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15 Successful College Dropouts (PHOTOS)

The Huffington Post     First Posted: 10/01/10 05:05 PM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 06:55 PM ET

This week, the Lumina Foundation for Education announced a renewed commitment to helping adults who have completed some college finally earn their degrees. Lumina hopes to support 19 distinct projects with the use of $14.8 million worth of grants, and plans on reaching out to 6.6 million adults.

The Washington Post attributes efforts on Lumina's part to Obama's call for America's return to the top spot in postsecondary attainment by 2020, but Lumina also has its own agenda.

According to the Post, Lumina's CEO Jamie Merisotis notes that while finishing a college degree will involve returning to school for many adults, for others it just means completing paperwork. Merisotis said that "for some of them, life just gets in the way."

Below, a list of fifteen college dropouts for whom life got in the way -- in the best sense of the phrase. Check out these alleged under-achievers. Do you think President Obama would send these guys back to school?

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  • Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

    Carla Bruni is certainly not the first beauty to <a href="http://www.helium.com/items/1008768-biography-carla-bruni-sarkozy?page=1" target="_hplink">ditch school</a> to pursue a modeling career, but she may be the only to leave college (she started to study art and architecture in Paris, but abandoned formal education at 19) and eventually become a model, singer, songwriter and -- since 2008 -- France's first lady. Although she never returned to academia, Bruni paid homage to such literary greats as Emily Dickinson and Yeats in her second album, <a href="http://www.carlabruni.com/site.php?lang=eng&tracker=anglais" target="_hplink">No Promises</a>.

  • David Byrne

    David Byrne can do pretty much everything, and he almost has. The Talking Heads lead singer has dabbled in film, writing, music, photography and conceptual art and, well, college. Byrne attended <a href="http://www.nndb.com/people/222/000025147/" target="_hplink">less than a year</a> of RISD before dropping out with future band-mate Chris Frantz. <a href="http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Life-During-Wartime-lyrics-Talking-Heads/967AF7336A98B8D1482568B0002CC4EF" target="_hplink">Why stay in college</a>, David? Why indeed.

  • Russell Brand

    While funny man Russell Brand did not earn a higher degree, he did attend both the <a href="http://www.italiaconti.com/" target="_hplink">Italia Conti Stage School</a> and the <a href="http://courses.csm.arts.ac.uk/drama/" target="_hplink">Camden Drama Centre.</a> His stints at both institutions were brief -- in an interview with the <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2006/jun/18/broadcasting.arts" target="_hplink"><em>Guardian</em></a>, Brand said that he was expelled for 'for smashing things up, crying and cutting myself, breaking down in tears all the time'.

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Although Princeton University provided <a href="http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/biography.html" target="_hplink">Fitzgerald</a> with the inspiration and setting for his first novel, <em>This Side of Paradise</em>, it came short of bequeathing the lost generation's celebrated a degree. Officially, Fitzgerald dropped out of the Ivy -- but he was on academic probation when he enlisted in the army and probably would not have been allowed to graduate anyway.

  • David Geffen

    Billionaire producer and record executive David Geffen has a knack for sniffing out talent. Founder of Asylum and Geffen Records, Geffen fostered such greats as the Eagles, Nirvana and Guns n' Roses. With such a natural talent Geffen just didn't need college, so when he dropped out of the University of Texas he didn't sweat it. Now, one legendary and lucrative career later, Geffen has been inducted into the <a href="http://rockhall.com/inductees/david-geffen/bio/" target="_hplink">Rock and Roll Hall of Fame</a> and was named <a href="http://www.out.com/detail.asp?id=22394" target="_hplink">Out</a> Magazine's most influential gay man in 2007. Seems like Geffen has good reason to be <a href="http://music.msn.com/music/article.aspx?GT1=28102&news=485058" target="_hplink">so vain</a>.

  • John Glenn

    American hero<a href="http://library.osu.edu/sites/archives/glenn/glennbio.php," target="_hplink"> John Glenn</a> is known for many things -- he was a major in the Navy, a pilot in the Marines and was one of the seven astronauts in Project Mercury, NASA's first manned space excursion. NASA picked Glenn despite the fact that he left Muskingum College in his junior year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even though he clearly didn't need to earn his degree (did we mention he was the first American to orbit the Earth?) Glenn eventually earned a B.S. in Engineering. Later, he helped to found the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy at Ohio State University.

  • John Mackey

    In the 70s, John Mackey was kind of a hippie. He joined a vegetarian commune (mostly to <a href="http://marketplace.publicradio.org/segments/corneroffice/corner_mackey_bio.html" target="_hplink">meet women</a>), became an organic foodie and dropped out of the University of Texas. Eventually, however, the young Mackey managed to get his act together in a big way. As the CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods, Mackey is now a self-described libertarian devotee of the free market, and is regularly profiled in such "the man" publications as <a href="http://investing.businessweek.com/businessweek/research/stocks/people/person.asp?personId=196899&ticker=WFMI:US" target="_hplink">Bloomberg Businessweek</a> and <a href="http://people.forbes.com/profile/john-p-mackey/86502" target="_hplink">Forbes</a>.

  • Bill Murray

    Although Murray was not flat-out expelled from college, he did drop out of Regis College (where he had intended to be pre-med) after being arrested for possession of marijuana. The small-time crook joined creative forces with Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, and John Belushi, and eventually joined the cast of Saturday Night Live.

  • Anne Hathaway

    Anne Hathaway's path to (and, eventually, from) college was, to say the least, atypical. The young actress landed on the Hollywood scene thanks to her role in the Princess Diaries (2001) and was named one of People's breakthrough stars of 2001. Despite a burgeoning career, <a href=" http://www.collegeotr.com/vassar_college/hot_college_dropout_anne_hathaway_9841" target="_hplink">Anne pursued a degree in English from Vassar College</a>. After transferring to NYU's Gallatin in 2005, Anne's fame caught up with her and she was forced to leave, though she plans on finishing ... someday.

  • Leo Tolstoy

    Although <a href="http://www.notablebiographies.com/St-Tr/Tolstoy-Leo.html" target="_hplink">Tolstoy</a> may make frequent appearances on college reading lists, the literary giant never earned a degree himself. Although he started out studying Oriental languages at Kazan University in 1843, he soon switched to law and eventually left the institution without graduating. Now, Tolstoy is considered by some to be the <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2010/jan/06/leo-tolstoy-greatest-writer" target="_hplink">best writer ever</a>. Not too bad for a college dropout.

  • Ted Turner

    Even before earning the moniker "the mouth from the south" and establishing his reputation as billionaire bad-boy, Robert Edward (Ted) Turner was rebelling against authority. Ted enrolled at Brown University (where his father hoped he would study business) and pursued a degree in Classics -- which he never received, because he was <a href="http://www.answers.com/topic/ted-turner" target="_hplink">expelled </a>for having a female guest in his dorm room. The young Turner took his expulsion in stride and continued on to found CNN and TNT, establishing his position as wildly-successful businessman, philanthropist and media mogul. And he didn't lose his touch with the <a href="http://www.whosdatedwho.com/celebrities/people/dating/ted-turner.htm" target="_hplink">ladies</a>, either.

  • Joy Bryant

    Bryant scored a full scholarship to Yale University, but left when a modeling agency discovered her. At first hoping to earn a degree in economics, Bryant considering switching majors when she found herself <a href="http://www.theloop21.com/news/the-loop-with-joy-bryant?page=2" target="_hplink">failing calculus</a>. Luckily, Bryant's doing well enough as an actress to not need fickle Wall Street to make her rich.

  • Rush Limbaugh

    Host of the highest-rated talk radio program in the U.S., Rush Limbaugh managed to make himself a household name without the help of a college degree. Limbaugh only spent one year at Southeast Missouri State University before he dropped out.

  • Dustin Hoffman

    Is it ironic that <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061722/" target="_hplink"><em>The Graduate</em></a>, Hoffman's second film, was the one that launched his epic career? Kind of, considering Hoffman himself dropped out of Santa Monica City College after only one year. A lack of formal education didn't hold Hoffman back, however -- he went on to become an iconic American actor, and even managed to build a frat-like network of actor friends with Gene Hackman and Mel Brooks.

  • Cindy Crawford

    Former supermodel Cindy Crawford has won a number of awards -- Shape's second most beautiful woman in 1997, one of People's most beautiful people in 1993, No. 3 on VH1's Hottest Hotties of the 90's, etc., etc. She also won a scholarship to Northwestern University, where she was recruited to study chemical engineering. She spent a quarter there before leaving to pursue modeling, naturally.

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