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ohn G. Sperling was in his teens — illiterate and the survivor of a childhood filled with illness — when a shipmate in the Merchant Marine taught him to read. Enchanted by the likes of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sperling began a journey through higher education that ultimately led to his founding of the University of Phoenix, a for-profit institution. According to a statement from Apollo Education Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, Sperling, 93, a billionaire, died Sunday at a hospital near San Francisco. His cause of death was not disclosed. Sperling stepped down two years ago as Apollo’s executive chairman, but his legacy remains as the founder of one of the biggest disrupters of traditional higher education.

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