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Dr. John Sperling, Founder of University of Phoenix

Our roots

"Working adults were often invisible on traditional campuses."

Dr. John Sperling
Founder, University of Phoenix

He changed higher education so you could change your future

Dr. John Sperling knew what it meant to rise against all odds. A poor farm boy from the Missouri Ozarks, he battled a learning disability and had to work his way through school to earn a PhD.

The challenges he faced inspired John, at age 55, to want a better path for students like him. He saw adult learners struggling with rigid class schedules, often taking 6–10 years to earn a degree.

And it gave him a revolutionary idea:

What if he created a university for working adults?

His experiment didn’t make earning a degree easier — only more accessible. Gone were the inefficiencies of traditional colleges. In their place were course schedules optimized for working adults and coursework that helped them make an impact in their jobs.

Traditional institutions tried to stop him at every turn. But John understood that big things happen when you refuse to back down. So he fought.

Anything worth achieving takes time.

University of Phoenix wasn’t born overnight — in fact, it took years. But these doors opened in 1976 because of John’s determination to deliver an education that worked for the working.

Our story is more than the foundation of everything we do. It lives on in our mission to ensure you never have to choose between the life you have now and the future you want to build for yourself.

Your future's worth working for

No dream is impossible if you’re willing to chase it. Dare to do something big.

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