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Ivy League Celebrities: The Biggest Names in Art, Entertainment, and Humanities

05 AUG 2021

Many of the world’s most notable and influential people come from America’s most famous group of universities: the Ivy League. These eight prestigious schools attract students with ambition and intellect, producing an impressive arsenal of notable alumni who’ve held positions of incredible importance and impact.

Beyond the well-known list of presidents, politicians, and successful business people who graduated from these universities, prominent and celebrated individuals in the humanities, arts, entertainment, and social sciences have also graduated from Ivy League schools. Each of the following names has made a significant impact in the world in these areas.


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Celebrities who went to Harvard

Tom Morello (Bachelor of Arts in Social Studies)

Tom Morello Ivy League Celebrity (Harvard)

Most famous for his role in the bands Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, Morello earned himself the 40th slot in Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Guitarist of All Time. He also co-founded a non-profit called Axis of Justice, which brings together musicians, fans of music, and grassroots progressivism to fight for social justice.

Natalie Portman (Bachelor in Psychology)

Natalie Portman Ivy League Celebrity (Harvard)

Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman had lead roles in films such as V is for Vendetta, Other Boleyn Girl, and Black Swan. She also appeared in the 2011 and 2013 Thor films. She has won two Golden Globes and an Academy Award.

Darren Aronofsky (Major in Social Anthropology and Filmmaking)

Darren Aronofsky Ivy League Celebrities (Harvard)

Darren Aronofsky is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter known for creating psychological thrillers like Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, and Pi. Darren also produced movies like The Fountain, The Wrestler, and Noah.

Colson Whitehead (Major in English and Comparative Literature)

Colson Whitehead Ivy League Celebrity (Harvard)

Novelist Colson Whitehead is most famous for writing, The Institutionalist, and The Underground Railroad. He won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2016 and the Pulitzer PRice for Fiction in 2017 for The Underground Railroad. This novel was also chosen by then-president Barack Obama as one of the five books on his summer reading list.


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Celebrities who went to Yale University

Meryl Streep (Master of Fine Arts)

Meryl Streep Ivy League Celebrity (Yale)

As one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood, Meryl Streep received 21 Academy Award nominations (winning three) and 32 Golden Globe nominations (winning nine).

Sigourney Weaver (Master of Fine Arts)

Sigourney Weaver Ivy League Celebrity (Yale)

A pioneer of female heroism in science fiction films, Sigourney Weaver played a critical role in the three canon Alien movies (1979, 1986, 1992) and Avatar (2009). She is also rumored to be in the sequel, Avatar 2.

Charles Ives (Major in Music)

Charles Ives - Ivy League Celebrity (Yale)

A modernist composer, Charles Ives dabbled in experimental music, including musical techniques such as polytonality and tone clusters. Although relatively unknown in the early years of his career, he gained widespread fame as “the American composer” in the later years of his life.

Michael Burns (Ph.D. in Modern European History)

Michael Burns Ivy League Celebrity (Yale)

A man of many talents, Michael Burns, is a history professor at Mount Holyoke College. He was a child actor in films like It’s a Man’s World and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and received his Ph.D. in Modern European History from Yale University.


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Celebrities who went to Princeton

James Stewart (Major in Architecture)

James Jimmy Stewart - Ivy League Celebrity (Princeton)

As a Broadway actor and famous 20th-century film star, James Stuart had five academy award nominations, worked alongside names such as Katharine Hepburn and Grace Kelly, and starred in timeless films like The Philadelphia Story, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Brooke Shields (Bachelors in Romance Languages)

Brooke Shields - Ivy League Celebrity (Princeton)

Brooke Shields began her acting career starring in movies like Pretty Baby, Blue Lagoon, and Endless Love. She received two Golden Globe nominations and played a major recurring role in the 19th season of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.

Eugene O’Neill

Eugene O’Neill - Ivy League Celebrity (Princeton)

A Nobel laureate in literature, Eugene O’Neill introduced America to realism in literature, starting a new wave of realistic societal depiction and acknowledgment of flaws in society.

Scott Fitzgerald

Scott Fitzgerald - Ivy League Celebrity (Princeton)

As the man who coined the term “Jazz Age”, Fitzgerald’s most successful literature berated the flamboyant and indulgent social scene of the time. Fitzgerald’s most widely praised and famous work, The Great Gatsby, focused on his disillusionment with the American Dream.


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Celebrities who went to Brown University

John Krasinki (Bachelor of Arts in English Playwright)

john karsinksi ivy league celebrity (Brown)

Named one of Time Magazine’s top 100 most influential people in 2018, actor, director, producer, and screenwriter John Krasinski is best known for his role as Jim Halpert in The Office. He has received two Screen Actors Guild Awards and was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards.

Emma Watson (Bachelor of Arts in English Literature)

emma watson ivy league celebrity (brown)

After a breakthrough role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, Emma Watson got her degree from Brown University. She became a strong voice for social activism, specifically in the feminist movement.

Todd Haynes (Major in Arts and Semiotics)

todd haynes ivy league celebrity (brown)

A filmmaker known for blending dysfunctional and dystopian societies with current cultural issues, Todd Haynes was an activist during the anti-queer AIDS movement, fighting for inclusivity and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community.

Jessica Capshaw (Bachelor of Arts in English)

jessica capshaw ivy league celebrity (brown)

Before playing Dr. Arizona Robbins in Grey’s Anatomy, actress Jessica Capshaw began her film career in dramas such as The Locusts and Denial. Her first-ever TV appearance was in an episode of ER.


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Celebrities who went to University of Pennsylvania

Noam Chomsky (BA, MA, and PhD in Linguistics)

noam chomsky ivy league celebrity

Noam Chomsky received his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. His impressive resume includes work in the philosophy, linguistics, and cognitive science fields and leading many movements in those respective fields.

John Legend (Bachelor of Arts in English)

john legend ivy league celebrity

A legend in the music industry, John Legend won the Academy Award for the Best Original Song and the Golden Globe Award for co-writing Glory from the film Selma. He also received a Billboard Hot 100 number one hit for his song All of Me.

Julian Abele (Bachelor of Arts in Architecture)

julian abele ivy league celebrity

A prominent African-American architect, Julian Abele designed nearly all of Duke University’s west campus, Widener Memorial Library at Harvard University, and two notable buildings in his alma mater’s hometown of Philadelphia.

Charles Ornstein (Major in History and Psychology)

charles ornstein ivy league celebrity

Charles Ornstein, a prominent journalist who focused his work on medical and health issues, continued his academic career teaching journalism at Columbia University. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for his piece titled, The Trouble at King/Drew Hospital.


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Celebrities who went to Columbia

Art Garfunkel (Major in Architecture)

art garfunkel ivy league celebrity (columbia)

Best known for his partnership with Paul Simon in the folk-rock duo Simon and Garfunkel, American singer, poet, and actor Art Garfunkel holds one top 10 hits, three top 20, six top 40, and 14 adult contemporary top 30 singles.

Ed Harris

ed harris ivy league celebrity (columbia)

Most famous for his roles in Apollo 13, The Truman Show, Pollock, and The Hours, actor, director, producer, and screenwriter Ed Harris was also a star athlete at Columbia University.

Sidney Lumet (Major in Theater Acting)

sidney lumet ivy league celebrity (columbia)

Director of the American classic 12 Angry Men, Sidney Lumet is famous for his social and cultural realism and his exemplary storytelling and portrayal of actors. Fourteen of his films were nominated for Oscars.

Allen Ginsberg (Bachelor of Arts)

allen ginsberg ivy league celebrities (columbia)

Progressive poet Allen Ginsberg wrote much of his early works about his intense disgust with militarism, economic materialism, and sexual repression. Known as a leading figure in the counterculture movement, he is best known for his poem Howl.


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Celebrities who went to Dartmouth College

Robert Frost

robert frost ivy league celebrity

With his depiction of American rural life and mastery of American colloquialism, Robert Frost is arguably one of the most famous poets of recent history. He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1960.

Richard Eberhart (Bachelors in English)

richard eberhart ivy league celebrity

Richard Eberhart won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Selected Poems (1930 - 1965) and the 1977 National Book Award for Poetry for Collected Poems (1930 - 1976). He also served as a private tutor to the King of Siam’s son from 1931-1932.

Connie Britton (Major in Asian Studies)

connie britton ivy league celebrity

Connie Britton is best known for her Golden Globe nomination for her role in the true-crime series Dirty John and her Emmy nominations in the tv drama series Friday Night Lights. She also played a lead role in the first season of American Horror Story, and most recently, in The Land of Steady Habits.


Find out your chances of getting into Dartmouth with our college admissions calculator!

Celebrities who went to Cornell University

Christopher Reeve (Bachelor of Arts in English and Music Theory)

Christopher reeve ivy league celebrity

Actor, director, and activist Christopher Reeve starred in Superman and three Superman sequels. He later appeared in The Bostonians and Fifth of July. Reeve was also an activist for environmental and human rights causes. After a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed, he lobbied for spinal cord injury research and better insurance coverage for people with disabilities, leading the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and co-founding the Reeve-Irvine Research Center.

Barbara McClintock (Ph.D. in Botany)

barbara mcclintock ivy league celebrity (cornell)

A biologist and botanist, Barbara McClintock spent most of her professional career studying maize, making a genetic map, and identifying key reproductive chromosomes for the food source.

Toni Morrison (Masters in American Literature)

toni morrison ivy league celebrity (cornell)

Novelist, essayist, editor, and professor Toni Morrison is known for her book, Song of Sullivan, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. She also won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved, gaining worldwide recognition when she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Beloved was made into a film and celebrated for its portrayal of racism in the United States.

E.B. White (Bachelor of Arts)

eb white ivy league celebrity (cornell)

Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte’s Web (1952), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970) are some of his most famous and influential works of E.B. White. He also was a writer and frequent contributor to The New Yorker magazine.


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Further Reading

For more about famous Ivy League Alumni, check out:

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