Phoenix Risen

The 88-year-old founder of the University of Phoenix, John Sperling, is an inspiration for lifelong learning and career success. At age 53, he changed careers and began a concept for working adults which has, years later, mushroomed into the $10 billion company called the University of Phoenix. Now, at age 88, his next life goal is working toward sustainable energy while continuing to steer U of P.

U of P has its critics as a for-profit institution, but no matter what you think of the concept, it has caused traditional higher education universities to be more student-centered—a culture which many American universities lacked. The vision that Sperling launched with $24,000 dollars in 1974, was an alternative for working adults who wanted to learn from people who were role models in the world of work—not just professors studying those theories. This was “out there” at the time, especially from someone trained as a professor. But Sperling’s unique perspective as an irascible professor allowed him to see how the system was failing certain students. Now, University of Phoenix has some 400,000 students and employees 26,000 faculty. Competition is good for education and good for students.

So, if you are in mid-life and you are wondering how to turn around your current job situation, ask what John Sperling asked: What problem that you see can be solved with an innovative solution that others don’t realize? Many new businesses emerge from times of extreme discomfort and constriction. What opportunities exist for you in your current situation that can propel your purpose and your passion for the rest of your days? Or, at least until you turn 88.

Chronicle of Higher Education

John G. Sperling, as he often reminds those around him, is running out of time. At 88, he is in relatively good health, despite a weak kidney and back problems. He still walks the dog, drives himself to meetings, and seems to have no shortage of nervous energy.

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