Famous Brown Alumni – Ted Turner

Ted Turner: “I didn’t fail college; college failed me” the future captain of industry says about being expelled from Brown his senior year for burning down his fraternity’s homecoming display. Ted Turner ’60 went on to become (among other things) , one of the world’s foremost racing yachtsmen and a media tycoon.

Turner participated in the Brown Yacht Club and gravitated toward Classics while at Brown. When he informed his father that he was taking up Classics as a Major he received a stern letter from home which began, “I am appalled, even horrified, that you have adopted Classics as a Major. As a matter of fact, I almost puked on the way home today…I am a practical man, and for the life of me I cannot possibly understand why you should wish to speak Greek. With whom will you communicate in Greek?”

It gets better. The letter ends with “I think you are rapidly becoming a jackass, and the sooner you get out of that filthy atmosphere, the better it will suit me. Devotedly, Dad.”

It’s too bad we don’t write letters anymore. They forced the writer to think before writing, as opposed to the electronic age we live in today, where more is written but its quality is greatly diminished. Anyhow, we digress.

Turner’s time at Brown was the first time he was not under the stern watch of his father or at a military academy. Apparently Turner wanted to go to the Naval Academy, partially out of his love of ships, but his father objected.

Turner’s other famous quote about his time at Brown, “I learned mainly about drinking and sex, and I could have gotten that for less than $3,000 a year.”

While at Brown Turner and a group of friends got drunk and ended up at a nearby women’s college, and Ted was suspended from Brown as a result. After a tour of duty in the Coast Guard, Turner returned to Brown and took up classics.

To take the story full circle, Turner wasn’t happy in his frat house, “It was one of those houses taken over by goodies who worried a lot about your grades. They gave me a lot of talks, suggested I go to study hall and stuff like that. One homecoming weekend I burned down their display and that was it. Kicked right out.”

Excerpted from Brown Alumni Monthly September 1975 written by Roger Vaughan, who knew Turner while at Brown.

We have lots of nice Brown memorabilia on our website:



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