The 25 Most Famous Harvard Students Of All Time

Harvard University is one of the prestigious universities in the world. In fact, The Center for World University Rankings recently ranked Harvard as the best university in the world.

As expected, many impressive people have walked the halls of Harvard since it was founded in 1636. These people have gone on to pursue careers in politics, finance, entertainment, and more.

We’ve compiled a list of the 25 most famous Harvard students of all time. Some, like Jeremy Lin, graduated as recently as 2010; others, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, graduated way back in 1821.

U.S. President Barack Obama entered Harvard Law School in 1988 and eventually became the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. During his time at the school, he also played basketball on the black law students' association team.

Source: NPR

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore graduated cum laude from Harvard in 1969 with a degree in government. He wrote a great senior thesis titled, 'The Impact of Television on the Conduct of the Presidency, 1947-1969.'


Ben Bernanke, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, graduated summa cum laude in 1975 with a degree in economics. He earned a 1590 out of 1600 on his SATs.

Source: Forbes

Bill Gates began studying at Harvard in 1973 and decided to major in applied maths. He dropped out two years later to found Microsoft with his friend Paul Allen. One of Gates' former roommates told Harvard Magazine that Gates would study for 36 hours at a time, with 10 hour breaks in between.

Comedian Conan O'Brien graduated in 1985 with a degree in American History. He was president of Harvard's parody magazine 'The Harvard Lampoon' twice.


Dean Norris, best known for his role as Hank Schrader on the show 'Breaking Bad,' graduated in 1985 with a concentration in social studies. He was the first member of his family to attend college.

Sources: NPR and Harvard Magazine

Former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt entered Harvard in 1900, and he was heavily involved in extracurriculars. Roosevelt was president of the Harvard CRIMSON newspaper, secretary of the glee club, and one of the founders of the political society.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush graduated from Harvard Business School in 1975. He is the only U.S. president to graduate with an M.B.A. from the school.

Source: New York Times

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger graduated summa cum laude in 1950 and then pursued a Ph.D in the Department of Government at the school. He taught at Harvard from 1954 -- 1969.


Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, attended Harvard Business School in 1980 and met his wife, Judy, through the program. His daughter also attended the business school.

NBA player Jeremy Lin graduated from Harvard in 2010 with a degree in economics. He scored 1,483 points for the Harvard Crimson basketball team, the fifth most in the school's history.

Source: Newsday

Jill Abramson, former New York Times executive editor, graduated magna cum laude in 1976 with a degree in History. She will return to Harvard in the fall of 2014 to teach undergraduate narrative nonfiction classes.

Sources: Adweek and New York Times

Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy graduated cum laude in 1940. He wrote his thesis about why Britain was unprepared to fight Germany in World War II, and it ended up being published as a book titled, 'Why England Slept.'

Author John Updike graduated from Harvard in 1954, and like Conan O'Brien, he was president of 'The Harvard Lampoon.' He has won two Pulitzer Prizes, as well as several National Book Awards.

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, graduated from Harvard in 1975 and studied at Harvard Law School. Blankfein grew up in a housing project in Brooklyn and applied to Harvard after being urged to do so by a college representative. Harvard gave him enough financial aid to make his studies possible.

Source: Harvard Alumni

Mark Zuckerberg enrolled at Harvard in 2002 and created Facebook before dropping out to pursue the website full time. While at Harvard, he also created a program called Course Match, which allowed students to choose classes based on what other people were taking.


Actor Matt Damon began his Harvard career in 1988 but took time off during his sophomore year to film the TV movie 'Rising Son.' Because of his acting interruptions, he never earned enough credits to graduate. However, he received the 2013 Harvard Arts Medal in recognition of his work in the entertainment industry.

Sources: CNN and Daily Mail

Politician and businessman Mitt Romney studied at Harvard from 1971 to 1975, earning a joint degree in its law and business schools. He was 24 when he began his studies, and was already married and had a child. Before entering Harvard, he did Mormon missionary work in France.

Source: NPR

Natalie Portman graduated in 2002 with a degree in psychology. Portman was considered exceptionally bright by her professors; in her 'neuropsychology and the law' seminar, she received an A+ for her paper on lie detection, and that professor later hired her as a research assistant.

Ralph Waldo Emerson entered Harvard in 1817 and graduated 30th in a class of 59 students. Between classes, he taught at children's schools to earn money.

Rashida Jones, best known for her role as Ann Perkins on 'Parks and Recreation,' graduated from Harvard in 1997 with degrees in religion and philosophy. She once planned on becoming a judge or the president.

Source: The Guardian

Sumner Redstone, Chairman of the Board of Viacom and CBS Corporation, graduated from Harvard in 1944 after just two and a half years. During his time there, he was chosen by his Japanese history professor to work on breaking Japan's military and diplomatic codes with a special intelligence group.

Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt attended Harvard in 1876 and originally chose to study natural history. However, after his father died of stomach cancer in 1878, Roosevelt decided to pursue a degree in history and government to honour his memory.

Tommy Lee Jones graduated cum laude from Harvard in 1969 with a degree in English literature. He was roommates with future U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

Source: New York Times

Renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma attended Harvard when he was only 16 years old. He told Harvard Magazine that his favourite classes were German literature in translation, anthropology, fine arts, and a course on Dotoevsky.

Now check out these impressive college graduates:

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