Famous politicians and the colleges they attended

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September 13, 2018
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Famous politicians and the colleges they attended

College is full of characters from all walks of life. There are the jocks, the nerds, the wannabe nerds, the struggling artists, the activists, and the kids who are always asleep in class. Among all these personalities could be our nation’s next great leaders.

Scouring the web, Stacker created a list of 50 famous U.S. politicians and the colleges they attended. Some were famous for their campus activism, others for rarely showing up to class. Each slide contains some biographical information about the political leader, where they attended school, and some important information about their time at university.

Did any famous politicians attend your college? Did any share your major? Read on to find out. Also, don’t miss learning about the politician who was expelled from Harvard University for cheating. We begin our list with a movie star who went to a little college in Eureka, Illinois.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan was President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. He was known for his economic reform—specifically the concept of “trickle down economics”—and his earlier career as an actor in Hollywood. Reagan attended Eureka College in Illinois, and majored in economics and sociology.

Gabby Giffords

Gabrielle Giffords served as a representative from Arizona between 2007 and 2012. She was shot in the head during a campaign event in 2011, and is now a strong supporter of gun legislation reform. Giffords attended Scripps College in California as an undergraduate, majoring in Latin American history and sociology. She received a master’s degree in regional planning from Cornell University.

John Lewis

John Lewis has served as a representative from Georgia since 1987. He is famous for his work during the Civil Rights Movement, and was a speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. Lewis has a degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He also graduated from American Baptist Theological Seminary.


Barack Obama

Barack Obama was the 44th American president and first African-American president, serving between 2009 and 2017. Among other notable achievements, he helped pass the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare). Obama has a degree in political science from Columbia University, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991.


Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz is a Republican senator from Texas, a position he has held since 2013, and ran unsuccessfully in the 2016 presidential campaign. Cruz graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law School. 


Arnold Schwarzenegger

Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger served as governor of California from 2003 to 2011. He also enjoyed a successful film career, starring in movies like “Terminator” and “True Lies" after gaining international fame as a bodybuilder. Schwarzenegger later earned a degree from the University of Wisconsin in business administration and marketing.


Donald Trump

Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States, known largely for his real estate business and reality TV career. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 with a degree in economics.


Ron Paul

Ron Paul is a former congressman from Texas, widely known for his libertarian views. He has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Gettysburg College, and a medical degree from Duke University.


Jeannette Rankin

Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Montana.


Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson was the 36th president of the United States, taking over after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. During his term, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. He had a degree in education from Southwest Texas State Teachers College.


Aaron Burr

Aaron Burr served as vice president under Thomas Jefferson, and was a U.S. representative. He is known for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804. He graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1769.


Walter Mondale

Walter Mondale served as a Minnesota senator, then as vice president under Jimmy Carter. He has a bachelor’s degree as well as a law degree from the University of Minnesota.


Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States, and was known, among other notable achievements, for his environmental activism. He earned a degree from Harvard College, and later graduated from Columbia Law School.


Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is a senator from Vermont. Despite his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential election, Sanders is known for introducing a democratic socialist agenda into America's mainstream liberal ideology. He has a degree in political science from the University of Chicago, although he is equally known for his work with the Civil Rights Movement during his college and post-grad years.


Shirley Chisholm

In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American congresswoman elected to office. She is known for her work in the public education system. Chisholm received a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College, and a master’s degree from Columbia University.


Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush was the governor of Florida between 1998 and 2007. He is the son of former president George H.W. Bush and the brother of former president George W. Bush. Jeb made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election. He has a degree in Latin American studies from the University of Texas.


John McCain

John McCain, who recently passed away from cancer, represented Arizona as a U.S. representative and senator. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy, although he received poor grades and finished near the bottom of his class. He went on to become a decorated soldier, enduring imprisonment during the Vietnam War. 

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was the 35th president of the United States, as well as the nation's first Catholic president. He weathered a foreign policy crisis in Cuba and built up America’s space program. Kennedy graduated from Harvard University with a degree in government and international affairs. He failed to excel in school, and was regularly seen as a troublemaker.


Harry Truman

Harry Truman assumed the office of the presidency in 1945, following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Truman led the U.S. through World War II and made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. He is one of several presidents to not have a formal college degree, though he attended business school in Kansas City and took law classes at the University of Missouri.


Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney served in the House of Representatives and was vice president for two terms under George W. Bush. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science from the University of Wyoming, which he earned after failing out of Yale not once, but twice


Barbara Jordan

Barbara Jordan was a representative from Texas—the first African-American woman elected from the American South, and a strong voice within the Civil Rights Movement. She earned a bachelor's degree from Texas Southern University, and a law degree from Boston University Law School.


Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is a U.S. Representative, former speaker of the House of Representatives, a leader of the Republican Party and former presidential candidate. He is also known for his staunch opposition to the Clinton administration during the 1990s. He has a bachelor’s degree from Emory University, and a master’s degree from Tulane University.


Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States, and co-author of the American Constitution. He has a degree from the College of William and Mary, although he found there to be a lack of academic discipline among his fellow students.


Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell is a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, and the current Senate Majority Leader. He has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Louisville, and a law degree from the University of Kentucky.


Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani is the former mayor of New York City, and a lawyer famous for prosecuting organized crime in the city. He has a bachelor's degree from Manhattan College and a law degree from New York University.


Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan is a U.S. Representative from Wisconsin, and the current Speaker of the House. He is known for his conservative tax policies. Ryan has a degree in economics and political science from Ohio's Miami University.


John Tyler

John Tyler was the 10th president of the United States, known for his nationalist policies. Tyler finished his advanced degree at the College of William and Mary at age 17.


Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren is a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, known for her liberal reformist policies on education and the financial sector. Warren holds a degree in speech pathology from the University of Houston, and a law degree from Rutgers University.


Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney was the governor of Massachusetts and ran for the presidency on the Republican ticket in 2012. He has a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a law degree from Harvard Law School.


Al Gore

Al Gore served as vice president under Bill Clinton, and is known worldwide for his continued activism on climate change. He has a degree in government from Harvard University, where he was roommates with future actor Tommy Lee Jones.


Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton was a U.S. First Lady, as well as a senator and Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. Clinton was the 2016 Democratic nominee for president. Clinton’s undergraduate degree is from Wellesley College, and she has a law degree from Yale Law School.


George Washington

George Washington led the rebellion against the British during the American Revolution, and later became the nation’s first president. Little is known about Washington’s early life, but it is believed he did not attend college.


Tammy Baldwin

Tammy Baldwin is a senator from Wisconsin, the first woman to hold the position in the state, as well as the first openly gay person elected to the Senate. She has a degree in mathematics and government from Smith College, and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School.


Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy was a long-serving senator from Massachusetts, known for his fiery liberal politics. Kennedy held a degree from Harvard University—despite being expelled for two years for cheating—and a law degree from Virginia Law School.


Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton was America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, an author of the Federalist Papers, and a founding father to the nation. He attended King's College, but never finished owing to his vital role in the American Revolution.


Robert M. La Follette, Sr.

Robert La Follette was a district attorney, senator and governor from Wisconsin, and a leader of the Progressive movement. He earned his degree from the University of Wisconsin.


Michael Dukakis

Michael Dukakis was the governor of Massachusetts and a 1998 candidate for the Democratic nominee for president. He has an undergraduate degree in political science from Swarthmore College, and a law degree from Harvard University.


Joseph McCarthy

Joseph McCarthy was a senator from Wisconsin who became well-known for seeking out Communist infiltrators in America. He earned a bachelor of law degree from Marquette University.


Linda Lingle

Linda Lingle was the first female and first Jewish governor of Hawaii. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University-Northridge.


George McGovern

George McGovern was a representative from South Dakota and a popular liberal reformist. McGovern had a bachelor’s degree from Dakota Wesleyan University and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in American history from Northwestern University.


Joe Biden

Joe Biden was a senator from Delaware and served as vice president under Barack Obama. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware in history and political science. He went on to earn a law degree from Syracuse University Law School, although he chose the school because of a newfound love interest.


Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold was a U.S. senator from Wisconsin and remains a leader in liberal politics. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, a graduate degree from Magdalen College in England, and a law degree from Harvard University.


Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge was the 30th president of the United States. He held a degree from Amherst College.


Bob Dole

Bob Dole is formerly a senator and representative from Kansas. He ran for president on the Republican ticket in 1996. Dole has undergraduate and law degrees from Washburn Municipal College.


Margaret Chase Smith

Margaret Chase Smith was a representative and senator from Maine and was the first woman to win elections to both houses of Congress. She never attended college, though she held nearly 100 honorary degrees.


Barbara Boxer

Barbara Boxer is a former representative and senator from California. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Brooklyn College.


Rick Scott

Rick Scott is the Republican governor of Florida. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a law degree from Southern Methodist University.


Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin was the first female governor of Alaska, and was John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential election. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho.


Bill de Blasio

Bill de Blasio is the current mayor of New York City. He has a bachelor’s degree from New York University and a master’s degree from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.


George W. Bush

George W. Bush was the 43rd president of the United States. He has a degree from Yale University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.


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