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10 Celebrities Who Have Weird Relationships With Academia

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Colleges are notoriously weird; celebrities are equally strange. Sometimes, when the two are combined, magic happens.

1. Brad Pitt // University of Missouri

Like many actors, Brad Pitt dropped out of college early to jump start his acting career. Pitt was so anxious to start said career that he left the University of Missouri only two weeks before graduation. He had one paper left to write in order to complete his final two credits, which he ditched to move to LA. University of Missouri student newspaper The Maneater has a different version of the story in which Pitt’s failed project for Journalism 336, a “hunk calendar,” was the reason for his early departure.

2. Paul Newman // Ohio University

Paul Newman attended three colleges: Ohio University, Yale University, and Kenyon College. He’s somewhat of a legend at OU, though, and it’s not because they use his pasta sauce at the dining halls. There’s a campus rumor that Newman got kicked out of school because he rolled a keg down a hill ... and right into the University president’s car.

3. Howard Stern // Boston University

Howard Stern is also somewhat of a campus legend at his alma mater, Boston University. In 1973, he had an on-campus radio program with his friends called the “King Schmaltz Bagel Hour.” They were fired during their first show right in the middle of a comedy sketch called “Godzilla Goes to Harlem.” There’s still a persistent rumor on campus that Stern once tried to donate a new radio station facility to BU, but they turned him down because they didn’t want his name on the building.

4. Samuel L. Jackson // Morehouse College

In 1969, Samuel L. Jackson was part of a group of students at Morehouse College in Atlanta who held some trustees hostage on campus for two days. The students were protesting the board, which had very few African American members, despite the school being a historically black university. One of the men who the group held hostage was Martin Luther King, Sr.

5. Natalie Portman // Harvard University

Natalie Portman once told the New York Post, “I don’t care if college ruins my career. I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” She didn’t always take her college career so seriously, though, like when she famously parodied her time at Harvard on SNL. Plus, she has admitted to smoking weed in college. Yet her Harvard mentor claimed that Natalie was “inherently bright” with a lot of “intellectual horsepower.” Portman actually sounds like the perfect college student...

6. Claire Danes // Yale University

Claire Danes’s grandfather was once the Dean of Art and Architecture at Yale University, which may have had something to do with her decision to attend the school, even after achieving fame as a teen on My So-Called Life. She regrets her decision to leave after two years, claiming, “In an ideal world, it would have been nice to have graduated ... But in the end, I didn’t really need to go further than I did.” But, hey, maybe those two years pursuing a psychology degree helped with her future career as Agent Carrie Mathison.

7. John Lennon // Liverpool College of Art

John Lennon was expelled from the Liverpool College of Art because he failed his final exams. He later said of his teachers, “I’ve been proved right. They were wrong and I was right. They’re all still there, aren’t they, so they must be the failures.” You can now visit the John Lennon Art and Design Building at the university (now known as Liverpool John Moores University), which Yoko Ono helped develop. She referred to the school as “the springboard for so many influential aspects of his life.”

8. David Letterman // Ball State University

At Ball State University, the David Letterman Telecommunications Scholarship is affectionately referred to as “The David Letterman Scholarship for Average Students.” Of course, the truth is way less fun. The scholarship doesn’t require a certain GPA, but instead, an application in the form of a creative project. But Letterman does have a plaque in the Department of Telecommunications that reads, “Dedicated to all ‘C’ students before and after me!”

9. Jennifer Garner // Denison University

Speaking of Letterman, Jennifer Garner once went on the Late Show and told Dave about her days at Denison University. She used to break into the theater department with her roommate in the middle of the night. But their criminal act was fairly mundane. They would borrow university sewing machines to make scrunchies. Then, the pair would go to dorms and sell them for $3 a piece.

10. Debra Messing // Brandeis University

Debra Messing has admitted to her “complicated experience” at Brandeis University. After high school, she wanted to pursue an acting career, but her parents insisted that she continue her education. She was accepted to the musical theater program at Syracuse University, but went to Brandeis where she recalled there was both a lot of “competition” and “rejection.”

Did any celebrities attend your alma mater? What were the campus stories about them? Let us know in comments!

Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
Pop Culture
The Cult of Prince Philip
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images

For seven decades, Prince Philip has been one of the more colorful figures in Britain's Royal Family, prone to jarring remarks and quips about women, the deaf, and overweight children.

"You're too fat to be an astronaut," he once told a boy sharing his dream of space travel.

British media who delighted in quoting him are still lamenting the 96-year-old's recent retirement from public duties. But the people of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu are likely to be optimistic he'll now have the time to join them: They worship him as a god and have based a religion on him.

Followers of the Prince Philip Movement, which started in the 1960s, believe that the prince was born to fulfill an ancient prophecy: that the son of an ancient mountain spirit would one day take the form of a pale-skinned man, travel abroad, marry a powerful lady, and eventually return to the island. When villagers saw the prince’s portrait, they felt the spirit in it, and when he visited Vanuatu in 1974, they were convinced.

Chief Jack Naiva, a respected warrior in the culture, greeted the royal yacht and caught sight of Philip on board. "I saw him standing on the deck in his white uniform," Naiva once said. "I knew then that he was the true messiah."

True believers assign large world movements to the machinations of Philip. They once claimed his powers had enabled a black man to become president of the United States and that his "magic" had assisted in helping locate Osama bin Laden. The community has corresponded with Buckingham Palace and even sent Philip a nal-nal, a traditional club for killing pigs, as a token of its appreciation. In return, he sent a portrait in which he’s holding the gift.

Sikor Natuan, the son of the local chief, holds two official portraits of Britain's Prince Philip in front of the chief's hut in the remote village of Yaohnanen on Tanna in Vanuatu.

The picture is now part of a shrine set up in Yaohnanen in Vanuatu that includes other photos and a Union flag. In May 2017, shortly after the Prince announced his retirement, a cyclone threatened the island—and its shrine. But according to Matthew Baylis, an author who has lived with the tribe, the natives didn't see this so much as a cause for concern as they did a harbinger of the prince's arrival so he can bask in their worship.

To date, Prince Philip has not announced any plans to relocate.

A version of this story ran in a 2012 issue of Mental Floss magazine.

Chloe Efforn
John Lennon Was a Crazy Cat Lady
Chloe Efforn
Chloe Efforn

John Lennon was crazy about cats, and though he owned a couple of dogs (Sally and Bernard) over the years, he was better known for getting by with a little help from his feline friends.


Growing up, Lennon's beloved mother, Julia, had a named cat after Elvis Presley, whom Julia and John were both crazy about. The Lennons later realized they had misnamed Elvis when "he" gave birth to a litter of kittens in the cupboard, but they didn't change the cat's name based on that small mistake.


He had two other cats as a boy growing up in Liverpool: Tich and Sam. Tich passed away while Lennon was away at art school (which he attended from 1957 to 1960), and Sam was named after famous British diarist Samuel Pepys

4. TIM

One day, John Lennon found a stray cat in the snow, which his Aunt Mimi allowed him to keep. (John's Aunt Mimi raised him from a young boy through his late teenage years, and he affectionately referred to her as the Cat Woman.) He named the marmalade-colored half-Persian cat Tim.

Tim remained a special favorite of John's. Every day, he would hop on his Raleigh bicycle and ride to Mr. Smith's, the local fishmonger, where he would buy a few pieces of fish for Tim and his other cats. Even after John became famous as a Beatle, he would often call and check in on how Tim was doing. Tim lived a happy life and survived to celebrate his 20th birthday.


John and his first wife, Cynthia, had a cat named Mimi who was, of course, named after his Aunt Mimi. They soon got another cat, a tabby who they dubbed Babaghi. John and Cynthia continued acquiring more cats, eventually owning around 10 of them.


As a Beatle, John had a cat named Jesus. The name was most likely John's sarcastic response to his "the Beatles are bigger than Jesus" controversy of 1966. But he wasn't the only band member with a cat named Jesus: Paul McCartney once had a trio of kittens named Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.


In the mid-1970s, John had an affair with his secretary, May Pang. One day, the studio receptionist brought a box of kittens into the recording studio where John and May were. "No," John immediately told May, "we can't, we're traveling too much." But she picked up one of the kittens and put it over her shoulder. Then John started stroking the kitten and decided to keep it. At the end of the day, the only other kitten left was a little white one that was so loud no one else wanted it. So they adopted it as well and named the pair Major and Minor.


John owned a pair of black and white cats with his wife Yoko Ono. As befitting John's offbeat sense of humor, many places report he christened the white cat Pepper and the black one Salt.


John and Yoko also had two Russian Blue cats named Gertrude and Alice, who each met tragic ends. After a series of sicknesses, Gertrude was diagnosed with a virus that could become dangerous to their young son, Sean. John later said that he held Gertrude and wept as she was euthanized. 

Later, Alice jumped out of an open window in the Lennons' high-rise apartment at the Dakota and plunged to her death. Sean was present at the time of the accident, and he remembers it as the only time he ever saw his father cry.


In later years, John also owned three cats he named Misha, Sasha, and Charo. Always an artist at heart, John loved to sketch his many cats, and he used some of these pictures as illustrations in his books.

This piece originally ran in 2012.


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