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Ridiculously Successful People's Alma Maters

Aug 31, 2007

Ever wonder where the most successful people went to school? Did they graduate from top-tier Ivy League universities? Or did they go to a Big Ten school before taking the world by storm? We did some research to determine the alma maters of some of the world's most successful people, from the president of Nintendo of America to the guy who proved that black holes are real. You might be surprised by who went where.

Ten of the Best Movers and Shakers

These people kick butt and take names. Learn where ten of the world's biggest movers and shakers in the world of technology, business, and world affairs went to college and how they applied it (in decreasing order of alma mater prestige):

1. Ban Ki-Moon

Don't recognize his name? Better get educated - this diplomatically-inclined South Korean replaced Kofi Annan, the world's most grandfatherly-looking Ghanaian, as secretary-general of the United Nations in 2007. Secretary Ban (in Korea, family names come first) earned his Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University in 1985. Ban learned English after the Korean War by practicing with American soldiers and industrial advisors who were helping to rebuild the peninsula. Now he's one of the most symbolically powerful people in the world. Funny how things work out.

2. Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is one of the world's most preeminent astrophysicists and author of the worldwide bestseller A Brief History of Time, which has only ever been read by about six people since its publication, because almost everyone who bought it just lets it lie on the shelf to impress visitors. In some circles, he is better known as 'that guy who talks out of a box'. Hawking earned his B.A. in England at Oxford University and his Ph.D. from its longtime rival, Cambridge.

3. Eric E. Schmidt

This multigazillionaire lives in the wealthiest ZIP code in the country, 94027, in the town of Atherton just south of San Francisco. His contribution to society is that he's the current CEO of a little company you probably haven't heard of called Google, Inc. Schmidt is an alumnus of Princeton, where he took his bachelor's in electrical engineering in 1979, and of UC-Berkeley, where he earned his Ph.D. Despite all that education and success, though, his salary in 2006 was a bit small by Silicon Valley standards: just $1 per year.

4. Warren Buffet

Everyone's favorite Nebraskan and the world's second-richest person, Warren Buffet (also known as the Buffster, although never to his face) was already purchasing farmland outside Omaha and leasing it to workers when he was a teenager. Later, he tried to get into Harvard Business School but was rejected. He had to settle for Columbia University instead, which is also one of the top-ranked universities in the world. Don't you feel bad for him?

5. Louis Rossetto

The founder of Wired magazine and owner of a name that would fit right into a pulp political thriller novel, Louis Rossetto is an alumnus of Columbia University - he received both his bachelor's and MBA degrees from this institution. His brainchild magazine gave a giant boost to technoculture geekery everywhere and earned him enough money to spend the entire rest of his life throwing ten-dollar bills from his rooftop just for fun, if he felt like it. But don't get excited. He doesn't feel like it.

6. Vint Cerf

This 'founding father of the Internet' is so well-known that his name is often erroneously cited as the basis for the phrase 'surfing the Internet.' He was responsible in part for the creation of the TCP/IP protocols that allow the Internet to function, and is so wealthy that he actually owns Virginia. All of it. (Okay, not really, but could still probably buy you, so don't get uppity.) He earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics at Stanford University in 1965. Since then, though, he's been awarded honorary degrees from institutions as diverse as Capitol College, George Mason University and the University of Pisa, Italy.

7. Reggie Fils-Aime

Also known as 'the Regginator', this Haitian immigrant and current president of Nintendo of America is known for making public comments about his general butt-kicking abilities at press conferences. In a joking manner, of course. He graduated from Cornell University in 1983 with a major in butt-kicking, or, as some call it, applied economics.

8. Kurt Vonnegut

This irascible, lovable, mop-headed, recently deceased black humorist and writer earned his real stripes at the school of hard knocks while being firebombed in Dresden, Germany, during WWII. His bachelor's degree, though, came from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Later, he earned an MA in anthropology from the University of Chicago. His master's thesis? The bestselling dark novel Cat's Cradle, which launched him into the public eye and into the backpacks of rebellious, bookish teenagers everywhere.

9. John Edwards

An outsider candidate in a Democratic presidential candidate pool the size of Dallas, John Edwards attended Clemson University and North Carolina State University as an undergraduate. He took his bachelor's degree in textile technology, of all things, from NCSU in the class of '74, going on to earn a law degree from UN-Chapel Hill in 1979. Since then, he has become tremendously successful and now owns a house large enough to shelter the population of Iceland. The best thing about him? Despite being stupendously, offensively, reekingly wealthy, he actually wants to raise taxes for rich people.

Rounding out the list are 10, Bill Gates and 11, Paul Allen, the original cofounders of Microsoft. Bill Gates is by far the world's richest man, the owner of a house in which rooms automatically adjust their temperature according to each visitor's personal preferences, and without a doubt the most successful nerd of all time. Paul Allen owns the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trailblazers, is worth $14 billion dollars, and pulls so much weight around Seattle that he could probably chip golf balls from the top of the Space Needle into passing cars, if he wanted to, and nobody would dare stop him. These incredibly successful software moguls' alma maters, you ask? None - they both dropped out... to start Microsoft.


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