The great Yale University has long been recognized as the cradle of the U.S. political leadership. This private, Ivy League, higher education establishment in New Haven, Connecticut has academic traditions dating back to the year 1701.

The controversial Skull and Bones Order, the oldest senior class organization at the university. In the paragraphs below we are going to have a look at ten of Yale Unversity’s most famous alumni.

Famous Yale Alumni

1. George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States

  • Period spent at Yale: 1945-1948
  • Degree: BA in Economics

George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States, came to power in 1989, succeeding Cold War hardliner Ronald Reagan. He and his beloved wife, Barbara Bush, had the longest presidential marriage in American history – over seven decades.

Also, at the time of his death in 2018, George H. W. Bush was the longest-lived U.S. President. The Bachelor’s degree in Economics that he earned from Yale might have helped him to resuscitate the country from the deadly spiral of his predecessor’s Reaganomics. He will be forever remembered as one of the most successful Republican Presidents America has ever had.


2. Dick Cheney, 46th Vice President of the United States

  • Period spent at Yale: 1963
  • Degree: Did not earn a degree

Dick Cheney, 46th Vice President of the United States, was one of those Yale students, who attended their courses without taking a degree.

Yet, the period he spent at Yale must have helped shape him as one of the most successful and influential figures on the U.S. public stage. In 2007, he miraculously survived an assassination attempt while on a visit to Iraq.


3. Oliver Stone, U.S. film director

  • Period spent at Yale: 1965
  • Degree: Dropped out

Our next candidate, U.S. film director Oliver Stone, also spent some time at Yale in 1965, two years after Cheney, without earning a degree. Yet, they both are popular enough to firmly secure their spots on our rankings.

During his long and prolific career, Oliver Stone has won four Oscars in eleven nominations so far. The first one was for 1979, for Best Adapted Screenplay of his film Midnight Express. The previous year, his masterpiece film Platoon had already won two Oscars: for Best Director and Best Motion Picture.


4. Meryl Streep, American actress

  • Period spent at Yale: 1971-1972
  • Degree: MFA

After two candidates that attended Yale without obtaining a degree, the next famous alumni at Yale, famous U.S. actress Meryl Streep, successfully graduated with an MFA in 1972. Most recently, she won an Oscar for Best Actress for her appearance as former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2012). Back in 1982, Streep won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in The French Lieutenant’s Woman.


5. Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States

  • Period spent at Yale: 1969-1973
  • Degree: Juris Doctor

The term of office of America’s 42nd President, Bill Clinton, was a period of economic boom and most of the American people were happy with his decisions. Also, Clinton’s Era was the last “golden period” to emigrate to America.

Interestingly, it was while doing his Doctoral degree at Yale when Clinton met his future wife, Hillary. It was the love of the American people that helped Bill Clinton survived an impeachment procedure against him for his alleged affair with Monica Lewinski.


6. Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th United States Secretary of State

  • Period spent at Yale: 1969-1973
  • Degree: Juris Doctor

Had Hillary Diane Rodham not attended Yale, she would never have become the First Lady of the United States. In 1971, while doing his Doctorate in Law Studies, she started dating future leader of the nation, William Jefferson Clinton. This famous alumni in Yale even postponed her graduation with one year to spend more time with her beloved Bill at Yale University. She was the Democrat’s Presidential candidate in the 2016 election.


7. Jodie Foster, American actress, film director, and producer

  • Period spent at Yale: 1981-1985
  • Degree: BA in Literature

With a BA in Literature from Yale that she earned in the mid-1980s, Jodie Foster could have easily become a renowned writer or a literary critic.However, she showed a great passion for acting from an early age. She is probably best known for her appearance in The Silence of the Lambs (1992) as FBI trainee Clarice Starling. That role brought her an Academy Award for Best Actress.


8. Sarah Hughes, American figure skater, 2002 Olympic Champion

  • Period spent at Yale: 2003-2009
  • Degree: BA in American Studies

To earn a degree from Yale and an Olympic gold medal within a few years’ time seems a monstrously-challenging task. Yet, American figure skater and 2002 Olympic Champion Sarah Hughes proves that the mission is perfectly possible. Sarah Hughes began figure skating at the age of three, shortly after she’d made her first feeble steps. She is one of the most famous alumni in Yale for sports.


9. Edward Norton, American screenwriter, actor, and director

  • Period spent at Yale: 1988-1991
  • Degree: BA in History

Edward Norton’s performances on the big screen have also been very convincing and plausible, prompting the viewers to instinctively empathize and identify with his characters. This is in part due to the BA degree in History that he obtained from Yale between 1988 and 1991.


10. Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the Morse Code

  • Period spent at Yale: Unknown-1810
  • Degree: Unknown

We could not establish when exactly our last candidate, Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, commenced his studies at Yale. However, it is known for a fact that while at Yale, Morse attended lectures on electricity delivered by Benjamin Silliman and Jeremiah Day. He graduated at some time in 1810.

Looking at the paragraphs above, one may conclude and rightly so that the field of famous Yale University alumni is dominated by U.S. Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Secretaries of State.

There are, however, a few film directors and an Olympic champion. At the bottom of our list sits the great Samuel F. B. Morse, whose invention has saved millions of human lives throughout the centuries.


I hope that this article on famous alumni at Yale was helpful. To know more information on studying abroad, check out the Available Programs for International Students.