Where the Fortune 500 CEOs Went to College

June 16, 2016, 11:30 PM UTC
Penn State University campus, October 7, 2015.
Photograph by John Greim—LightRocket/Getty Images

What sort of education does it take to climb to the top of America’s largest companies?

If there’s one thing that can be gleaned from the educational backgrounds of the chief executives of the recently released Fortune 500, it’s that there are many paths to success. Many of them studied business, economics, or engineering, but others majored in art history, geology, psychology, and history. Sure, there are plenty of MBAs—173, to be exact—but there are at least 121 executives who didn’t go to graduate school at all, including major-company CEOs such as Rex W. Tillerson of Exxon Mobil (XOM), Stephen J. Hemsley of UnitedHealth Group (UNH), and Jeff Bezos of Amazon (AMZN). Overall, the Fortune 500 crew attended 220 different colleges for their undergraduate degrees.

No one type of university dominates the list, either. Of the 25 colleges that graduated the most CEOs, five are traditional liberal arts colleges, four are in the Ivy League, eight are public universities, and three are colleges known for their elite technology and computer science programs.


We don’t want to suggest that it doesn’t matter where you go to college. The research behind MONEY’s Best Colleges rankings, after all, has found that certain colleges make a huge difference. But rather, the degrees of Fortune 500 leaders demonstrate what our rankings do as well, that a variety of colleges—some household names, others hidden gems—can put you on a path to success.

For more on the Fortune 500, watch this video:

Here are the 10 colleges with the most alumni in the Fortune 500’s top seat, ordered by the number of undergraduate degrees each confers.


10 Stanford University

Stanford University

Location: Stanford, Calif.
2015 MONEY Best Colleges rank: 1

Appearing atop dozens of college-related rankings, this uber-selective university sometimes seems to be good at everything: computer science and business, athletics and arts, undergraduate research, and graduate programs. Its Fortune 500 alumni reflect that diversity of strong programs, with banking, healthcare, and manufacturing, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies represented.

Alumni include:
Richard D. Fairbank, Capital One Financial
Trevor Fetter, Tenet Healthcare
N. Thomas Linebarger, Cummins
Theodore A. Mathas, New York Life Insurance
Miles D. White, Abbott Laboratories

9 Princeton University

Location: Princeton, N.J.
2015 MONEY Best Colleges rank: 3

Attend Princeton, and odds are pretty high that you’ll share the campus with someone who goes on to become a household name, whether on the Supreme Court, at the White House, or on the film screen. The university also produces its share and then some of notable corporate leaders, such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

Alumni include:
Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon.com
David P. King, Laboratory Corp. of America
George Kurian, NetApp
Michael H. Thaman, Owens Corning
Clay C. Williams, National Oilwell Varco

8 Miami University in Ohio

Location: Oxford, Ohio
2015 MONEY Best Colleges rank: 171

You might be surprised that just as many Fortune 500 CEOs went to this small Midwestern liberal arts school as such big-name schools at MIT, Yale, and Vanderbilt. But Miami U’s alumni and current students aren’t. They say the university offers a rigorous liberal arts curriculum that prepares its students for all kinds of challenges. Miami is also the only school in the top 10 with more than one female CEO to its credit

Alumni include:
David C. Dvorak, Zimmer Biomet Holdings
Lynn J. Good, Duke Energy
Kimberly S. Lubel, CST Brands
Brian T. Moynihan, Bank of America Corp.
James T. Ryan, W.W. Grainger

7 University of Wisconsin-Madison

Location: Madison, Wisc.
2015 MONEY Best Colleges rank: 116

With strong business and engineering programs, as well as a reputation as one of the top state flagship universities in the country, it’s little surprise UW is one of three public colleges to break into this top 10 list.

Alumni include:
Thomas J. Falk, Kimberly-Clark
Dennis R. Glass, Lincoln National
Mary A. Laschinger, Veritiv
David J. Lesar, Halliburton
Thomas A. Kingsbury, Burlington Stores
Keith D. Nosbusch, Rockwell Automation

6 University of Notre Dame

Location: Notre Dame, Ind.
2015 MONEY Best Colleges rank: 44

Thanks to its well-regarded graduate programs in business and law, Notre Dame routinely finishes in the top tier of colleges that produce a lot of high-level corporate leaders. It also holds its own when counting by undergraduate degrees, as the following alums show.

Alumni include:
Joseph Alvarado, Commercial Metals
Gerard M. Anderson, DTE Energy
William J. DeLaney III, Sysco
Anthony F. Earley Jr., PG&E Corp.
Christopher J. Policinski, Land O’Lakes
Paul C. Reilly, Raymond James Financial

5 United State Military Academy

Location: West Point, NY
2015 MONEY Best Colleges rank: N/A (MONEY doesn’t include the four service academies in its rankings.)

West Point’s academic curriculum was designed to prepare military leaders, so it’s not surprising that many alumni translate their leadership skills to the corporate world. Five of the CEOs below went on to earn MBA degrees, including three at Harvard Business School.

Alumni include:
John L. Garrison Jr., Terex
Anthony J. Guzzi, EMCOR Group
Kenneth T. Lamneck, Insight Enterprises
Alex Gorsky Johnson & Johnson
R. Scott Rowe, Cameron International
Roland C. Smith, Office Depot

4 Texas A&M University

Location: College Station, Texas
2015 MONEY Best Colleges rank: 20

Texas A&M graduates like to talk about the bond they share with fellow Aggies and what a well-connected network the college provides. That’s reflected in the university’s six alumni who now lead Fortune 500 companies. Some have been big cheerleaders for the university by donating money, returning to campus for events, and talking about how well Texas A&M prepared them for their current positions.

Alumni include:
Bruce D. Broussard, Humana
David M. Cordani, Cigna
Greg C. Garland, Phillips 66
Gregg M. Sherrill, Tenneco
William R. Thomas, EOG Resources
Lee M. Tillman, Marathon Oil

3 Pennsylvania State University

Penn State University campus

Location: College Station, Pa.
2015 MONEY Best Colleges rank: 157

With more than 40,000 undergraduates, Penn State has a reach that few others on this top 10 list do, and its name is recognized by employers around the country.

Alumni include:
Martin S. Craighead, Baker Hughes
Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck
Jacqueline C. Hinman, CH2M Hill
Richard A. Noll, Hanesbrands
Mark G. Parker, Nike
William H. Spence, PPL

2 Cornell University

Location: Ithaca, N.Y.
2015 MONEY Best Colleges rank: 34

Cornell’s list of Fortune 500 CEOs reflects well on its engineering and labor and industrial relations programs, as they make up more than half of the bachelor’s degrees earned by the alumni below. (Cornell is one of only a handful of universities to offer an undergraduate program in labor and industrial relations.) The nine executives work in a variety of fields, from finance to telecommunications to pharmaceuticals.

Alumni include:
Robert M. Dutkowsky, Tech Data
J. Patrick Gallagher Jr., Arthur J. Gallagher
Timothy J. Mayopoulos, Fannie Mae
Lowell C. McAdam, Verizon
Michael B. Polk, Newell Brands
Irene B. Rosenfeld, Mondelez International
George A. Scangos, Biogen
James S. Tisch, Loews
Timothy C. Wentworth, Express Scripts Holding

1 Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, Mass.
2015 MONEY Best Colleges rank: 6

No surprises here: America’s most recognizable Ivy League college tops our list, with 10 alumni who earned their undergraduate degrees there. (We didn’t count Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who famously dropped out.) Harvard beats out the other schools in the top 10 by only a few graduates, but it pulls way ahead when counting by MBA degrees—28 CEOs earned theirs at Harvard Business School, about three times as many as the next highest graduate business programs, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (10) and Stanford Graduate School of Business (9).

Alumni include:
Lloyd C. Blankfein, Goldman Sachs Group
Michael A. Brown, Symantec
Michael L. Corbat, Citigroup
Roger W. Ferguson Jr., TIAA
John B. Hess, Hess
Kendall J. Powell, General Mills
James L. Robo, NextEra Energy
Carlos A. Rodriguez, ADP
Ronald L. Sargent, Staples
John L. Walsh, UGI

This article previously appeared on Money.com.