43 Successful People Who Have A GED

“Few of our own failures are fatal,” Financial Times columnist Tim Harford writes in his new book, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure. And here you can read also about GED courses.

According to Adapt, “success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time. I do agree with Harford, I didn’t get things right too but then I have a chance to fix it by getting the GED®  test. Take a look at this list of 43 successful people who also have a GED® diploma.

Jim Carrey

BruceAlmighty

Age Dropped Out: 16

Reason: The comedic actor was not only a class clown, but a straight-A student as well. But times were tough for the young Canadian, who was forced to drop out to find a job to help support his family. He worked as a security guard and janitor before deciding to try his hand at comedy.

Dave Thomas

The founder of Wendy’s, Dave Thomas started working in the restaurant industry at only 12 years old. His family was constantly on the move and at age 15, he refused to keep moving with his parents. He was working part time at the Hobby House restaurant in Fort Wayne and dropped out of high school to start working at the business full time.

After working as a mess sergeant during the Korean War, he began working for KFC, where he was able to help turn several of their failing franchises around. In 1969, he sold of the KFC franchises he owned and opened his own restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. He named the restaurant after his daughter, who was actually called Melinda, but was nicknamed Wendy. These days, Wendy’s is the third largest burger chain in America.

In 1993, Dave decided that he didn’t want to set a bad example for any youngsters out there, so he enrolled at Coconut Creek High School and earned his GED.

Christian Slater

Recently earned his GED credential to set a good example for his two young children. He even took a class (with much younger students) to prepare for the battery of tests.

Walter Anderson

You could argue that Walter Anderson is the ultimate GED poster child. A high school dropout, Anderson went on to become the publisher of Parade magazine. He writes about his journey in the autobiography, Meant to Be: The True Story of a Son Who Discovers He Is His Mother’s Deepest Secret, published by Harper Collins.

“Walter Anderson is chairman and CEO of Parade Publications and an Advisory Board member of Literacy Volunteers of America and National Center for Family Literacy. A high school dropout, he is a national spokesperson for GED and director of the National Dropout Prevention Fund.”

Impressive indeed.

Eminem

Eminem attended Lincoln High School in Warren, Michigan, where he failed the ninth grade three times and eventually dropped out at the age of 17. Despite being a poor student, Eminem always had a deep affinity for language, devouring comic books and even studying the dictionary. “I found that no matter how bad I was at school, like, and no matter how low my grades might have been at some times, I always was good at English … I just felt like I want to be able to have all of these words at my disposal, in my vocabulary at all times whenever I need to pull ’em out.”

Although there are references on the Internet to Eminem’s efforts to earn a GED, I couldn’t find a definite source.

Michael J. Fox

“Although Michael was close to finishing high school, he decided to light out for Hollywood, California, USA to pursue his career. It was decided that Michael would leave after his 18th birthday, but before graduating High School. (Michael would not receive his General Equivalency Diploma until 1995.) His father drove him to Los Angeles and gave him $3,000 to get started.”

Actor Michael J. Fox went to high school in his native Canada but never finished. After he got married, had kids, and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he made it a priority to earn his GED.

Christina Applegate

“Passed the GED with flying colors toward the end of her Junior Year.”

Nicholas Cage

Left high school early but made earning his GED a priority before he pursued a career in acting.

Richard Carmona

Richard Carmona is an Arizona senator and former U.S. Surgeon General under George W. Bush. Carmona was born in New York City of Puerto Rican descent, and raised in Harlem. After dropping out of Dewitt Clinton high school at age 16, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1967. While enlisted, he received his General Educational Development (GED), joined the United States Army Special Forces, became a combat-decorated Vietnam veteran, and began his career in medicine as a Special Forces medic.

Cyndi Lauper

Lauper was accepted in a special public high school for students with talent in the visual arts, but she was held back and eventually dropped out, earning her GED sometime later. At the age of seventeen, she left home, planning to study art.

Brandon Lee

He attended high school at Chadwick School, but was asked to leave for insubordination, more specifically driving down the school’s hill backwards, three months before graduating. He received his GED in 1983, and then went to Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts where he majored in theater.

Michael Chang

Grand Slam champion tennis player earned his GED and is currently attending Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.

Wally Amos

Earned his GED while in the U.S. Air Force and later became the founder of Famous Amos Cookies.

Jon Huntsman, Jr

2012 Republican Presidential Candidate Jon Huntsman could have been president of the United States after earning a GED. He dropped out of the race. His bio on his campaign website states: During the 1970’s, he dropped out of high school and was the keyboard player in a rock band before eventually resuming his studies. He eventually received his G.E.D.

Christopher Blizzard

Christopher Blizzard is a high-tech guru who contributed significantly to Mozilla and Open Source. He reportedly dropped out of high school and later earned a GED. We don’t have a trusted source for this information. If you do, let us know.

Jeremy Bonderman

As he emerged as one of the nation’s best high school pitchers his junior year, he said “I knew if I went to college that it would be to junior college.” Scouts suggested to his parents, Gene and Dory, that if he passed the GED as an 18-year-old junior he could possibly be eligible for the draft. The Bondermans worked with the school board, the principal and college advisor. They notified Major League Baseball of their intentions, looking not to pull a surprise and try to become a free agent, but simply make their son eligible for the draft.

When Bonderman indeed passed the GED, the commissioner’s office made him eligible for the draft. “I believed this was the best way for me to go,” Bonderman said. “Believe me, I thought it out. We talked my future out with a lot of people, especially everyone at school.”

D.L. Hughley

D.L. Hughley grew up in South Central Los Angeles and had a rough upbringing, getting kicked out of high school and becoming a member of the notorious Bloods gang. After his cousin was shot, D.L. Hughley turned his life around, got a GED and a job and, after prompting by his wife, LaDonna, tried his hand at stand-up comedy.

Stephen Leicht

At the age of 12, he began racing stock cars, and got his GED to focus full-time on racing.

Waylon Jennings

“Country music star Waylon Jennings is singing a different tune since gaining a high school equivalency diploma: ‘Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be dropouts.’ Jennings was scheduled to accept his General Educational Development certificate from Kentucky First Lady Martha Wilkinson at the Capitol in Frankfort today.”

Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton’s bio includes this sentence: Her childhood was spent in palatial dwellings in the priciest neighborhoods on both coasts and featured a brief flirtation with the educational system, including high schooling at the ultra-exclusive Dwight School, from which she dropped out and ultimately earned her high school GED

Peter Jennings

Peter Jennings started broadcasting when he was only nine years old. He followed the footsteps of his father, a respected radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and operated as the host of a CBC children’s program called “Peter’s People.” Surprisingly, his father was out on assignment when Jennings was chosen for the gig and he was furious at the network for hiring his son solely because he was the son of a broadcaster.

When it came to schooling, Jennings was a great athlete, but a terrible student, which he said was due to “pure boredom.” He failed to pass the 10th grade and dropped out as a result. He tried to attend Carleton University, but “lasted about 10 minutes” before he dropped out there.

After school, he started working at The Royal Bank of Canada, but he dreamed of being a professional broadcaster.

Fran Lebowitz

“After being expelled from high school and receiving a GED, Lebowitz worked many odd jobs before being hired by Andy Warhol as a columnist for Interview.”

Lindsay Lohan

Actor Lindsay Lohan also appears on most GED celebrity lists, but I can’t find a reliable source. I also can’t find any reference to her graduation from high school. If you can help, leave a comment.

Ruth Ann Minner

“Minner did not have an easy life as a youth and left school at age 16 to help support her family. Later she qualified for a GED and attended the Delaware Technical and Community College.”

George Bernard Shaw

Famed Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw held an outright animosity towards schooling that he maintained throughout his life. He was quoted as saying, “schools and schoolmasters, as we have them today, are not popular as places of education and teachers, but rather prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept to prevent them disturbing and chaperoning their parent.” Not surprisingly, the writer never completed his own education, having dropped out of the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School.

His main complaints about schooling was the standardization of the curriculum, which he believed deadened the spirit and stifled the intellect. He also deplored the corporal punishment being used in schools, although most modern teachers and parents would agree with him on this issue.

George Eastman

Creator of the Kodak Camera Company, George Eastman, was forced to drop out of school due to financial circumstances. At only 14, his father died and the only way George could keep his two sisters and mother alive was to quit school and begin working as an office boy full time. By the age of 26, Eastman found his true calling and began working to improve the emulsion process involved in photography.

He thought the liquid emulsions proved quite a problem as they were excessively sticky and had to be used quickly before they dried. In only three years, Eastman had perfected his dry emulsion plates and he started his own photographic business in 1880.

Quentin Tarantino

While a lot of famous directors hone their skills during college, Quentin Tarantino built up his film knowledge by working in a video rental store in Manhattan Beach, California.

He not only never went to college, but he quit going to Narbonne High School in Harbor City, California in his freshman year. He started learning the acting craft in acting school at the James Best Theatre Company in Toluca Lake, but it really wasn’t until he started working at video Archives with Roger Avery, also a director these days, that he really began sharpening his future skills. Some people complain about Tarantino’s movies having too much focus on the dialogue, but for a high school dropout, I’d say that’s not such a bad thing.

Richard Pryor

If comedy really is born from tragedy, then it is only logical that Richard Pryor became one of the top comedians of the seventies. Pryor had anything but an easy life.

He was raised in his grandmother’s brothel, where his mother “worked” and his father served as her pimp. At only ten, his mother abandoned him and his strict grandmother took over his care, beating him whenever she thought he was acting “eccentric.” With a home life like this, it’s not all to surprising that he ended up being expelled from high school at 14.

In the end, Pryor ended up proving the adage that “whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” and his comedy career was one of the longest lasting and most successful of the last fifty years.

Peter Jackson

Before he directed the Lord of The Rings, or even his cult classics like Meet the Feebles, Peter Jackson was just a film-obsessed kid. He was trying to make his own film by age of nine, complete with the special effects he loved to see in shows like “Thunderbirds.” After he saw the original King Kong, he started trying to mimic the stop-motion from the film. He spent his entire childhood and all of his teenage years making short films and developing his own special effect techniques, which even included making his own minuscule models.

When he was 16, he dropped out of high school and started working as an apprentice engraver in a newspaper photography department. He kept living with his parents so he could save money for film-making supplies, which he soon used to begin production on what would become his first full-length film, Bad Taste. When you know that your future is film you don’t have a real need for the three Rs of “reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.

50 Cent

50 Cent dropped out as a sophomore in high school after he was expelled for drug possession. He earned a GED while at boot camp.

Avril Lavigne

Age Dropped Out: 15

Reason: After an impromptu performance for a music producer on a weekend trip in New York, the Canadian singer-songwriter landed a record deal. She admits her family did have plans for homeschooling her, but those fell through as her music career took off.

Cameron Diaz

Age Dropped Out: 17

Reason: Turns out the actress wasn’t just a “Bad Teacher,” but she was a pretty poor student also. The longtime Hollywood starlet admits that school just wasn’t her thing and left Long Beach Polytechnical High School after being offered a modeling contract.

Charlie Sheen

Year Dropped Out: 12th Grade

Reason: The actor may have done some serious “winning” in the past couple years, but he certainly never received any accolades for attendance. Just a few weeks short of graduation, Sheen was expelled from Santa Monica High School for never coming to class and having incredibly poor grades. Had he made it, Sheen’s coaches say he could have gone on to play baseball in college, but it looks like he’ll just have to stick with portraying athletes in movies like “Major League” instead.

Catherine Zeta Jones

Age Dropped Out: 15

Reason: Most people who have an Oscar on their shelf wouldn’t regret trading in their high school diploma for their Screen Actor’s Guild card, and we bet this successful actress is one. Before pursuing a long marriage with fellow Hollywood star Michael Douglas, she pursuing her acting dreams on the British stage beginning with a revival of “42nd Street.”

Elton John

Age Dropped Out: 16

Reason: After entering London’s Royal Academy of Music on a piano scholarship at age 11, the now Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member became bored with classical compositions and quit school to do some rock’n’roll piano playing at a local pub.

37Joshua Leonard

By the time he hit puberty, though, Leonard had decided that acting “was the last thing I wanted to do with my life.” Instead, he pushed to obtain his GED at age 16 and underwent survival training with Outward Bound as preparation for a year and a half stay in Mexico where he volunteered with a youth services organization.

Greg Mathis

After attending Herman Gardens Elementary School, Peterson Seventh Day Adventist School, and Wayne Memorial High School, Mathis earned his GED through Operation Push while on juvenile probation in 1977.

Michelle Rodriguez

Though she dropped out of high school, she earned her GED and briefly attended business school. She eventually quit in order to pursue a career in acting, hoping to become a writer and director as well.

Bo Bice

He tried enrolling himself, but was stopped by a staff member at the school and questioned about his rocker looks with long hair and piercings.

“This guy says, “Excuse me. Where are you going?’ I said, ‘I’m going to enroll in school. He said, ‘Not looking like that you’re not. Cut your hair, take your earrings out, get that shirt tucked in and you come back tomorrow.'”

“The long and short of it, I did not end up finishing school, but I got my GED,” Bice said.

Jay Z and Beyonce 

Jay Z and his wife Beyonce topped the Forbes list of highest earning couples last year. The Knowles-Carter family has a reported combined net worth of over $600 million.

Jay Z has successfully transitioned from being just a rapper to a bonafide business mogul. He signed a 10-year, $150-million Live Nation deal in 2008, and his “Watch the Throne” world tour brought in $1.4 million per night in the U.S., while Beyonce’s ” The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour” grossed an average $2 million per night, according to Forbes.

Then there are their other interests. Jay Z briefly owned a minority stake in the Brooklyn Nets, but dumped his share because he started his own sports agency: Roc Nation Sports, which represents star athletes like Kevin Durant and Victor Cruz. Beyonce has several fragrance collections and a clothing line, House of Dereon. The couple also manage a handful of lucrative endorsement deals for major companies including L’Oreal, Dell, and Budweiser.

Jay Z attended several schools in Brooklyn and reportedly last attended Trenton Central High School in Trenton, N. J., where he did not graduate. Reports vary on whether Beyonce obtained a high school diploma. Some claim she received a diploma via homeschooling while working with the successful girl group Destiny’s Child.

Two years ago, rumors swirled that Beyonce was getting a GED when she was photographed entering an Alternative Education Complex in New York. Neither has attended college.

Ruth Ann Minner

“Minner did not have an easy life as a youth and left school at age 16 to help support her family. Later she qualified for a GED and attended the Delaware Technical and Community College.”

Britney Spears

Britney Spears also dropped out of high school to pursue a music career. She was attending Kentwood High school in Louisiana before she dropped out. There is no word as to whether Brit actually did get a GED. With some of her life decisions, we have to really wonder.

Bill Cosby

More interested in sports than academics, Cosby played on his school’s track and football teams. He was placed in a high school for gifted students after scoring high on an IQ test. But Cosby failed to apply himself, and ended up falling behind in his classes. He switched to Germantown High School, and even there he learned that he would have to repeat a grade. In frustration, Cosby dropped out.

He worked several odd jobs before joining the U.S. Navy in 1956. … Regretting his decision to drop out of school, Cosby earned his high school equivalency diploma while in the service. A well-known advocate for education, earned his GED and later went on to earn his doctor of education degree from the University of Massachusetts, though we now my have doubts about his real intentions.

 




Do you have questions? Click here to contact us.