"My fate was sealed, my hash settled and my goose cooked when I was sixteen and the editor of the Saratoga Springs High School "Recorder" accepted a story I wrote."
Sullivan spent his formative years in Saratoga. He began working at the Saratoga Race Track at age 7 which instilled in him a life-long love of horse racing. He later worked part time at the Saratogian newspaper, and graduated from Saratoga Springs High School in 1910. He was accepted at Cornell University and graduated in 1914.
Francis John Sullivan, "Sully," Saratoga, NY. Prepared at Saratoga High School. Age, twenty-one. Arts and Sciences. Four years at Cornell. "Sully's" worst tribulation is getting up mornings, and his only enemy is work. He is quiet and unassuming, but to those who know him, he is thoroughly congenial and a sincere friend. Success to "Sully!"
Following his graduation, "Sully" is recruited by John P. Donlon to begin working for the New York World.
His time at the paper is interrupted, however. As he explained it in an interview with the NY Herald Tribune in 1953:
"When President Wilson invited me to become a private in his army, I accepted."
Sullivan quickly rose from a private to a second lieutenant in the Army infantry. His wit was always at the ready, even during a brief hospitalization in an Army hospital.