The northern California university has educated household names including Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, golf legend Tiger Woods, and US President Herbert Hoover.
Surprisingly, many of Stanford’s most successful students never actually finished their degrees: 11 of the 30 people to make our list never crossed the podium to receive their diploma, but instead left the university to pursue already promising careers.
Evan Spiegel, the co-founder and CEO of Snapchat, runs his multi-billion dollar company with a former fraternity brother, Bobby Murphy. Spiegel dropped out of school in 2012, just before receiving his degree, in order to dedicate himself fully to Snapchat. He has turned down multiple buy-out offers for the company.
Reese Witherspoon began acting at the age of 12 and attended Stanford University for only one year in 1994 before dropping out to pursue her career, which had her flying to Hollywood every weekend while in school.
Tiger Woods' golf career was already off to an impressive start while he was a student at Stanford University, where he won numerous awards. Woods studied economics for two years, and left the university in 1995 to play golf professionally.
Google CEO Larry Page met his co-founder Sergey Brin in the computer science department at Stanford, where they collaborated on the algorithm that would soon become Google. In 1998, the duo dropped out of the graduate program in order to run their new company.
Sergey Brin was a Ph.D candidate at Stanford University before he and Larry Page founded Google in 1998. Today, he runs Google X, which focuses on the company's more secretive and risky ventures, such as the recently delayed Google Glass.
Chelsea Clinton spent her time at Stanford under little scrutiny from the media and graduated in 2001 with a BA in history. Though she was originally interested in medicine, she now works alongside her parents at the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative.
The first woman on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor graduated from Stanford Law School in 1952 and found herself in public service due to necessity, as she described in her 2004 commencement address: 'The gender walls that blocked me out of the private sector were more easily hurdled in the public sector.'
Mukesh Ambani is India's richest person and the chairman, managing director, and largest shareholder of Reliance Industries Limited. After graduating from the University of Bombay with a degree in chemical engineering, he attended Stanford University's business school before leaving in 1981 to work at RIL.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer spent her first year at Stanford University as a pre-med student, but grew bored of rote memorization and instead sought a major that would stimulate her problem-solving skills. She fell in love with computer programming, graduating with a BS in 1997 and an MS in 1999.
Co-founder of PayPal Peter Thiel is wary of technology, despite the fact that much of his success has been thanks to technological investment. He received a BA in philosophy from Stanford University in 1989 and went on to graduate from Stanford Law School in 1992.
Reed Hastings is best known as the co-founder and CEO of Netflix. After graduating from Bowdoin College in 1983, he went on to teach maths in Swaziland for two years as a member of the Peace Corps. Afterwards, he earned a master's degree in computer science from Stanford in '88.
Steve Ballmer left Stanford's Graduate School of Business in 1980 to join Microsoft, a decision that paid off for the man who would become the company's CEO from 2000 to 2014. After retiring, Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion and is now owner of the team. He also lectures in economics at Stanford.
In his 2014 commencement address to Stanford's MBA graduates, Phil Knight said, 'This magical place ... is an extended part of me.' Knight built Nike from a business plan he developed for an entrepreneurship class in his second year at Stanford. He graduated with his MBA in 1962.
Before becoming the first black senator from New Jersey, Cory Booker earned degrees in political science and sociology from Stanford, in 1991 and 1992. While in school, he made the All-Pacific Ten Academic Team, played varsity football, was elected senior class president, and won the James W. Lyons Award for Service.
Rachel Maddow first found herself in the media spotlight as a freshman, when she and a friend did an interview with the school newspaper about being the only two gay freshmen on campus. She graduated in 1994 with a degree in public policy and today hosts a nightly talk show on MSNBC.
Business tycoon Charles R. Schwab graduated from Stanford with a BA in 1959 and an MBA in 1961. He struggled with English throughout school, and was diagnosed with dyslexia at 40. Schwab and his wife run The Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, which aims to help children with learning disabilities.
Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom graduated from Stanford in 2006 with a degree in management science and engineering, and had his first foray into the professional world as an intern at the startup Odeo, which would later become Twitter.
The other half of Instagram's founding team, Mike Krieger, is originally from São Paulo, Brazil, but moved to California in 2004 to study symbolic systems at Stanford University. Instagram was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion only 18 months after its inception.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra is the first woman to head a Big 8 automaker. She earned her MBA from Stanford in 1990, thanks to a fellowship from GM.
Reid Hoffman, co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn, also serves on the board of directors for SixApart and Mozilla Corporation. Before earning an MA in philosophy at Oxford University, Hoffman graduated with distinction from Stanford in 1990 with a BS in symbolic systems.
Bill Hewlett and David Packard, co-founders of Hewlett-Packard, met as engineering students at Stanford. Hewlett's graduate thesis laid the groundwork for HP's first product, an audio oscillator that Walt Disney Studios purchased to create the 'Fantasia' soundtrack. Hewlett graduated with his BS in 1934.
While he was a student in the Stanford School of Engineering, David Packard was interested in radio engineering. He graduated with a BA in 1934, and again with an MS in 1938. The following year Hewlett and Packard started their company with $538 in a Palo Alto garage.
Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist served for over 18 years. He earned both his BA and MA at Stanford and graduated from Stanford Law School in the same class as Sandra Day O'Connor in 1952. A course that he took during his freshman year inspired him to consider law.
Ted Koppel was managing editor and anchor of ABC News' 'Nightline' from 1980 until 2005. He graduated from Stanford University in 1962 with master's degrees in both mass communications research and political science. He also met his wife, Grace Anne Dorney, while they were both students at the university.
John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the US, attended Stanford University as a graduate student for only one semester in 1940 before leaving to enlist in the Navy. In a letter to a friend he wrote, 'Have become very fond of Stanford. Everyone is friendly -- the gals are quite attractive -- and it's a very good life.'
Source: Stanford News
John Steinbeck attended Stanford from 1919-1925 in order to appease his parents before withdrawing to move to New York and pursue writing. During his six years at Stanford, Steinbeck completed only 93 credits, but met friends and professors whom he kept in touch with for the rest of his life.
Herbert Hoover was in the first class of students at Stanford. He worked laundry and newspaper routes, managed the football and baseball teams, and was elected treasurer of the junior class. He graduated in 1895 with a degree in geology and later became the 31st president of the United States.
Source: National Archives and Records Administration
Mitt Romney attended Stanford for only one year before leaving in 1966 to do missionary work in France. While at Stanford, Romney stood in opposition to the popular counter-cultural movement, once going so far as to protest a sit-in demonstration.
Elizabeth Holmes left Stanford in 2003 to found her revolutionary blood analytics company, Theranos. She was only 19. One of her former professors said, 'When I finally connected with what Elizabeth fundamentally is, I realised that I could have just as well been looking into the eyes of a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates.'
Sally Ride participated in two NASA missions as the first female American astronaut. Before beginning her career, Ride graduated from Stanford with a BS in physics and a BA in English literature in 1973, an MS in physics in 1975, and finally a Ph.D in physics in 1978.
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