Ashley Judd (Kennedy School) 2010
After establishing a strong career as an actor, Ashley Judd chose to go back to school to get a Mid-Career Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. She has been an active humanitarian working with Population Services International and YouthAIDS and traveling around the world to work with these causes.
Elisabeth Shue AB 2000
Although she took a break from her studies to pursue her acting career, during which time she earned an Academy Award nomination, Shue returned to finish her degree in 2000 after working on a documentary about education with her husband.
Rashida Jones AB 1997
An actor at Harvard who performed numerous times in Loeb Theatre, Rashida also echoed her father Quincy’s musical talents. She wrote scores for the Hasty Pudding Club, including one for their “Man of the Year” award production her senior year.
Montana Miller AB 1996
Author, mime, daredevil, Miller went from the flying trapeze to the Crimson diving team to Acapulco, Mexico, where she was among the first women to dive from the jagged cliffs into the wild Pacific.
Barack Obama JD 1991
Before becoming president of the U.S., Obama served as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. First lady Michelle Obama JD ’88 also attended HLS, although the couple met when Obama returned to Chicago after graduation.
Mira Sorvino AB 1989
The Oscar-winning actress majored in Chinese while at Harvard and lived in Beijing for a year before deciding to focus all her energy on acting.
Amy Brenneman AB 1987
A comparative religion concentrator, Amy was also focused on theater, founding the Cornerstone Theatre Company as an undergrad. She came back to campus in 2011 to create and direct the piece “Mouth Wide Open,” performed at the Loeb Drama Center in May 2011.
Shaun Donovan AB 1987, MAR 1995, MPA 1995
An alumnus of the College, the Kennedy School and the Graduate School of Design, Donovan is U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. All of his Harvard experiences informed his path—at the College he volunteered at a homeless shelter, at the GSD he resolved to design affordable housing, and at HKS he came to understand the complexity of housing development.
Arne Duncan AB 1986
Despite his many duties as Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan still finds time for his alma mater. In addition to being active as an alumni interviewer and serving on other Harvard Alumni Association committees, he was voted by his classmates in the HAA to be Chief Marshal for the 2011 Harvard Commencement.
Lisa Henson AB 1982
The Columbia Pictures president was also the first woman president of the Harvard Lampoon. She put together a Newsweek parody whose cover story was “Nuclear Arms and Terrific Legs.”
Mira Nair AB 1979
An Indian director creating both documentary films and fictional works, Nair returned to Harvard in 2003 to receive the Harvard Arts Medal. She spoke to a packed Sanders Theatre and answered questions posed by fellow alumnus John Lithgow about her life and work, and why she does what she does.
Yo-Yo Ma AB 1976
In addition to his 1976 AB, the internationally acclaimed cellist won an honorary doctorate in music from Harvard in 1991. He returned in 1993 for a benefit concert to help Phillips Brooks House and The Family Center Inc.
George W. Bush, MBA 1975
The U.S. president earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale (like his father before him), but later came to Harvard to acquire business savvy.
Ben S. Bernanke AB 1975
Returning to give the 2008 Class Day Address, the chairman of the Federal Reserve reflected on his time at Harvard. He noted the differences between 1975 and 2008. For example, his class had invited a comedian, and the class of 2008 invited an economist. He admitted he was less funny.
Benazir Bhutto AB 1973
Pakistan’s first female prime minister, known as “Pinky” while at Harvard, was one of the first women to live in Eliot House.
Tommy Lee Jones AB 1969
The Academy Award-winning hunter of fugitives roomed with Al Gore, graduated cum laude, and said he’s grateful to Harvard for “cultivating my conscience.” Jones narrated the admissions video “Harvard: There is no place like it.”
Al Gore AB 1969
The former vice president was a politician even at Harvard: a government concentrator, Freshman Council chairman, and a member of the Harvard Undergraduate Council and Young Democrats. In 2008, the Nobel Peace Prize winning laureate addressed a crowd of 15,000 at Harvard about the important role of sustainability at universities.
John Lithgow AB 1967
While at Harvard, John Lithgow may have been easier to find on the stage than anywhere else. He participated in everything from opera to ballet to directing. Lithgow returned in May 2011 to help create and perform at Arts First.
Stockard Channing AB 1965
The Oscar-nominated actress was a history and literature concentrator who first developed an interest in acting while at Radcliffe.
Michael Crichton AB 1964, MD 1969
The best-selling science fiction author isn’t making it all up. The Jurassic Park creator’s scientific background includes an M.D. earned at Harvard Medical School.
Ellen Holtz Goodman AB 1963
The newspaper columnist said her class was caught between the 1950s and the rebellious ’60s. “The Radcliffe women didn’t have many role models for the lives we have lived. Now, I guess we have become them.”
Elizabeth Dole MAT 1960, JD 1965
The U.S. senator worked in the Law School’s Langdell Library before applying for admission. She was a leader of the International Law Club during 1964-65.
Ralph Nader LLB 1958
The consumer rights crusader began campaigning against the auto industry after seeing an accident on the way to Harvard Law School in 1955. He wrote a paper on unsafe automobile design and then an article for the Harvard Law Review.
Edward M. Kennedy AB 1954
Beloved in Massachusetts as a devoted senator who worked on health care and many other causes, Ted Kennedy received praise as an undergrad for a very different reason. In the 1955 Harvard- Yale football game, he caught the Crimson’s only touchdown!
John Updike AB 1954
The prize-winning author was already prolific in college, writing most of each issue of the Lampoon, of which he was president. The yearbook sums up: “Not all the issues were bad.” In 2009, Harvard acquired a massive trove of Updike’s papers.
Fred Gwynne AB 1951
The future star of television’s The Munsters acted up at Harvard too, starring in the Hasty Pudding’s production of Buddha Knows Best and working at the Lampoon, where he was known as “the funniest man in college.”
William Rehnquist AM 1950
Armed with degrees from Harvard and Stanford, the future chief justice drove through a snowstorm from Wisconsin to D.C. in a Studebaker to clerk for Justice Robert H. Jackson and get his first taste of Supreme Court life in 1952.
Robert Coles AB 1950
The psychiatrist and Pulitzer Prize winner had varied interests while at Harvard, including playing House tennis, participating in Circle Français, and going on excursions with the Outing Club.
George Plimpton AB 1948
Although George Plimpton is known for his sports writing, books, and his role as the first editor in chief of the Paris Review, his writing career goes back to his college days. As an undergrad at Harvard, he was one of many talented writers to grace the pages of the Harvard Lampoon.
Jack Lemmon AB 1947
Two-time Academy Award winner Lemmon was a war service sciences concentrator who was also vice president of the Dramatic Club in 1944, having starred in The Playboy of the Western World.
Norman Mailer AB1943
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author actually concentrated in engineering sciences while at Harvard. His literary interests were well-represented, however, in his activities as a member of the Advocate‘s literary board.
Philip Johnson AB 1930 GSD 1943
Despite his influence as an architect and the many buildings Johnson designed throughout his career, he did not study architecture when he attended Harvard. His initial studies were in classics and philosophy, and he returned to receive his Bachelor of Architecture ten years later.
Ben Bradlee AB 1943
The editor who oversaw the Washington Post‘s Watergate coverage worked at The Crimson while at Harvard, but also found time for baseball, squash, and hockey.
Leonard Bernstein AB 1939
Bernstein’s life at Harvard was as full of music as his life after. The famed conductor and composer was a member of the Musical Club, musical editor of the Advocate, and an accompanist with the Glee Club. In 2009, a ‘symbiotic’ web archive about Bernstein’s Boston roots was launched.
David Rockefeller AB 1936
Before embarking on a career in which he eventually became chief executive officer of Chase Manhattan Bank, Rockefeller dabbled in journalism as a member of The Crimson board — the Business Board, of course.
William S. Burroughs AB 1936
Despite the fact that William S. Burroughs graduated from Harvard College 75 years ago, he can still be found in classrooms and dorm rooms around campus. Many of this alumnus’ literary works are found in syllabi for a range of courses within the English department.
Archibald Cox AB 1934
The special prosecutor who frightened the elite of the Republican Party during the Watergate investigations was a fierce competitor on the squash court as an undergraduate.
E. E. Cummings AB 1915
Poet and author E.E. Cummings, whose writing was notoriously ambivalent towards Cambridge, grew up on the Harvard campus as the son of a professor in the early department of sociology. While a student at the College, Cummings helped found the Harvard Monthly literary magazine and was a member of the Harvard Poetry Society.
T.S. Eliot AB 1910
The great modernist poet and critic began his writing career as a Harvard undergraduate, publishing his first poems in the Advocate, which he later edited. Surprisingly, Eliot was on academic probation during his Harvard tenure.
Helen Keller AB 1904 (Radcliffe)
Author and activist Helen Keller was the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, which she received from Radcliffe College. She began her writing career as student here, when she lived in South House now known as Cabot House. Keller was awarded the first honorary doctorate from Harvard, which she received in 1955.
Franklin D. Roosevelt AB 1903
As an undergrad, the future president was Editor-in-Chief of The Crimson and lived in Adams House, while his cousin Theodore Roosevelt AB1880 was inaugurated president of the U.S. Long after graduation, Roosevelt maintained a deep connection to his classmates—he hosted a reception for them at the White House when he could not attend his thirtieth year class reunion.
W.E.B. Du Bois AB 1890, AM 1891, PhD 1895
The NAACP founder was a member of Harvard’s Philosophical Club as an undergraduate and said of his student days, “I was in Harvard, but not of it.”
Theodore Roosevelt AB 1880
Despite Teddy’s many activities as an undergrad, his interest in nature stood out. He was not only part of the Natural History club, but also kept a small zoo with lobsters, snakes, and a tortoise in his room! This passion was echoed later in his development of the national parks system.
Oliver Wendell Holmes AB 1861, LLB 1866
Before he was Supreme Court Justice, Holmes was Class Poet. He wrote the poem after joining the army and delivered it during Harvard College’s Class Day in 1861.
Henry James AB 1863
The brilliant authority on the laws of human nature had little interest in torts and misdemeanors during his 1862-63 stay at Harvard Law School, but did kick off his writing career with magazine contributions.
Ralph Waldo Emerson AB 1821
Known as “Waldo”, Emerson entered Harvard College at the tender age of 14. An average student, he worked throughout his Harvard education, taking on jobs such as the messenger for then-University President John Thornton Kirkland. He also served as class poet and read an original poem at Class Day a month before graduation.
John Quincy Adams AB 1787, AM 1790
Of this future president’s many accomplishments at Harvard, such as graduating second out of 54 students, being a member of Phi Beta Kappa honors society, and later becoming the first president of the Harvard Alumni Association, one is often overlooked. He was also a flutist in the college band!
Charles Bulfinch AB 1781
Although this acclaimed architect graduated long before any of the College’s living alumni were born, everyone walking around campus still feels his presence. The designer of the unmistakable University Hall, and first to create an image of “Harvard Yard,” his architectural impact is hard to avoid.
John Adams AB 1755, AM 1758
The first graduate of Harvard to become President of the United States, John Adams was surprisingly nervous to apply. However, once he began as an undergrad, he loved studying so much he claimed to have “read forever,” ignoring sports and even “the Society of the Ladies.”
John Hancock AB 1754
Before signing his now famous signature to the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock had plenty of practice writing letters home from Harvard College. He would often write home to his sister, sometimes playfully nagging her to write him back.