In Good Company: Famous Distance Learners

One day, you might take a distance learning course, and end up sitting side by cyber side with someone famous. Of course, you would never know.

Nelson Mandela, a distance learning success story photo by South Africa the Good News

Famous folks need to educate themselves too, and for many of them they have the additional problem of fans, paparazzi, and the like. On-line courses are the answer for them, just as they are the answer for many of us. Oscar nominee James Franco completed not only his Bachelors of Arts on-line, but also got his Masters, while never slowing down his acting schedule. Top-selling recording artist Lil Wayne is taking classes on-line while on tour.

It turns out, distance education has a more famous pedigree than most think, and it has a history of notable names finishing their degrees long-distance. So when you look at this list, and read this interesting stories, compare them to yourself – what many of these people have in common is nothing more than a drive to educate and better themselves.

Before he battled Predators, or the budget of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger got his degree from the University of Wisconsin back in 1979, before computers were a part of the equation.

Steven Spielberg is considered one of the greatest directors in the history of film. But that wasn’t the case back in 1968, when he dropped out of the school to focus on his craft. His gamble paid off, and he achieved his place in cinema history with a series of hits. Even with that, he went back to school on-line in 2002 and finally finished his degree.

Correspondence courses pre-date on-line distance education, but were the pen-and-paper equivalent. They were a perennial favorite of prisoners, who could use them to expound their education while locked away, and even provide an intellectual lifeline to the outside world. Once such prisoner was Nelson Mandela, who studied law with the University of South Africa during his long incarceration. Keeping his mind sharp proved especially important in his case, as he went on to be liberated to and lead his country.

In 1977, two enterprising young fellows spent $5 on a correspondence course from Penn State on how to make ice cream. That their names were Ben and Jerry gives you an indication of the impact distance education can have on people’s lives. From that $5, these two men built an empire (a sweet, fattening empire) worth billions.

World War One legendary pilot Eddie Rickenbacker left school at a very young age, but soon after found himself studying engineering long distance. After the war, he applied his experience and his intellect in founding Eastern Air Lines, which was a major force in the commercial airline industry from 1926 through 1991.

Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz had a career that touched on distance education more than once. First he took a correspondence course in art from Art Instruction Inc, and then after returning from military service he worked for that company, evaluating the art of students. Of course some time later he created the comic strip Peanuts.

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