Leadership

Warren Buffett, Sara Blakely and 6 other self-made billionaires who went to public school

Charles Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., left, and Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., attend a BYD Co. press event in China, on Monday, Sept. 27, 2010.
Nelson Ching | Getty Images
Charles Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., left, and Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., attend a BYD Co. press event in China, on Monday, Sept. 27, 2010.

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest people in the world, but he didn't start out with an exclusive education at a prep school. He graduated from a public high school and later a public university, and his experience has made him an advocate for education that's accessible to all.

"I'm a big believer in the public school system in terms of equality of opportunity in this country," Buffett said at an annual shareholders meeting in 2005.

And he's not alone. Here are seven other self-made billionaires, including Charlie Munger, Larry Page and Jeff Bezos, who all graduated from public high schools and, in some cases, also went on to graduate from public universities.

Warren Buffett, left, waves after receiving a Woodrow Wilson High School jacket from David Rubenstein during the Economic Club of Washington dinner event in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, June 5, 2012.
Andrew Harrer | Getty Images
Warren Buffett, left, waves after receiving a Woodrow Wilson High School jacket from David Rubenstein during the Economic Club of Washington dinner event in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, June 5, 2012.

Warren Buffett

Net worth: $84 billion
Public education: High school, some college

Buffett may be known as the Oracle of Omaha, where he has spent a majority of his adult life, but he spent much of his childhood and his teen years living in Washington, D.C., where his father worked as Republican congressman.

By the time Buffett was a student at Alice Deal Middle School, he had already started making money by selling chewing gum and Coca-Cola. In the mornings before class, he delivered newspapers. He continued working as a paperboy while attending Woodrow Wilson High School, from which he graduated in 1947. The quote next to his yearbook photo reportedly said, "Likes math: a future stock broker."

At 17, Buffett didn't want to go to college: "What was the point? I knew what I wanted to do. I was making enough money to live on. College was only going to slow me down," he recalled in Alice Schroeder's book, "The Snowball."

Though he attended Wharton to appease his father, he was bored with school and hated Philadelphia. He transferred to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and graduated in 1950. "After two years at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, I transferred here and I must say that I thought that my year here was considerably superior to either of the years I'd had at Wharton. I got a lot of education," the billionaire investor told students on a campus visit in 1994.

Charlie Munger at his book signing event Katherine Graham at Borsheim's Jewelry store.
Mark Peterson | Getty Images
Charlie Munger at his book signing event Katherine Graham at Borsheim's Jewelry store.

Charlie Munger

Net worth: $1.68 billion
Public education: High school, some college

Buffett's longtime business partner and vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Charlie Munger graduated from Omaha Central High School, a landmark of the city, in 1941. He was a member of the boys' rifle team and joined numerous programs and clubs, including ROTC and French. He attended the University of Michigan before transferring to and graduating from the private university California Institute of Technology (CalTech).

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey during an interview with host Jay Leno on February 3, 1995.
Margaret Norton | Getty Images
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey during an interview with host Jay Leno on February 3, 1995.

Oprah Winfrey

Net worth: $3 billion
Public education: High school, college

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey moved several times during her childhood and adolescence, but she attended public school throughout. It was upon arriving at her third high school, East Nashville High School, that Winfrey most excelled as a teen. There, she was an honors student active in the National Forensic League and student government. At 17, she won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant and took a career-changing offer to work part-time at her local radio station WVOL.

After graduating high school in 1971, Winfrey went to University of Tennessee on a full scholarship.

Portrait of American businessman and engineer Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer Inc, at the first West Coast Computer Faire, where the Apple II computer was debuted, in Brooks Hall, San Francisco, California, April 16th or 17th, 1977.
Tom Munnecke | Getty Images
Portrait of American businessman and engineer Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer Inc, at the first West Coast Computer Faire, where the Apple II computer was debuted, in Brooks Hall, San Francisco, California, April 16th or 17th, 1977.

Steve Jobs

Estate net worth: $20.1 billion
Public education: High school

The late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs graduated from Homestead High School in Cupertino, California, in 1972. His future business partner, Apple co-founder where Steve Wozniak, graduated from the same school several years before. Jobs wasn't the best student back then: He reportedly scored a 2.65 GPA in his senior year and later dropped out of private Reed College.

A copy of Jobs' 1972 high school yearbook sold for over $12,000 in 2015.

Portrait of American businessman and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos poses in an aisle of bookshelves with a shopping cart full of books and compact discs, Seattle, Washington, September 1998.
Rex Rystedt | Getty Images
Portrait of American businessman and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos poses in an aisle of bookshelves with a shopping cart full of books and compact discs, Seattle, Washington, September 1998.

Jeff Bezos

Net worth: $138.8 billion
Public education: High school

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High in 1982, where he was a straight-A student and the valedictorian. "Even when he was in high school, all the teachers who taught him knew Jeff was something special and that he would be going places," his science teacher Cullen Bullock told the Miami Herald.

Bezos' high school girlfriend Ursula Werner told Wired in 1999 that "Jeff always wanted to make a lot of money." But, she specified, "it wasn't about money itself. It was about what he was going to do with the money, about changing the future."

Bezos went on to graduate from Princeton University, a private school, in 1986.

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Rick Diamond | Getty Images

Sara Blakely

Net worth: $1.11 billion
Public education: High school, college

Spanx founder Sara Blakely graduated from Clearwater High School in her home state of Florida. As an entrepreneurial teen, she made money by babysitting kids on the beach while their parents tanned nearby. Blakely went to Florida State University, where she joined the debate team and the sorority Delta Delta Delta.

"A lot of my sorority sisters helped me out when I was starting. They sent out tons of e-mails and talked about Spanx to anyone who would listen," Blakely told her university alumni magazine. "I believe this effort provided our first loyal network of customers."

Her supporters grew to include Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton and Beyonce. In 2012, she became the youngest self-made female billionaire to make the Forbes list.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 2003.
Kim Kulish | Corbis | Getty Images
Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 2003.

Larry Page

Net worth: $52.2 billion
Public education: High school, college

Larry Page, founder of Google and CEO of Google-parent company Alphabet, graduated from East Lansing High School in 1991 and went on to study electrical engineering at the University of Michigan.

His parents both studied, and then worked in the field of, computer science but, he told his alma mater, he "never got pushed into" it himself. "I just really liked computers. I was probably the first student at my elementary school to turn in a word-processed homework assignment," Page told the university's alumni news.

eBay President and CEO Meg Whitman delivers a keynote address at the 2005 eBay Live! conference June 23, 2005 in San Jose, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
eBay President and CEO Meg Whitman delivers a keynote address at the 2005 eBay Live! conference June 23, 2005 in San Jose, California.

Meg Whitman

Net worth: $3.4 billion
Public education: High school

Meg Whitman, the former HP and eBay CEO, grew up on Long Island in New York. She graduated from Cold Spring Harbor High school in 1974, where she performed well academically and played a number of sports, including field hockey, tennis and basketball. She went on to graduate from Princeton University and became the only woman to head two large U.S. public companies.

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