Indiana Daily Student

From Laverne Cox to Jim Jones: 5 notable IU students who left before graduating

<p>Ernie Pyle stands with Admiral Oliver O. Kessing in 1945. Pyle studied economics at IU before dropping out to take a journalism job in Indianapolis.</p>

Ernie Pyle stands with Admiral Oliver O. Kessing in 1945. Pyle studied economics at IU before dropping out to take a journalism job in Indianapolis.

Even the most devoted students fantasize about dropping out of college and braving a less-trodden path. While the exorbitant successes of dropouts like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs tend to monopolize public attention, there are countless notable dropouts hailing from across the country, including IU. The following are five of the most noteworthy dropouts from IU. 

Herbert Baumeister

The name “Herb” typically summons mental images of suburbanite dads who enjoy crosswords and grilling. Herb Baumiester, on the other hand, was a suspected serial killer in the 1990s. After a single semester at IU in 1965, Herb dropped out, married and started floating from job to job. In 1996, police obtained consent from Baumeister’s wife to search their property, where the remains of eleven men were found. Herb fled to Canada and took his life.

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox has garnered international acclaim for her prowess as an actress and her advocacy work for the transgender community. She began college at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, where she studied creative writing and dance. After transferring to IU she focused on dance, specifically classical ballet, before moving to Manhattan to finish her education in acting. She is the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in an acting category, which she earned for her performance as Sophia Burset in Netflix’s series “Orange is the New Black.”  

Jim Jones

Jim Jones was a notorious 20th century cult leader. He attended IU from 1949-1951 but graduated from Butler a decade later. At first, he was praised for his civil rights advocacy during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1956, he founded his own church,which would later become the People’s Temple Christian Church. It became increasingly fraught with corruption and accusations of occultism, which attracted the attention of the authorities. Eventually, Jones moved his congregation to a compound in Guyana called Jonestown where he and 918 of his followers took their own lives in November of 1978.

Fred Luddy

If becoming a billionaire tech giant after dropping out of college, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, is the exception instead of the rule, then Fred Luddy is part of the exception. After dropping out to focus on coding, Luddy accrued sizeable assets that were tragically lost due to accounting fraud committed by his previous employer, Peregrine Systems. At 49, Luddy went on to found ServiceNow, a cloud computing company that maintains a $30 billion market cap in the current market.


Ernie Pyle 

In 1919 IU did not offer a degree in journalism, so Ernie Pyle studied economics in college. With only a single semester separating him from his degree, he dropped out to take a journalism job in La Porte, Indiana, which paid $25 a week. After drifting through several publications in the 1920s and 1930s, Pyle became a correspondent during World War II. His syndicated column was printed in hundreds of newspapers across the nation, and eventually it won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1944. He was killed by a sniper on Ie Shima, an island off the northwest coast of Okinawa Island, in 1945.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated where Ernie Pyle first worked. The IDS regrets this error.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated where Ernie Pyle died. He was killed on Ie Shima. The IDS regrets this error.

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