Dean Baquet, the incoming executive editor of The New York Times after Jill Abramson’s surprise ouster, made it most of the way through an English degree at Columbia University—but didn’t quite finish. In the great tradition of highly successful dropouts like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Baquet found exactly what he wanted to do and pursued it rather than sticking out a degree he’d lost interest in.
According to a profile in the Los Angeles Times, Baquet took an internship at the States-Item, an afternoon paper in his hometown of New Orleans, during one of his summer breaks. As an intern he investigated corrupt cops and once dug through the plaster of a bar’s wall to find a bullet a drunk cop had fired off inside.
Class apparently seemed boring after that, and he dropped out to work full time as a journalist.
The lack of a degree certainly didn’t hurt Baquet. He spent seven years reporting in New Orleans, won a Pulitzer Prize for investigating political corruption in Chicago in 1988, then joined the New York Times in 1990. He became national editor there in 1995, left to serve as managing editor of the Los Angeles Times in 2000, then as its editor in chief in 2005. He returned to the New York Times to run its Washington bureau in 2007, and later became managing editor.
Baquet is a contrast with predecessor Jill Abramson, who is a Harvard graduate and has a crimson “H” tatooed on her representing the school and her husband, who was in her graduating class.
Baquet is in pretty good company as a dropout at the New York Times. A.M. Rosenthal was a Pulitzer-prize winning foreign correspondent and was executive editor from 1977 to 1986. Rosenthal, who spearheaded the publication of the Pentagon Papers, dropped out of City College (paywall) a few credits short of a degree to work for the paper in 1944.
As Columbia’s Emily Bell points out, Baquet also has some accomplished fellow dropouts of the university.