- Some colleges have a pretty decent track record when it comes to producing presidential alumni.
- Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, the College of William & Mary, West Point, and the University of Pennsylvania have all taught more than one student that went on to become president of the United States.
- But plenty of other schools have helped to mould the 44 people who went on to take the White House.
It’s a question that any American history buff – or future White House hopeful – is bound to ask. Which college has the distinction of producing the most US presidents?
That would be Harvard University. It’s an unsurprising win, considering Harvard is the oldest school in the country.
But a number of other schools also happened to help shape the minds of the 44 men who served as president of the US. Ivy League institutions, small Christian colleges, and state research universities all made the list.
Keep in mind, these presidents didn’t necessarily graduate from all of the schools on this list. A number, like the ever-nomadic William McKinley, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter, bounced around between a number of institutions due to financial reasons, health difficulties, or changing preferences. But the people who went on to become US presidents did study at an undergraduate level at all of these institutions.
But don’t take any of this as an unabashed endorsement of collegiate-level study. Plenty of other presidents, including George Washington, never even attended college.
Here’s a look at which undergraduate schools have produced the most US presidents:
Fordham University: One president
Donald Trump attended this Bronx-based Jesuit school before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
According to “The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a Presidential Candidate,” the president’s sister Maryanne said that Trump chose to attend the college because “That’s where he got in.”
Occidental College: One president
Before attending Columbia University, Barack Obama studied for two years at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
Columbia University: One president
Obama transferred to Columbia University as a junior. There, he studied political science with a specialty in international relations, as well as English literature.
Georgetown University: One president
Bill Clinton received scholarships to attend Georgetown University, where he was class president in 1964 and 1965.
Eureka College: One president
Ronald Reagan attended this non-profit Christian college, which was originally founded by abolitionists in 1855.
Georgia Southwestern State University: One president
Jimmy Carter bounced around quite a bit before transferring to the US Naval Academy. He began his undergraduate journey at Georgia Southwestern College, before transferring to the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Georgia Institute of Technology: One president
After leaving behind Georgia Southwestern State University, Carter attended this public research university before transferring to the US Naval Academy.
United States Naval Academy: One president
As a young man, Carter had always dreamed of attending the US Naval Academy. He achieved that goal in 1943.
University of Michigan: One president
Gerald Ford attend the University of Michigan, where he was the star player of the school’s Wolverines football team.
Whittier College: One president
Richard Nixon attended Whittier College. He had received a grant to attend Harvard, but he remained in his hometown of Whittier, California, in order to help his parents care for his tuberculosis-stricken older brother and run the family grocery store.
Texas State University: One president
Lyndon B. Johnson enrolled at the Southwest Texas State Normal School – now known as Texas State University. There, he became editor of the student newspaper and honed his debate skills.
London School of Economics: One president
John F. Kennedy briefly studied at the London School of Economics before being forced to return to the States due to health reasons.
Stanford University: One president
Herbert Hoover entered Stanford University in 1891, the first year the school admitted any students. He later claimed to be the university’s first student, by dint of being the first one to sleep in its dormitories.
Amherst College: One president
Calvin Coolidge sharpened his debating skills at Amherst College.
Ohio Central College: One president
Warren Harding attended Ohio Central College, where he founded a student newspaper: The Iberia Spectator.
Davidson College: One president
Woodrow Wilson’s time at Davidson came to an end in 1874 after he became sick. He later moved on to study at Princeton.
Allegheny College: One president
William McKinley attended this Pennsylvania liberal arts school before withdrawing. Not even his participation in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity could make him stick around.
University of Mount Union: One president
McKinley briefly studied at the University of Mount Union – then known as Mount Union College – but was forced to withdraw for financial reasons.
Miami University: One president
Benjamin Harrison graduated from Miami University in 1852. There, he was involved with Phi Delta Theta.
Union College: Chester A. Arthur
Chester A. Arthur was president of the debate club at Union College, a private liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.
Hiram College: One president
James Garfield studied at Hiram College back when it was called the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, where he worked as a janitor and an instructor and wooed his wife Lucretia.
Williams College: One president
Garfield graduated from William College in 1856 and served as his class’s salutatorian.
Kenyon College: One president
Rutherford B. Hayes didn’t just attend Kenyon College – he graduated as the valedictorian of the class of 1824.
Dickinson College: One president
James Buchanan nearly got kicked out of Dickinson during his freshman year. The college administrators who had to deal with his bad behaviour might not have been shocked that the Pennsylvania native turned out to be one of the worst presidents of all time.
Bowdoin College: One president
Franklin Pierce attended the Maine school, where he was ranked last in his class after two years.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: One president
James K. Polk matriculated to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1816. There, he roomed with William Dunn Moseley, the first US governor of Florida.
Hampden–Sydney College: One president
William Henry Harrison attended Hampden-Sydney when he was just 14 years old. He studied there for three years but eventually left the school on orders from his father.
Leiden University: One president
Leiden University may be the oldest university in the Netherlands, but it also had an impact on US history as well. John Quincy Adams attended the storied school while accompanying his father on a diplomatic mission to France.
University of Pennsylvania: Two presidents
Harrison had quite an opportunity on his hands at the University of Pennsylvania, which he began attending in 1790.
He was able to study medicine under Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was both a famed physician and a Founding Father who signed the Declaration of Independence.
The only problem? Harrison realised he didn’t want to be a physician. He told his biographer that he found himself “not liking the medical profession,” so, after his father died and left his family in financial straits, he pursued a military career.
The first actual University of Pennsylvania graduate to ascend to the White House is therefore Trump. He transferred from Fordham University to the Wharton School. While in college, Trump worked for his father’s business.
In speeches, Trump often uses his Wharton pedigree as evidence that he is “a very smart person.”
“Good genes, very good genes, ok, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart,” he told a South Carolina crowd in July 2015.
United States Military Academy (West Point): Two presidents
Ulysses S. Grant didn’t just get a military education from West Point. He got a new name there. The future president had been born Hiram Ulysses Grant, but his sponsor Representative Thomas Hamer accidentally wrote down the wrong name.
So the new cadet became known as “Sam” around campus, due to the fact that his new “U.S.” initials also stood for “Uncle Sam.” At the Academy, Grant developed a reputation as a phenomenal horseman.
Dwight Eisenhower entered West Point in 1911, where he played football and was a member of the class of 1915. This group of West Point alumni would become known as ‘the class the stars fell on,’ given that 59 of its members became general officers.
The College of William & Mary: Three presidents
The College of William & Mary produced three presidents, although the last one graduated in 1807.
Thomas Jefferson enrolled at the school when he was 16. He wasn’t a fan of Williamsburg, Virginia, however, which he labelled as “Devilsburg.”
James Monroe, on the other hand, studied at the college, but was more focused on revolutionary activities than attending class. In 1776, he dropped out after a year and a half in order to fight in the American Revolution.
John Tyler was the final president to attend the school. He was following in the footsteps of his father, who knew Jefferson in college.
Princeton University: Three presidents
A total of three presidents attended Princeton University – which was originally known as the College of New Jersey. One transferred to a different Ivy League school, while another went on to become president of the college.
According to the book “James Madison: Philosopher, Founder, and Statesman,” Madison may have nearly had an emotional breakdown as a student, due to the intensity of his studies.
Meanwhile, Woodrow Wilson studied at Princeton and was active in a number of debate societies. Wilson eventually returned to Princeton as an academic in 1890, and became president of the school in 1902.
John F. Kennedy only studied at Princeton for a brief while, before transferring to Harvard.
Yale University: Three presidents
William Howard Taft was a big man on campus at Yale College, and graduated second in his class.
All three presidents were members of the Skull and Bones secret society.
Harvard University: Five presidents
Harvard University takes the top spot, when it comes to producing the most presidents in US history.
John Adams, the first college-educated US president, attended the school. After returning from his travels in Europe, Adams’ son John Quincy Adams also returned to his father’s alma mater.
Continuing the familial tradition, both Roosevelts matriculated to Harvard.
In addition to committing himself to his studies, Theodore Roosevelt also boxed and rowed. Meanwhile, Franklin D. Roosevelt was editor of The Harvard Crimson and joined the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity.
The last Harvard alumnus to become president was Kennedy.
In his application, he referenced the fact that his father also attended the school and wrote, “To be a ‘Harvard man’ is an enviable distinction and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain.”
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