Former elementary school teacher, TV reporter and textbook author Pleasant Rowland is the creator of the hugely popular American Girl dolls. Apparently inspired by a trip to Colonial Williamsburg and a futile search for dolls for her nieces, Rowland funded her idea at age 45 with $1.2 million in savings from textbook royalties. She started selling the historical dolls and books in 1986. Revenues hit $300 million by the time she sold the business to Mattel for $700 million a dozen years later. She established the Rowland Reading Foundation in 2003 to provide curriculum materials, train teachers and share research on how children learn to read. It developed the Superkids Reading Program, now published by Zaner-Bloser. In 2013, she agreed to purchase her alma mater Wells College's commercial businesses in the village of Aurora, including the Aurora Inn, a restaurant, a bakery and the old post office. Publicity-shy, Rowland would not speak to Forbes.
Bachelor of Arts / Science, Wells College