10 Famous Community College Graduates

10 Famous Community College Graduates
From Walt Disney to Sarah Palin, many household names are community college alumni. Be inspired by this list of 10 famous community college grads!

Not everyone who makes headlines today came from an Ivy League institution; in fact, some did not attend a four-year university at all. Those who did often got their start in the humble beginnings of their local community college – a school that may be highly underrated for its ability to churn out graduates poised to make a real difference in the world. Take a look at these 10 famous community college graduates to see how two-year schools can provide the foundation for a bright future.

Ross Perot

This two-time presidential candidate ran on the independent ticket in 1992 and 1996. A successful businessman in his own right, Business Insider reports that Perot worked for IBM before leaving the company to start his own business, Electronic Data Systems, in 1984. After Perot sold that company to General Motors for $2.4 billion, Perot started a second company, Perot Systems, Inc. That business was acquired by Dell in 2009 for $3.9 billion.

Before beginning his long and illustrious business career, Perot began his quest into higher education at Texarkana Community College. After taking classes at his local community college, Perot transferred to the Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1953.

Tom Hanks

This Oscar-award winning actor, known for his stellar performances in flicks like “Forrest Gump” and “Saving Private Ryan,” reportedly couldn’t land roles in theatre productions during his college years. According to the Huffington Post, Hanks first attended Chabot College in Hayward, California, for two years, before transferring to California State University in Sacramento. Hank's audition at a community theatre near CSU launched his now successful acting and directing career.

Sarah Palin

This former Governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate actually attended two community colleges and two other four-year schools before heading to the University of Idaho to pursue a degree in communications. North Idaho College and Matanuska-Susitna College encompass her stints in two-year institutions. With her political career seemingly on temporary hold, Palin has most recently been seen as a commentator on Fox News. She has also hosted her own show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” according to Business Insider.

James Belushi

According to a biography at IMDb, James Belushi grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, where he attended the College of DuPage before transferring to Southern Illinois University. Belushi, who got his acting start during his high school years, jokingly said he originally got involved “for the girls,” since many more girls were involved in his high school theatre productions than boys. Belushi continued his study of theatre and performing throughout his college years until he graduated from Southern Illinois University with a degree in Speech and Theatre Arts.

Eileen Collins

Eileen Collins made history as the first female pilot, and then the first female commander, of a space shuttle mission. Collins was selected by NASA in 1990, according to Business Insider, and became a space shuttle pilot one year later. During her NASA career, which lasted until 2006, Collins logged hundreds of hours in space, manned four space flights and earned numerous awards for her work. Before her NASA career was launched, Collins began her college career at Corning Community College, where she earned an associate degree in mathematics and science. Collins than continued her education at Syracuse University, Stanford and Webster University. Corning Community College now has an observatory in Collins’ name.

Dr. Craig Venter

This pioneer in genomic research has been touted as a successful businessman, author, and biologist who is best known for his part in sequencing the human genome. Today, Dr. Venter has an institution in his name, which has been primarily used for genomic research since its founding in 2006, according to the website for the J. Craig Venter Institute. Dr. Venter began his scientific studies at San Mateo Community College, before earning his bachelor’s and Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego.

John Walsh

The host of “America’s Most Wanted,” and victims advocate became interested in his current profession when his son Adam was abducted and murdered in 1981. The case remained unsolved for 27 years, according to Business Insider. After Adam’s abduction, Walsh began advocating for legislation reform and was instrumental in creating the Missing Children Act of 1982 and the Missing Children’s Assistance Act of 1984. Walsh attended Cayuga Community College, near his hometown of Auburn, New York. He eventually graduated from the University at Buffalo.

George Lucas

This gifted filmmaker has built an impressive movie empire that includes Industrial Light and Magic (a visual effects company), THX and LucasFilms. Lucas has received numerous prestigious awards for his work on the big screen, including the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award and the DigiGlobe Award, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. After graduating from high school, Lucas attended Modesto Community College before graduating from the University of Southern California.

Walt Disney

Before becoming an American pioneer in the world of animation and entertainment, Walter Elias Disney attended Metropolitan Junior College in Missouri, although he never officially graduated from high school. The creator of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and a host of additional favorite childhood characters had many false starts in his early years of entrepreneurship, but gradually built one of the largest and most lucrative empires in the world.

Nolan Ryan

The current CEO of the Texas Rangers boasts one of the most illustrious pitching careers in professional baseball today. The Hall of Famer played for four different teams throughout his career in the MLB, including the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers. Before making it big on the ball field, Ryan briefly attended Alvin Community College before being drafted by the Mets.

Clearly, community college has been the starting point for so many famous people today - and in the future.

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