.

Dave Thomas

You're probably already familiar with the remarkable story of Dave Thomas who started the Wendy's chain of fast food restaurants. Raised by adoptive parents, Dave dropped out of school at age fifteen to become a full time bus boy. Even at that time he showed a strong proclivity towards the restaurant business, taking an active role in helping the owners promote their small eating establishment. Following a stint in the military, Dave went on to help turn around several failing Kentucky Fried Chicken stores, transforming them into multi-millionaire dollar successes. On the wings of that victory, Dave Thomas launched his own restaurant with the rest being history. He did complete his high school GED many years later.

David Murdock

David Murdock has the distinction of being the 204th richest person in the world with a net worth of 4.2 billion dollars. You know him best as the owner of Dole Food Company. In the mid 1980's this company was a failing, near bankrupt company. David Murdock took over the company turning it into the world's largest producer of canned vegetables and fruits. After dropping out of school in the ninth grade, David Murdock pumped gas before entering the army in the mid 1940's. After several entrepreneurial ventures with varying degrees of success, he went on to build Dole Foods into the empire it is today.

This is certainly not a comprehensive list of ultra rich American's who dropped out of high school. Their ranks also include James Clark (founder of Netscape), Bill Bartman (founder of multiple successful companies and listed on Forbe's 400 richest), Kemmons Wilson (founder of Holiday Inn), Carl Lindner (billionaire business owner), among others. All of these high school dropouts were self-made successes.

Although this is certainly not an endorsement for dropping out of high school, it illustrates that sometimes extraordinary drive and determination can overcome apparent obstacles such as a lack of education. For the majority of Americans though, a good education is still the most secure path to success.


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