Harvard University is the oldest and most prestigious university in the U.S. Many of our greatest political leaders and business experts have graduated from the hallowed halls of this ivy league school.
In this country, government agencies, top law firms and Fortune 500 companies fight for Harvard graduates, such as Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg whose net worth is off the charts at $1.6 billion.
Getting into the Cambridge, Massachusetts institution is no easy task and starts with academic excellence in high school. The student’s SAT and AP test must demonstrate superior testing as well as an extracurricular roster that proves the ability to multi-task at the highest levels. Of course, if you are the president of your class or one of the best athletes, you have a leg up on your peers. There are additional criteria, such as volunteer work, teacher evaluations, the application itself and the all-important interview; if lucky enough to be invited.
People tend to think that celebrity actors, musicians and artists that we admire have not attended any colleges – let alone Harvard, but think again. After a bit of research, we uncovered at least fifty well-known celebrities who have attended ivy league schools.
Today, we focused on Harvard celebrities that we love. We think you might be surprised by some that made it to this list.
10. Conan O’Brien
Well, Mr. Magna cum laude was a 1985 Harvard graduate, yet it is his superior comedic writing skills that have made the greatest headway in Conan‘s career. It all started at Harvard when he served as president of the Harvard Lampoon and began writing for Not Necessarily the News – a sketch comedy series. After graduation, he wrote for several comedy shows before joining the writing staff at Saturday Night Live. He also wrote for The Simpsons for a couple of seasons before he was tested to replace Letterman as the host of Late Night in 1993. His latest talk show, Conan, is still a popular program on TBS.
9. Rashida Jones
Rashida Jones has had numerous roles on some of America’s favorite programs, such as Parks and Recreation, Boston Public and The Office. In case you didn’t know this, Rashida’s parents are media mogul, Quincy Jones, and actress Peggy Lipton of Mod Squad and Twin Peaks fame. Rashida was an avid student and in high school she was voted, “Most Likely to Succeed”. Well, Jones is clearly a success and on the road to even bigger ventures, as her talents are varied and strong. At Harvard, she belonged to the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, among other performing arts groups.
8. Jack Lemmon
Jack Lemmon was a Hollywood actor and musician who starred in over 60 films, including classics like Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, The Odd Couple and Grumpy Old Men. His interesting life started when he was born in an elevator at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Lemmon graduated in 1947 from Harvard, where he was an active member of several drama clubs and president of the Hasty Pudding Club. After graduation, he joined the Navy and upon his discharge he threw himself into the entertainment business and became a leading man who worked with the greatest of his time, such as Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day, Shirley MaClaine, Ann Margret, Sophia Loren and more.
7. John Lithgow
Although Lithgow’s career includes a wide range of projects, he is best known for NBC’s sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun and also the voice of Lord Farquaad in the highly popular, Shrek. John was born in Rochester, New York to two theatrical parents. His father was the head of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey so his entry into the entertainment business seemed a natural pathway. After graduating from Harvard, magna cum laude in 1967 with degrees in literature and history, he debuted on Broadway in The Changing Room, for which he won a Tony. His career is still going strong today with his most recent appearance as the White Rabbit in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.
6. Tommy Lee Jones
This actor looks smart and always seems to play roles of men with intelligence, doesn’t he? He was born in Texas to a police officer mom and oil field working dad who were married and divorced twice. He was admitted to Harvard on a need-based scholarship and was a classmate of Al Gore. He was a star player on Harvard’s undefeated 1968 varsity football team. He graduated cum laude in 1969 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He was lucky enough to land his first movie role in Love Story, with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neil. His role, coincidentally, was that of O’Neil’s Harvard pal. The rest is history as Tommy Lee Jones is still an A-List actor.
5. Ashley Judd
The Judd family is a family of performing artists, and Ashley‘s upbringing was always in the spotlight of her famous mother, Naomi. She was always a smart kid and attended 13 schools before attending college at the University of Kentucky. In 2010, Judd spent a year in the mid career master’s program for public administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and graduated alongside Meryl Streep, who was awarded an honorary degree. Her goal was to garner skills for being in public service and has since concentrated her career on global humanitarian and political efforts.
4. Matt Damon
Matt Damon is one of America’s favorite male actors and since he co-wrote and starred in the highly acclaimed Good Will Hunting with Ben Affleck, for which they won an Oscar. Both Damon and Affleck were brought up in the Cambridge, Massachusetts area, where he ultimately lived with his mother in a six-family communal household. Although Matt went to Harvard from 1988 to 1992, he left when he was just 12 units removed from graduating. However, he went on to pursue acting in Los Angeles to feature in Geronimo, thinking it would become a huge success. He had gotten the acting bug when he was just 18 and had a big part in Mystic Pizza, the film that gave Julia Roberts her big start.
3. Yo-Yo Ma
This French-American cellist was a child prodigy by the young age of four. When his family moved from Paris to New York he toyed with the violin, viola and finally settled on the cello by the time he was five. Yo-Yo studied at Juilliard prior to entering Harvard. He finished his degree at Harvard in 1976 with a bachelor’s in music and has since been a celebrity soloist for several major orchestras around the world. He has been the recipient of fifteen Grammy awards and has produced over 70 albums. In 1991, he received an honorary doctorate from his Alma Mater.
2. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman has a dual citizenship, American and Israeli, speaks several languages and is noted as being a brainiac. Her life on Long Island gave her access to the American Theater Dance Workshop where she studied the creative and performing arts. When she landed the role of Princess Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel series, her career took off, even though she had starred in The Professional, with Jean Reno. Dedicated to her studies, she missed her own debut to prepare for her high school finals. Portman broke from her career to study and graduate from Harvard where she earned a degree in psychology. She announced to a reporter from the New York Post, “I don’t care if college ruins my career.”
1. Barack Obama
A celebrity in his own right, Barack Obama has laser-sharp intelligence and graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he served as president of the Harvard Law Review. After college, he became a civil rights attorney and became a professor at the University of Chicago Law School until 2004 when he got into politics. He is the 44th president of the United States and has demystified his role by encouraging global cooperation and progress. He will always be known for his strong attempt to provide American citizens with affordable healthcare for all. The jury is still out on the programs’ success.