It’s not just Ivy League colleges that produce the country’s sharpest minds. Prominent people in every profession started their academic careers at community colleges. Two year schools are known best for their low cost and open access, but they also have produced their share of achievers. As part of Community College week’s 25th anniversary observance, here’s a list of 25 famous people who got their start at the community college.
Eduardo Padrón - Miami Dade College
Since 1995, Padrón has been president of Miami Dade College, the same school he attended before earning degrees at the University of Florida. He is credited with elevating MDC into a position of national prominence among the best and most recognized U.S. colleges and universities. He is a nationally recognized leader in higher education; In 2009, Time magazine included him on the list of “The 10 Best College Presidents.” In 2010, Florida Trend magazine named him “Floridian of the Year.” In 2011, The Washington Post named him one of the eight most influential college presidents in the U.S.
Steve Jobs - De Anza College
Jobs started Apple Computers with fellow De Anza College student Stephen Wozniak in the Jobs’ family garage. Apple’s revolutionary products, which include the iPod, iPhone and iPad, are now seen as dictating the evolution of modern technology. In high school Jobs spent his free time at Hewlett-Packard. It was there that he befriended computer club guru Wozniak. Wozniak was a brilliant computer engineer, and the two developed great respect for one another. After high school, Jobs enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. But he dropped out of college after six months and spent the next 18 months dropping in on creative classes. He attended De Anza College for two semesters in the 1970s. He died last October at age 54.
Gwendolyn Brooks - Wilson Junior College
Gwendolyn Brooks graduated from Wilson Junior College in 1936. She authored more than 20 poetry books and won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1949 work “Annie Allen.” She taught at Columbia College (Chicago), Northeastern Illinois University, Elmhurst College, Columbia University, Clay College of New York, and the University of Wisconsin. In 1968, she was named Poet Laureate for the state of Illinois and served until her death in 2000.
Jim Wright - Weatherford Community College
Jim Wright attended Weatherford Community college for one year before transferring to the University of Texas for another year. He never received his degree and enlisted in the United States Army Air Force in December in 1941. Wright was the Mayor of Weatherford from 1950 to 1954. The Democrat was a Texas congressman who served in Congress for 34 years and was Speaker of the House from 1987 to 1989. He resigned in 1989 amid a House ethics investigation into bulk purchases of his book “Reflections of a Public Man.”
Ross Perot - Texarkana Junior College
Businessman Henry Ross Perot is a businessman who ran for president in 1992 and 1996. He attended Texarkana Junior College before joining the U.S. Navy. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1953. After leaving the Navy, he worked for IBM before leaving to form his own company, Electronic Data Systems. In 1984, the company was sold to General Motors for $2.4 billion. His next company, Perot Systems Corporation, Inc., would be acquired by Dell for a reported $3.9 billion in 2009. As of March 2011, he was ranked the 99th richest person in America.
James Dean - Santa Monica College
James Dean attended Santa Monica College before transferring to UCLA. He was a cultural icon and become the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for best actor for his role in “East of Eden.” Dean grew up on a farm in Indiana and studied pre-law at Santa Monica College before transferring to the UCLA majoring in drama. In 1951, he dropped out of UCLA to begin a full-time career in acting. In 1955, he died in a car accident at age 24.
Jim Lehrer - Victoria College
Lehrer is the executive editor and anchor of the PBS NewsHour on public television. A reporter since 1959, he won two Emmys and in 1999 was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. He received an associate of arts degree from Victoria College in the 1950s before earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. Lehrer has been awarded numerous awards for his journalistic abilities, including two Emmys, a Chairman Award and the Fourth Estate Award. He has authored 20 novels and three plays and moderated several presidential debates.
Clint Eastwood - Los Angeles City College
Eastwood, an award-winning actor, film-maker, composer and politician, attended Los Angeles City College in the 1950s. At the time, he was a swimming instructor for the U.S. Army. He almost gave up acting and attended Los Angeles City College to study business administration before he got his big break in the TV series “Rawhide.” In 1971, his role in “Dirty Harry” turned him into a superstar. Eastwood was nominated for both Best Actor and Best Director in films “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby.”
Tom Hanks - Chabot College
Hanks studied theater at Chabot College in Hayward, California before transferring to California State University, Sacramento. He is known for his roles in “Apollo 13,” “Big,” “Forrest Gump,” “A League of Their Own” and was the voice of Woody in the “Toy Story” movies. He won Best Actor Academy Awards for his roles in “Philadelphia” and “Forest Gump.” As of 2012, Hanks’ films have grossed over $4.2 billion at the United States box office alone, and over $8.5 billion worldwide.
Nolan Ryan - Alvin Community College
Ryan attended Alvin Community College in 1971. During a major-league-record 27 year baseball career, he pitched in 1966 and from 1968 to 1993 for four different teams: the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. He was an eight time MLB All Star whose 5,714 career strikeouts rank first in baseball history. He is currently principal owner, president and CEO of the Texas Rangers.
George Lucas - Modesto Junior College
Lucas is a renowned film producer, screenwriter, director, and entrepreneur, who attended Modesto Junior College in 1964. He eventually graduated from film school at the University of Southern California. He is the founder, chairman and chief executive of Lucasfilm. He is best known as the creator of feature films Star Wars franchise and the Indiana Jones series. Lucas is one of the U.S. film industry’s most successful directors and producers.
J. Craig Venter - College of San Mateo
Venter who began his academic career at the College of San Mateo, is known for being one of the first to sequence the human genome and for creating the first cell with a synthetic genome. Venter founded Celera Genomics, The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), and is now working at JCVI to create synthetic biological organisms. He was listed on Time magazine’s 2007 and 2008 Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. He received degrees in biochemistry in 1972, and his Ph.D. degree in physiology and pharmacology from the University of California, San Diego.
Eileen Collins - Corning Community College
Collins is a retired NASA astronaut who was the first female pilot and first female commander of a Space Shuttle. She logged more than 38 days in outer space. She earned an associate degree in mathematics/science from Corning Community College in 1976. She graduated from Syracuse University in 1978, then earned a master of science degree in operations research from Stanford University in 1986, and a master of arts degree in space systems management from Webster University in 1989.
Benjamin Cayetano - Los Angeles Harbor College
Cayetano, who served as governor of Hawaii from 1992 to 2002, attended Los Angeles Harbor College before transferring to UCLA in 1966, where he graduated with a degree in political science in 1968. He went on to earn a law degree from Loyola Law School in 1971 and was elected to the state house in Honolulu three years later. He served as lieutenant governor in Hawaii for eight years before becoming governor.
Carol Guzy - Northampton Community College
Guzy, a photographer for The Washington Post, is a four-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. In 1990, Guzy was the first woman to receive the Newspaper Photographer of the Year Award, presented by the National Press Photographers Association. She earned an associate degree in nursing from Northampton Community College in 1977 and an associate degree I applied science in photography from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale Florida.
Nolan Archibald - Dixie Junior College
Archibald, who graduated from Dixie Junior College, now known as Dixie State College, is executive chairman of Stanley Black & Decker Corporation, a $9 billion global company. He went onto earn a bachelor’s degree from Weber State University and an MBA from Harvard University. He became the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company when he was appointed to his job at 42.
Amy Tan - San Jose City College
Born in the U.S. to immigrant parents from China, Tan failed her mother’s expectations that she become a doctor and concert pianist. She attended San Jose City College and settled on writing fiction. Her novels include “The Joy Luck Club,” “The Kitchen God’s Wife” and “Saving Fish from Drowning,” all New York Times bestsellers. She is also the author of a memoir, “The Opposite of Fate,” two children’s books, and numerous articles for magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, and National Geographic. Her work has been translated into 35 languages, from Spanish, French, and Finnish to Chinese, Arabic and Hebrew.
John Walsh - Cayuga Community College
Walsh attended Cayuga Community College before eventually graduating from the University of Buffalo. In 1981, his son Adam was abducted and murdered. The case remained unsolved for the next 27 years. Since Adam’s death, Walsh has been a strong advocate for legislation reform and helped create the Missing Children Act of 1982 and the Missing Children’s assistance Act of 1984. In 1988, he became the host of “America’s Most Wanted.”
Sarah Palin - North Idaho and Matanuska-Susitna College
Palin attended two community colleges before graduation from the University of Idaho in 1981. She served as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, before being elected governor in 2006. In 2008, she ran as the Republican candidate as governor in 2009 and since has been a commentator for Fox News. She hosted the television show “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger - Santa Monica College
A native of Austria, Schwarzenegger took English classes at Santa Monica College I the 1970s. At the age of 20, Schwarzenegger won the title of Mr. Universe and later Mr. Olympia, which would eventually help him immigrate to America. After taking English classes at Santa Monica College, he received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 1979. He starred in numerous action films in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2003, he was elected California governor in a recall election and was re-elected to a full term in 2006.
Oscar Hijuelos - Bronx Community College
Hijuelos is the first Hispanic American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel, “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.” After receiving an associate degree, he transferred to the City College of New York, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Hijuelos has said that because of growing up poor and being a lifelong resident of New York City, he did not have the money to travel abroad as had many of the famous authors he admired. His novels have been translated into more than 25 languages.
Tani Cantil-Sakauye - Sacramento City College
Tani Cantil-Sakauye was sworn into office as chief justice of California on January 3, 2011. The former Sacramento City College student is the first Asian American and the second female to serve in the post. After former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated her as chief justice on July 22, 2010, she was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, and in a general election on November 2, 2010, an overwhelming majority of voters elected her to that position. She chairs the Judicial Council of California, the administrative policymaking body of state courts, and the Commission on Judicial Appointments.
Frank Cruz - East Los Angeles College
Frank Cruz is a business leader, educator, author and veteran broadcaster who is a co-founder of Telemundo. He serves as president of Cruz and Associates, a consulting firm he founded. He is the former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which oversees and funds the nation’s more than 1,000 public radio (NPR) and television (PBS) stations. Cruz also is the former chairman and founder of Gulf Atlantic Life Insurance, the first Hispanic-owned life insurance company in the United States.
Guy Fieri - College of the Redwoods / American River College
In 2006, Fieri premiered the first show, “Guy’s Big Bite” on the Food Network. Today, he also hosts the top-rated show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” as well as the special series “Tailgate Warriors” and guest judges on Next Food Network Star. Guy also hosted the NBC primetime game show, “Minute To Win It.” He attended American River College’s culinary arts program and later moved to the College of the Redwoods before graduating from the University of Nevada Las Vegas with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management.
Halle Berry - Cuyahoga Community College
Berry attended Cuyahoga Community College in the 1980s, studying broadcast journalism but later decided to focus on an entertainment career. In 2001, she became the first African-American woman to win a Best Actress Academy Award for her role in “Monster’s Ball.” She’s also won an Emmy for her portrayal of screen icon Dorothy Dandridge. A former beauty queen, Berry is one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood, earning $10 million per film.
Community College Week
December 20, 2012 Issue