“If you don’t do better in school, you won’t get into a good college.”
This stern warning is intoned by parents the world over as they shake their heads over a disappointing report cards dotted with Cs and Ds. While this admonition is surely true, many parents aren’t sure what constitutes a “good school.” Most believe it’s one with name recognition — and not much else.
One way a school can distinguish itself is by the track record of its graduates. Indeed, what is a better gauge of a school’s quality than what its alumni achieve after they graduate?
Recently, compensation data provider Equilar.com ranked the colleges and universities that have awarded degrees to Fortune 100 executives. CNBC.com looked at the top 10 colleges on its list, and tracked the number of graduates who went on to become prestigious CEOs.
So, which colleges have produced notable CEO alumni? Click ahead and find out.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 20 September 2011
Harvard University is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Established in 1636, it has a student population of approximately 21,000. Becoming one of those students isn’t easy, or cheap. For the 2010-2011 academic year, the total combined cost for tuition, room, board, and student-service fees at the New England Ivy League school came to more than $50,000.
Harvard alumni have gone on to succeed in a variety of fields, and many of them have become CEOs at major businesses. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and former Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler all attended the institution, along with Boeing CEO James McNerney and former Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone.
The University of Pennsylvania has four undergraduate schools, including the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Nursing and the Wharton School. It also has 12 graduate and professional schools, including the Perelman School of Medicine and the School of Social Policy and Practice.
According to the university website, recent faculty members have been awarded the Nobel Prize as well as the Pulitzer Prize. Their graduates haven’t exactly been slouches, either. Among them are Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, former UPS CEO Mike Eskew and Trump Organization CEO and former presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Leland Stanford Junior University, better known as Stanford University, is located in California’s Santa Clara Valley. Its motto is “The wind of freedom blows,” and according to its website, “Stanford’s pioneering spirit of the American West fuels much of its mission, which is to overcome our time’s seemingly intractable challenges through open and fearless inquiry and action.”
Many of the people who walked through the institution’s doors took that pioneer spirit and ran with it, becoming CEOs of major companies. Stanford alumni who have succeeded in business include former Pfizer CEO Henry McKinnell, Capital One CEO Richard Fairbank, and Charles Schwab, former CEO of the Charles Schwab Corp.
Columbia University is one of the oldest schools in the U.S. Located in New York City, it was founded as King’s College in 1754, by royal charter of King George II. While the university now teems with students, the first classes had just eight. In 1767, it became the first medical school in America to award a medical degree.
Columbia has several high-profile CEO alumni. Among them are Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, former Merck CEO P. Roy Vagelos, and Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit. Pandit earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering, and in 1986 he earned his Ph.D. in finance.
Located in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University was founded in 1701, making it one of the oldest universities in the U.S. It’s one of the highest-ranking universities in the world, and Yale Law School in particular has topped lists of the best law schools for years.
Despite the reputation of its law school, Yale is more than just an attorney factory. Some of the biggest names in business are Yale alumni, including Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwartzman, FedEx CEO Frederick W. Smith and Boeing CEO W. James McNerney.
New York University was founded in 1831, and today it’s one of only 60 member institutions of the Association of American Universities. The school is home to more than 40,000 students, and it has campuses in international locations such as Abu Dhabi, London, and Tel Aviv, among many others.
New York University is the alma mater of many CEOs. These include NASDAQ CEO Robert Greifeld, former American International Group CEO Ernest E. Stempel, and former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard S. Fuld.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, commonly known as MIT, is located in Cambridge, Mass. As its name implies, the school’s focus is on technology and science and has been synonymous with those fields since its 1861 founding. Its students frequently excel in such fields as aerospace, computer technology, and energy.
MIT has produced industry titans whose companies have generated billions of dollars in revenue. MIT alumni include former Aetna CEO Ron Williams, Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch, and Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally.
The University of Chicago is located on the city’s South Side. According to its website, the school’s undergraduate program places an “emphasis on critical thinking and broad interdisciplinary exposure to the full range of intellectual discovery.”
The university’s approach has paid off: Rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep was discovered there, and the first controlled nuclear chain reaction was executed in one of its laboratories.
The University of Chicago has many notable alumni to its credit. Among those are Chevron CEO John S. Watson, former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing, and former Morgan Stanley Dean Witter CEO Philip J. Purcell.
The University of Virginia was founded in 1819 by founding father and president Thomas Jefferson. It was the first secular university in America and the first to offer elective courses. Originally Jefferson opposed the idea of the school offering degrees, which he considered "artificial embellishments." Cooler heads prevailed, however, and the school has been granting degrees since it founding.
Notable graduates from the University of Virginia include former CNET CEO Halsey Minor, former PepsiCo CEO Steven Reinemund, and KBR CEO William P. Utt. One notable attendee was Alan Lafley, who abandoned his studies there to join the Navy during the Vietnam War. He later went on to become CEO of Procter & Gamble.
Cornell University is located in Ithaca, N.Y. The school was founded in 1865 by its namesake, Ezra Cornell, who envisioned a diverse campus offering a comprehensive education in almost any field. "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study," Cornell said. This statement eventually became the school’s motto.
If its alumni are any indication, Ezra Cornell’s ambition for the school was a success. Among the many CEOs who have passed through its doors are Detroit Tigers CEO Dave Dombrowski, former Chevron CEO Kenneth T. Derr, and Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam.