Dave Thomas (the founder of Wendy’s) was a high-school dropout. He was afraid his success would convince teens to drop out of school, so at age 60, he went back and got his GED.

Dave Thomas (businessman)

This article is about the American fast food owner. For other people with a similar name, see David Thomas.

Rex David Thomas (July 2, 1932 – January 8, 2002) was an American businessman, philanthropist, and fast-food tycoon. Thomas was the founder and chief executive officer of Wendy’s, a fast-food restaurant chain specializing in hamburgers. He is also known for appearing in more than 800 commercial advertisements for the chain from 1989 to 2002, more than any other company founder in television history.

Early life and education

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, his biological father’s name was Sam and his biological mother’s name was Molly. Thomas was adopted between six weeks and six months later by Rex and Auleva Thomas, an… Continue Reading (6 minute read)

12 thoughts on “Dave Thomas (the founder of Wendy’s) was a high-school dropout. He was afraid his success would convince teens to drop out of school, so at age 60, he went back and got his GED.”

  1. ThawedinYellow

    I saw an interview with him years ago where he talked about getting his GED. He said a local high school senior class adopted him and made him a honorary member. They voted him ‘most likely to succeed’.

  2. Everything80sFan

    When I worked at Burger King, one of my coworker’s name was Dave Thomas. I asked him why he didn’t work at Wendy’s and he said that he figured his application would have been thought to be a joke and tossed out. I told him that he should apply anyway and hope that he could be used in marketing but he was content working at good ol’ BK.

  3. sugarbay650

    The Chocolate Frosty will be his lasting legacy.

  4. FalstaffsMind

    It’s good that he did that, because one of the fallacies a lot of people operate under is the anecdotal fallacy. This fallacy is when someone argues or makes decisions on the basis of anecdotal evidence.

    Statistically speaking, the average college graduate earns 800K more over their lifetime than the average High School graduate. High School dropouts perform more poorly still.

    Within that statistic there are lots of outliers. Dave Thomas is an outlier. Bill Gates, who dropped out of Harvard to found Microsoft is an outlier. There are outliers among entertainers and entrepreneurs.

    The mistake is thinking that because those people found success, that you will too. The more common plight for a high school drop out is weekly earnings of $608 vs. $1281 for a Bachelors Degree.

    [Weekly Earnings Comparison by Education level](https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2019/median-weekly-earnings-606-for-high-school-dropouts-1559-for-advanced-degree-holders.htm)

  5. gatorbeetle

    I met Mr. Thomas quite a few times when I worked with a Children’s charity in Florida. He was all in for helping kids get adopted, and participated as part of our fundraisers yearly. He was a great person to be around and talk to, hard working, and very compassionate. I was saddened greatly when he passed.

  6. Earthicus

    I met him once. He was a total badass. He was a shake your hand and look you in the eye kind of guy. Blue collar, working man.

  7. Atomsteel

    I know when I was a teen I based my decision making on Dave Thomas success.

  8. mordeci00

    I did something similar. I dropped out of college and was afraid that my success would convince kids to dropout of college so I wasn’t successful.

  9. nago7650

    “Oh so I can just drop out and get my GED after I’m successful?” – some teenager right now, probably.

  10. CrimsonPig

    The board of directors also told him if he didn’t get his high school diploma and kept chasing around penguins all day, they were gonna let Eric take over the company.

  11. optcynsejo

    Fun fact, Washington DC has a lot of traffic circles (for a US city at least). One informal circle is called the Dave Thomas Circle because there’s nothing but a Wendy’s restaurant inside it. It’s where a lot of commuters on NY Ave finally hit traffic so it’s well known too.

    A few months ago the District bought the Wendy’s and plans to redevelop it to be… well less of a traffic nightmare and eyesore. But hopefully they keep some reminder of Dave Thomas there.

  12. epi_glowworm

    Sometimes doing the right thing means doing things that you don’t really need to do. Like adding an egg yolk into mashed potatoes as you whip them up. It just makes it better.

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