33 Most Famous Harvard Students of All Time

In this article we will take a look at the 33 most famous Harvard students of all time. You can skip our detailed analysis about Harvard University, and go directly to the 5 Most Famous Harvard Students of All Time.

Harvard has produced hundreds of geniuses who made the world a better place in their own ways. Harvard graduates went on to found disruptive companies, invent new technologies, discover new treatments, make award-winning movies and impact lives of billions of people around the world. It’s impossible to cover all the important Harvard students in one article. In this list we will mention some of the most notable Harvard students who achieve great milestones in several walks of life.

Some of the students in this list disrupted the world after graduating from Harvard and found or worked for companies like Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT), Facebook, Inc. Common Stock (NASDAQ: FB), 21st Century Fox Corporation (NASDAQ: FOXA), News Corporation (NASDAQ: NWSA), The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA), Coca Cola Company (NYSE: KO) and Daily Journal Corporation (NASDAQ: DJCO).

In 1636, when Harvard University opened its halls, there were already well-reputed institutes in Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, and Mexico. What made Harvard supersede immediately was that it introduced the best quality of the modern education system. Since then, the institute is ranked as one of the best universities in the world.

Admission to Harvard is not easy. The acceptance rate is very low. It was not more than 4.6 percent in 2020. Still, thousands of students strive to take admission into Harvard every year. According to a Harvard Magazine report, 39,041 students applied last year and only 2,037 applications got accepted including early-action applicants.

The university has recently shared a brief overview of the admission statistics for the class of 2023. According to it, 43,330 students applied and a mere 2,009 applications got accepted. This shows the level of competition for enrolling in the Harvard programs. Once admitted, students expect a great career after completing their education.

Harvard University has produced many notable figures from different walks of life including scientists, politicians, celebrities, and royalty etcetera. Some popular Harvardians include Barack Obama, J.F. Kennedy, Thomas Stearns Eliot, Facebook, Inc. Common Stock (NASDAQ: FB) founder Mark Zuckerberg, Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A)’s Charlie Munger and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) founder Bill Gates.

Our Methodology

The given list is based on the level of popularity of each person and the significant accomplishment/service of these former Harvard students in their respective fields. Most of the people included in this list are Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, politicians, celebrities, businesspeople, and more.

With this context in mind, let’s take a look at the 33 most famous Harvard students of all time.

Most Famous Harvard Students of All Time

33. Mira Sorvino

Award winning movie star, Mira Sorvino is a Harvard alumnus. She is best known for her works in films such as Aphrodite, Mimic, The Replacement Killers, Like Dandelion Dust, Human Trafficking, Norma Jean & Marilyn, and many more.

32. Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is a billionaire, COO of Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), and a businesswoman. Sandberg is also the patron of LeanIn.Org, a non-profit organization working for the betterment of women. In 1995, Sandberg attained her MBA degree from Harvard and started working with a prestigious management firm, McKinsey & Company.

31. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a popular poet, essayist, orator, philosopher, lecturer, and abolitionist. In 1817, He attended Harvard College as an undergraduate. Because of his literary services, he was titled the Sage of Concord by his contemporaries.

30. Amy Brenneman

Amy Brenneman is a television and film artist and producer. She is best known for her works in films such as, Daylight, Heat, and Fear. Brenneman majored in religion from Harvard University in 1987 before joining Hollywood.

29. Charles Thomas Munger

 Charles Munger is also a billionaire investor, architect, ex-real estate attorney, and ex-vice president of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A). Munger also chaired two of the most reputed financial institutions, Wesco Financial Corporation and the Daily Journal Corporation (NASDAQ: DJCO).

Charlie Munger

His admission story at Harvard is interesting to share. The Harvard Law School administration initially rejected Munger’s application because he was still an undergraduate. A family friend and the former dean of the school talked the school administration into accepting him as their student. Munger took it as a challenge and showed distinction among his schoolmates in 1948.

28. Robert Lee Frost

Robert Frost was an American poet known for his philosophical themes and depth. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize thirty-one times and won the Pulitzer Prize four times in his life. He also won the Poet Laureate for Vermont title in 1961.

27. James Rupert Jacob Murdoch

James Murdoch is an award-winning businessman who had remained associated with well-known media organizations like 21st Century Fox Corporation (NASDAQ: FOXA) and News Corporation (NASDAQ: NWSA), Sky Plc. and News Dotcom.

Murdoch was interested in History and Film during his Harvard days. But before finishing his degree, he established a company, Independent Hip Hop in 1995 and dropped out. The enterprise (Independent Hip Hop) was acquired by News Corporation (NASDAQ: NWSA) after three years.

26. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a note-worthy planetary scientist, astrophysics, researcher, TV host, science communicator, and author with tons of awards and honors to his name. Some of the awards he won are NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, Medal of Excellence, Columbia University, NY, Klopsteg Memorial Award, and Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication, Starmus, among others.

He attained his B.S Physics degree from Harvard in 1980.

25. Tommy Lee Jones

Another Hollywood celebrity, Tommy Lee Jones studied in Harvard on scholarship. His roommate at that time was the future Vice President of America, Al Gore. Jones is best known for his award-winning role as the American Marshal Samuel Gerard from the movie, The Fugitive.

Jones ranks 25th in our list of the most famous Harvard students of all time.

24. Natalie Portman

The Star Wars actor, Natalie Portman has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard (1999-2003). She is the winner of two Golden Globe Awards and an Academy Award for her superb performance in different Hollywood movies. Natalie is especially applauded for her work in movies like Closer, Black Swan, Annihilation, Jackie, and many more.

23. John E. Mack

John Mack was a famous author, psychiatrist, and Harvard faculty member. In 1955, he received his doctorate in psychiatry from the Harvard Medical School. Mack won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for his book, A Prince of Our Disorder on T.E. Lawrence.

22. Stanley Kunitz (1905 – 2006)

Stanley Kunitz was a Poet Laureate, translator, and editor. He attained his degree from Harvard in 1927. Some notable works of Stanley Kunitz include The Coat without a Seam, The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden, The Testing Tree, and many more.

21. John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963)

John Fitzgerald Kennedy aka JFK was a journalist, politician, author, and the 35th President of the United States who attended Harvard in 1940. He was a young and highly popular president in media. He received the Pulitzer Prize for his book Profiles in Courage in which JFK praised some US senators for their courage and bravery in defying popular opinions and doing what they thought was right and ethical.

20. Robert Coles

Robert Coles is a Harvard University professor, child psychiatrist, and author. As a resident, he spent a lot of time at the Harvard University and other affiliated institutions of the university. In 1973, Coles received Pulitzer Prize for his non-fictional works. Coles ranks 20th in our list of the most famous Harvard students of all time.

19. Joseph E. Murray

A famous plastic surgeon and winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Murray received his degree from Harvard in 1943. He performed the first-ever kidney transplant on twins brothers in 1954. He earned the Nobel Prize of his brilliant discoveries related to “Organ and cell transplantation in the treatment of human disease.” 

18. Henry Kissinger

A diplomat, politician and geopolitical expert, Henry Kissinger earned his doctorate in government from Harvard. He also served as a faculty member for the university from 1951-1971. Kissinger played an active role in helping end the hostilities in the Vietnam War. For these services, he got the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.

17. Al Gore

Albert Arnold Gore is the 45th Vice President of the United States. By profession, he is an environmentalist, author, and politician. Al Gore attended Harvard College in 1965. Gore was greatly influenced by the global warming theorist and oceanographer, Roger Revelle during his Harvard days. Later in life, he worked diligently as an environmentalist which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize for the year 2007.

16. T. S. Eliot

Thomas Stearns Eliot is a well-known literary figure of the 20th century. His modernist poetry is included in academic books. He studied at Harvard in 1909 – 1914. Eliot received several awards and honors for his writings including the Order of Merit (1948), Presidential Medal of Freedom (1948), Officier de la Légion d’honneur (1951), and more. Eliot ranks 16th in our list of the most famous Harvard students of all time.

15. Mark Zuckerberg

The popular social media platform Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) was the brainchild of Zuckerberg. He co-created the website while studying at Harvard for team interactions. Today, Facebook has 2.85 billion users. There are many other social media platform founders but they could not receive as much popularity as Zuckerberg earned. The world regarded him as the youngest self-made billionaire in 2007.

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Ironically, Zuckerberg could never finish his studies at Harvard.

14. Barack Obama

Well, Obama does not need any introduction. He is the forty-fourth President of the country. He went to Harvard in 1988 and became the 1st black president of the Harvard Law Review. Because of his services, Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)

13. Damien Chazelle

An Academy Award Winner for the famous movie, La La Land, Chazelle studied at Harvard. He is one of the most popular directors and screenwriters of his time. His dream project, La La Land was nominated for 14 awards and won 6 of them. Other marvels of Chazelle include movies like Whiplash, First Man among others. Chazelle ranks 13th in our list of the most famous Harvard students of all time.

12. William McPherson Allen

Willian McPherson Allen was the head of the world-famous aviation company, The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA). A Harvard graduate, Allen had a vast experience in the aviation sector. This experience proved highly beneficial for Boeing as he made the popular plan “Bet the Company” in 1952 and authorized the production of the The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA)’s 367-80. He also launched other famous planes like Boeing 707, Boeing 727, Boeing 737, and Boeing 747.

11. J. Paul Austin

Ex-president, chairperson, and CEO of the Coca Cola Company (NYSE: KO), John Paul Austin was the driving force behind the success of the world-famous beverage. In 1940, he went to Harvard to complete his graduation in Law and joined Coca Cola Company (NYSE: KO) in 1950. During his tenure, Austin expanded the company exports to territories that did not even have good relations with America. Austin ranks 11th in our list of the most famous Harvard students of all time.

10. Matt Damon

The Academy Award Winner, producer, and actor, Matt Damon is also a Harvardian. Ranked as the ‘Most Bankable Star’, Damon films have almost never flopped on the box office. This Good Will Hunting star went to Harvard but left his degree incomplete to complete his movie Geronimo: An American Legend.

9. Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is a novelist, poet, critic, inventor, teacher, and essayist who graduated from Harvard in 1962. She has produced 18 books on poetry, 18 novels, 11 non-fiction books, 9 short story collections, and two graphic novellas since her university days. Atwood ranks 7th in our list of the most famous Harvard students of all time.

Atwood has achieved several awards and prizes including the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Princess of Asturias Awards, and two Booker Prizes. Many of her masterpieces have been adapted for television, theatre, and movies.

8. Harold Stanley Marcus

Harold S. Marcus was the chairperson and CEO of the famous luxury retail departmental store, Neiman Marcus in Texas. After earning his MBA degree in 1926, he started working as a floorman of his departmental store.

Marcus holds great importance in the retail merchandising and marketing history of America. He wrote many notable books on retailing. He also served as a columnist with The Dallas Morning News.

7. Theodore Roosevelt

The 26th President of America, Theodore Roosevelt was also a Harvard alumnus. Before becoming a President in September 1901, he took charge as the Vice President of the country for a brief period of time (from March to September 1901). He also served as an active colonel of the country’s army in 1898.

Theodore was the driving force behind the Panama Canal completion. He graduated from Harvard in 1880 and served as The Harvard Magazine editor. As a student, Roosevelt also showed a keen interest in boxing and rowing. He became a runner-up boxer in a boxing completion held at Harvard. Roosevelt ranks 7th in our list of the most famous Harvard students of all time.

6. Bill Gates

Although a Harvard University dropout, Bill Gates still earned an international reputation for his breakthroughs in the field of technology. A software developer, author, business tycoon, Gates is highly famous for his aggressive business approaches and strategies that made him one of the wealthiest people in the world. Gates ranks 6th in our list of the most famous Harvard students of all time.

Today, Harvard graduates continue to build companies like Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT), Facebook, Inc. Common Stock (NASDAQ: FB), The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA), Coca Cola Company (NYSE: KO) and Daily Journal Corporation (NASDAQ: DJCO) and steer the world towards new technologies, just like Gates did decades ago.

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)

The co-founder of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT), Bill Gates is regarded as the pioneer of the computer revolution in the 1970s.

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Disclosure: No stakes in Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT), Facebook, Inc. Common Stock (NASDAQ: FB), 21st Century Fox Corporation (NASDAQ: FOXA), News Corporation (NASDAQ: NWSA), The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA), Coca Cola Company (NYSE: KO) and Daily Journal Corporation (NASDAQ: DJCO). 33 Most Famous Harvard Students of All Time is originally published on Insider Monkey.