11 Famous Americans’ Alma Maters

July 01, 2016

For July 4th, we wanted to celebrate some of the household names that have shaped American culture. Where did these forward-thinking politicians, athletes, writers, and entertainers attend college? You may share (or soon share) an alma mater with one of these 11 famous changemakers…

Bill Gates: Harvard University

Everyone know Bill Gates story. He went to Harvard the fall of 1973 and dropped out 2 years later to start a company that is now known to the world as Microsoft. As a student at Harvard, he didn’t have a clear direction of what he wanted to study, but did spend majority of his time with computers.

John Steinbeck: Stanford University, English Literature 

Though he did not graduate with a degree, Steinbeck did study English Literature at Stanford. He first worked as a tour guide and caretake at Lake Tahoe when he failed to publish any of his works. He is the writer of many well-known novels, such as Of Mice and Men and East of Eden, which are both now popular high school reading material.   

Jackie Robinson: UCLA

Jackie Robinson broke many records and made history by being the first black athlete to play in Major League Baseball in the 20th century. Before he broke down the color barrer of the MLB, he was also the first athlete to represent UCLA in four different varsity sports: baseball, track, football and basketball.

Barack Obama: Columbia University, Political Science ‘83

President Barack Obama started his undergraduate education at Occidental College in LA, where he gave his first public speech calling for his college to particpate in the disinventment from South Africa in response to the nation’s policy on the apartheid. After his sophomore, he transferred to Columbia University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in political science, with a concentration in international relations. He also got a JD from Harvard Law School in 1991. 

Thomas Edison: Self-Educated but schooled at the Cooper Union

Thomas Edison is one of the greatest inventors of all time. He brought us the luxury of light, by developing a little device called the light bulb. His achievements did not come from higher education. He was homeschooled by his mother, and apparently, learned most of what he knew by reading R.G. Parker’s School of Natural Philosophy. 

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Morehouse College, Sociology ‘48

Martin Luther King Jr. helped lead the African-American Civil Rights Movement in 1955. He helped organize the March on Washington in 1963, where he delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. He gained his B.A. at Morehouse College, and furthered his education by gaining a Ph.D. degree at Boston University in systematic theology. 

Ryan Lochte: University of Florida, Sports Management ‘07

Ryan Lochte is an 11-time Olympic medalist with 5 gold, 3 silver, and 3 bronze under his belt. He has competed in the last two Olympics in Beijing and London. He will also be competing in the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Rio later this summer. He has spent his tame training with the swimming team at University of Florida and also graduated with a degree in sports management. 

Margaret Mead: Barnard College, Psychology ‘23

Margaret Mead didn’t start off studying Anthropology, but she was always interested in the human mind. Her education at Barnard eventually helped pave the way to further education at Columbia, where she also got her Master’s, before setting out to Samoa. She not only made Anthropology relevant, but also controversial. 

Michael Jordan: UNC - Chapel Hill, Geography ‘86

Michael Jordan is one of the best basketball players in the world. He was recruited by many college basketball programs during his last year of high school, and accepted the basketball scholarship the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill offered him. He helped UNC win the 1982 NCAA Championship against Georgetown, and was drafted to play for the Chicago Bulls after his junior year. He returned in 1986 to finish his degree in Geography. 

Neil Armstrong: Purdue University, Aeronautical Engineering ‘55

Neil Armstrong was the first man to ever walk on the moon. Prior to that, he studied aeronautical engineering at Purdue, where he was also a baritone player for the Purdue All American Marching Band. He also furthered his education and completed his Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering at USC in 1970. 

Bill Clinton: Georgetown University, International Affairs ‘68

Bill Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. He had an early start to his political career. He studied in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where he ran for class president and won in 1964 and 1965. 

About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.




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