What sort of education does it take to climb to the top of America's largest companies?
If there's one thing that can be gleaned from the educational backgrounds of the chief executives of the recently released Fortune 500, it's that there are many paths to success. Many of them studied business, economics, or engineering, but others majored in art history, geology, psychology, and history. Sure, there are plenty of MBAs—173, to be exact—but there are at least 121 executives who didn't go to graduate school at all, including major-company CEOs such as Rex W. Tillerson of Exxon Mobil, Stephen J. Hemsley of UnitedHealth Group, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon. Overall, the Fortune 500 crew attended 220 different colleges for their undergraduate degrees.
No one type of university dominates the list, either. Of the 25 colleges that graduated the most CEOs, five are traditional liberal arts colleges, four are in the Ivy League, eight are public universities, and three are colleges known for their elite technology and computer science programs.
We don't want to suggest that it doesn't matter where you go to college. The research behind Money's Best Colleges rankings, after all, has found that certain colleges make a huge difference. But rather, the degrees of Fortune 500 leaders demonstrate what our rankings do as well, that a variety of colleges—some household names, others hidden gems—can put you on a path to success.
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Here are the 10 colleges with the most alumni in the Fortune 500's top seat, based on info from the S&P Global Market Intelligence database. The colleges are ordered by the number of undergraduate degrees each confers.
Location: Cambridge, Mass.
2015 Money Best Colleges rank: 6
No surprises here: America's most recognizable Ivy League college tops our list, with 10 alumni who earned their undergraduate degrees there. (We didn't count Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who famously dropped out.) Harvard beats out the other schools in the top 10 by only a few graduates, but it pulls way ahead when counting by MBA degrees—28 CEOs earned theirs at Harvard Business School, about three times as many as the next highest graduate business programs, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (10) and Stanford Graduate School of Business (9).
Lloyd C. Blankfein, Goldman Sachs Group
Michael A. Brown, Symantec
Michael L. Corbat, Citigroup
Roger W. Ferguson Jr., TIAA
John B. Hess, Hess
Kendall J. Powell, General Mills
James L. Robo, NextEra Energy
Carlos A. Rodriguez, ADP
Ronald L. Sargent, Staples
John L. Walsh, UGI
Location: Ithaca, N.Y.
2015 Money Best Colleges rank: 34
Cornell's list of Fortune 500 CEOs reflects well on its engineering and labor and industrial relations programs, as they make up more than half of the bachelor's degrees earned by the alumni below. (Cornell is one of only a handful of universities to offer an undergraduate program in labor and industrial relations.) The nine executives work in a variety of fields, from finance to telecommunications to pharmaceuticals.
Robert M. Dutkowsky, Tech Data
J. Patrick Gallagher Jr., Arthur J. Gallagher
Timothy J. Mayopoulos, Fannie Mae
Lowell C. McAdam, Verizon
Michael B. Polk, Newell Brands
Irene B. Rosenfeld, Mondelez International
George A. Scangos, Biogen
James S. Tisch, Loews
Timothy C. Wentworth, Express Scripts Holding
Pennsylvania State University
Location: University Park, Pa.
2015 Money Best Colleges rank: 157
With more than 40,000 undergraduates, Penn State has a reach that few others on this top 10 list do, and its name is recognized by employers around the country.
Texas A&M University
Location: College Station, Texas
2015 Money Best Colleges rank: 20
Texas A&M graduates like to talk about the bond they share with fellow Aggies and what a well-connected network the college provides. That's reflected in the university's six alumni who now lead Fortune 500 companies. Some have been big cheerleaders for the university by donating money, returning to campus for events, and talking about how well Texas A&M prepared them for their current positions.
United State Military Academy
Location: West Point, NY
2015 Money Best Colleges rank: N/A (Money doesn't include the four service academies in its rankings.)
West Point's academic curriculum was designed to prepare military leaders, so it's not surprising that many alumni translate their leadership skills to the corporate world. Five of the CEOs below went on to earn MBA degrees, including three at Harvard Business School.
University of Notre Dame
Location: Notre Dame, Ind.
2015 Money Best Colleges rank: 44
Thanks to its well-regarded graduate programs in business and law, Notre Dame routinely finishes in the top tier of colleges that produce a lot of high-level corporate leaders. It also holds its own when counting by undergraduate degrees, as the following alums show.
Joseph Alvarado, Commercial Metals
Gerard M. Anderson, DTE Energy
William J. DeLaney III, Sysco
Anthony F. Earley Jr., PG&E Corp.
Christopher J. Policinski, Land O'Lakes
Paul C. Reilly, Raymond James Financial
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Location: Madison, Wisc.
2015 Money Best Colleges rank: 116
With strong business and engineering programs, as well as a reputation as one of the top state flagship universities in the country, it's little surprise UW is one of three public colleges to break into this top 10 list.
Location: Princeton, N.J.
2015 Money Best Colleges rank: 3
Attend Princeton, and odds are pretty high that you'll share the campus with someone who goes on to become a household name, whether on the Supreme Court, at the White House, or on the film screen. The university also produces its share and then some of notable corporate leaders, such as Amazon's Jeff Bezos.
Location: Stanford, Calif.
2015 Money Best Colleges rank: 1
Appearing atop dozens of college-related rankings, this uber-selective university sometimes seems to be good at everything: computer science and business, athletics and arts, undergraduate research, and graduate programs. Its Fortune 500 alumni reflect that diversity of strong programs, with banking, healthcare, and manufacturing, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies represented.
Richard D. Fairbank, Capital One Financial
Trevor Fetter, Tenet Healthcare
N. Thomas Linebarger, Cummins
Theodore A. Mathas, New York Life Insurance
Miles D. White, Abbott Laboratories
Location: Oxford, Ohio
2015 Money Best Colleges rank: 171
You might be surprised that just as many Fortune 500 CEOs went to this small Midwestern liberal arts school as such big-name schools as MIT, Yale, and Vanderbilt. But Miami U's alumni and current students aren't. They say the university offers a rigorous liberal arts curriculum that prepares its students for all kinds of challenges. Miami is also the only school in the top 10 with more than one female CEO to its credit
Note: We originally included Brian T. Moynihan of Bank of America Corp. of this list, since Miami U. is listed under his name on the database used to build the Fortune 500. We've since removed his name after confirming with Bank of America that's a mistake, and that he graduated from Brown University.