What would prompt you to earn a degree through an online college? For the successful and/or famous people listed below, travel, work and careers forced their hands, as they could not attend college when fixed schedules didn’t jive with their current lifestyles. While you might recognize names such as Shaquille O’Neal, other names listed below aren’t as familiar — but all the people listed below used online education to become successful in their endeavors.
The people listed below are in alphabetical order by given name, as we believe that Christie Keplinger’s success is just as important as Shaquille O’Neal’s fame.
- Christie Keplinger: You don’t need to be famous to be successful, and Mark Twain knew this when he stated, “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” Keplinger found a flier in her local newspaper that led this working mother to two college degrees and a pivotal job promotion. She achieved her first degree at regionally-accredited Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College, and then she took advantage of another Eastern program — its partnership in the Community College Alliance with Franklin University of Columbus, Ohio. She earned her bachelor of science degree in accounting in December 2006 and was immediately promoted to vice president of Member Services at the bank where she worked.
- Kerrii B. Anderson: This former president and CEO of Wendy’s International earned a 2007 cash compensation of $950,000. He was a graduate of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, a division of the college that now is largely Internet-based. She also serves on the Board of Visitors of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and the Board of Trustees of Franklin University.
- Kirkland H. Donald: Admiral Donald graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in oceanic engineering. He then went on to achieve his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix. Additionally, he is a graduate of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Senior Executive Fellows Program. He currently is the director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion unit and is is authorized to wear the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with four gold stars, and the Meritorious Service Medal with one gold star, in addition to several other personal and unit awards.
- Lisa Leslie: When Lisa was age fourteen, universities such as Stanford contacted her, asking her to join them and to help boost their women’s basketball teams. She won a number of championships for her school in California, and enrolled in the University of Southern California for her undergraduate degree. She graduated in 1994 and, soon after, became part of the University of Phoenix’s list of notable alumni when she pursued a post-graduate degree in business administration. She also has modeled with the Wilhelmina Agency.
- Lonnie B. Hodge: This guy has done it all, including accomplishing an online degree at New York Regents (now Excelsior University), where he declared he “never set foot on campus,” and upon graduation he was accepted into a traditional M.A. in education at the University of Colorado. He also accomplished an MFA in writing at Vermont College., and won a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in writing (poetry) for work he created while studying at Vermont. Hodge now is a professor who teaches language, culture and global marketing in southern China and is the creator and CEO of Culture Fish Media, a social media agency.
- Ross Mitchell: What better way to make your future successful than to blaze it yourself? When Ross Mitchell graduated from the nation’s first online-only law school at the Los Angeles-based Concord Law School four years ago, he knew that this school’s lack of American Bar Association (ABA) approval would disqualify him from taking the Massachusetts bar examination. But he sought permission anyway, taking his case all the way to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court and in November he won his case. In 10 years, Concord Law School has grown from 33 students to roughly 1,500. Mitchell’s was the first case in which a Concord graduate won the right to take a state bar exam by filing suit and appearing before that state’s Supreme Court.
- Sarah Chenowith: You may wonder why this link leads to Sarah’s LinkedIn page, where you can learn about her role as the DNA Technical Leader at Anne Arundel County Police Department. If you scroll down, you’ll notice that she earned her MS in forensic DNA and serology through distance learning from the University of Florida in 2005. In her success story, printed at AOL, she stated, “In order to become a DNA technical leader (the senior position in most DNA testing labs), the FBI requires a master’s degree and several specific graduate-level courses. No universities in the area offered a degree with this specific focus, making it impossible for me to attend traditional classes without leaving my employer.” Since then, she’s encouraged three co-workers to enter the same degree program.
- Shaquille O’Neal: This famous basketball player spent more than a year taking classes and doing online work for a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Phoenix. He graduated in 2005, making good on a promise to his mother to complete his education after leaving Louisiana State University as a junior in 1992 to turn pro. He completed his bachelor’s degree in business from LSU in 2000. He plans to earn his future doctorate in psychology.
- Sharon T. Freeman: This woman earned her PhD online at Walden in applied management and decision sciences in 1998, going on to work with foreign aid and institutional reform in overseas countries. She has written a book, Conversations With African Women Leaders, and was recently named a subcontractor on a $2.4 billion Booz Allen contract with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which administers foreign aid to expand democracy and free markets.
- Timothy Gates: As a Navy officer in Iceland, Gates enrolled in Strayer University’s online courses to earn an accounting degree in 2005. He credits Stayer’s quarter system with allowing him to finish his undergraduate degree in such a short time. Based on the scientific merit and potential utility of his work, Gates recently placed third in the annual J. Dewey Lutes Peer Research Competition. He was also inducted into Upsilon Phi Delta, a national honor society for students in health care administration. Gates is a member and fellow of The American College of Healthcare Executives, the premier accrediting body for health care administrators.