359. T. Denny Sanford
$2.2 billion Self-made Score: Source: banking, credit cards age: 81 residence: sioux falls, s.d. B.a., u. of minnesota ’58
Sanford’s path to college began with a jail sentence. After he got 90 days for fighting, the judge made a deal with the high school graduate: He could get out early if he’d attend a university. “I had no intention of going to college,” Sanford says. “But he gave me the greatest wakeup call I could ever have in my life.” Released on day 36, Sanford enrolled at the University of Minnesota. Roughly 30 years later he bought a small bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and has since expanded its credit card business into a national giant by offering highrisk borrowers cards with steep interest rates and low limits. He’s funneled much of the profit into charitable donations, giving away more than $1.6 billion so far. A favorite cause? Education.