Because a Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Celebs Who Attended Ivy League Universities

August 16, 2012  |  
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In the world of celebrity culture, the importance of an education often takes second billing to the bright glares of the spotlight. Many stars have opted to forgo their education in pursuit of their career. However, these 10 stars not only got their degrees first but raised the academic bar by attending Ivy League institutions.

Sanaa Lathan

Sanaa was born the daughter of famed director Stan Lathan and for some that might’ve been her golden ticket to Hollywood. However, Sanna pursued a degree in drama at Yale University. She graduated with her BA in 1995 and has made a name for herself all on her merit. Her roles in Love & Basketball and Something New are a testament to her talent.

Bob Johnson

The founder of B.E.T. became the first black billionaire when he sold the station to Viacom in 2001 and the first person of color to be recognized on Forbes richest. His smarts also allowed for BET to become the first black-controlled company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. He no doubt utilized his acumen from the knowledge he gained at Princeton University. He was part of the class of 1972 with a degree in Public/International Affairs.

Rashida Jones

When your father is music mogul, Quincy Jones, there are many opportunities that open themselves up to you but Rashida hasn’t gotten by on her family ties. She has put in her own hard work and graduated from Harvard University in 1997 with a degree in Religion and Philosophy. Since then, she’s become just as well known as her father with roles in The Social Network, “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.”

John Legend

The Grammy award winning singer and songwriter was part of the University of Pennsylvania’s graduating class in 1999. He earned a BA in English and was also a member of the famed Sphinx Senior Society while an undergraduate. After he earned his degree, he linked up with the likes of Lauryn Hill and Kanye West to help launch his successful career.

Hill Harper
The actor who has starred in CSI: NY and author is an alumnus of both Brown University and Harvard Law. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown in 1988. Afterwards, he went to Harvard where he befriended fellow law student, a young Barack Obama. The two became friends and it is a friendship that still exists today. He has campaigned on the President’s behalf and is a member of the Obama for America National Finance Committee.

Angela Bassett
The critically acclaimed actress graduated from Yale University in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in African American studies. In 1983, she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale’s School of Drama. She spent a total of seven years at the school and it is where she met her future husband, Courtney B. Vance.


Courtney B. Vance
The well respected actor and Tony award nominee has created a following for himself on such shows as Law & Order and demonstrated early on that he would lay down the necessary foundation for his career. He graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1982. While attending Harvard, he was already working as an actor at the Boston Shakespeare Company. He later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree later at Yale School of Drama.

Ryan Leslie
The singer, songwriter and producer can lay claim to not only claim hits but he scored a perfect 1600 score on his SAT’s when he was 15. That impressive feat was the precursor to him enrolling in Harvard University. He graduated in 1998 with a BA in Government and Economics and had the honor of delivering Harvard’s ‘Harvard Oration’.


Tyra Banks

When you’re traveling around the world as an international supermodel, you don’t necessarily have time to take college courses. Though Trya was set to attend Loyola after high school, but modeling was calling and she answered, thinking she was just going to make money for college. We don’t need to tell you how modeling worked out for her. But considering Tyra was an honor student in high school, education was important to her. Though she was already a media mogul, with a talk show, competition show and other ventures, Tyra decided to further her education by enrolling in the executive education program at Harvard Business School. She graduated from the program earlier this year.


Barack and Michelle Obama

Contrary to claims about President Obama’s capabilities, both Barack and his better half, Michelle are Ivy league graduates. Initially enrolling in Occidental college in California, Barack Obama transferred after two years to attend the prestigious Columbia University, in New York. After he graduated from there he worked as a community organizer in Chi-Town before going back to law school at Harvard. And he didn’t just attend Harvard, he was the president of the Harvard Law Review.

But Barack is not the only one with academic accolades, Michelle also has degrees from two Ivy league institutions. For undergrad, she attended Princeton University, majoring in sociology and African American studies, graduating cum laude. From there she also went to Harvard Law School, earning her J.D. in 1988.
Stephanie Guerilus is a multimedia journalist and author. Follow her @qsteph

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  • chanela

    what is the point though?just to say they have a degree? why go to college when you already make millions? you make more than most college students ever will unless they own coporations n stuff. hell they make more than the president!

    • wifey06

      that is the same stupid question athletes & raopers ask themselves when they are dead d broke and have loss their millions. because dumb folks can’t keep the money or they ask some other SMARt person to invest it and most likely the dumb person gets robbed. Every heard the expression” A FOOL and his money will soon depart”. Look at what Dumb Rihanna is going through now. JAy-z just got his percentage in the NEts reduced the a .00015th you might be rich butif you are not Smart you will still be a Dummy and Lose money— they ALL DO!!! look at wesly snipes look at lauryn hill. RIch BUT DUMB!!!! unless you are part of that educated you wouldn’t understand. And College gives you a broader view and perspective!! you see dumb ole beyonce and drake going back to get their high school diploma!!! So they can finally be able to Read their contracts.. Beyonce own dad milked her out of money!!!

      • chanela

        they go back to get their diploma because they feel like they’re missing something. that is THEIR fault for spending their money on dumb stuff like Lamborghinis and 10 houses. any sane person with common sense would know that their money won’t last very long if they spend frivolously. it has nothing to do with going to college.mark zuckerburg and bill gates didn’t finish college and they’re not broke.

        i 100% agree with you when you said ” you might be rich but if you are not Smart you will still be a Dummy and Lose money-” the examples you gave were the result of ignorant stupid people,not people who didn’t go to college.there are tons of people who go to college and get their masters and doctorates and what not and they’re STILL stupid and clueless as hell.

        also getting a degree and high GPAs don’t = smart. it just means that you completed the necessary work to obtain your degree/high GPA. that’s it. they don’t measure your intelligence, just your ability to finish homework and projects and turn it in on time.

  • Li

    David Alan Grier was overlooked yet Tyra made the list because she completed a certificate program?! She did not garner a Harvard degree.

    • PA-TX

      Thank you!! Tatyana Ali actually graduated from Harvard too.

  • alf

    you overlooked david alan grier. Yale MFA class of ’81.

  • Tagirl

    Sanna Lathan has a B.A in English from U.C Berkley and a MFA from Yale.

  • Treacle234

    Lets see their GPA upon graduating that’s more important. Not because you have a degree mean you are smart. Many people have a degree for the sake of it.

    • Hosea 4:6

      Reread your comment and then think about questioning anyone’s academic credentials and/or record. Many people talk ish just for the sake of it.

      • Treacle234

        Glad to you see you agree with my comment.

    • Is It 5:00 Yet?

      The fact that they made it into these schools already proves that their GPA upon entrance was above average. They don’t need to prove anything else in my eyes lol.

  • Lenisha

    i know lauryn hill went to colombia university but i guess she wouldn’t count since she didnt finish graduating.

    • quite a few rappers graduated from college! They should be shining examples of holding down college and doing music as a side gig.

  • D*mn this is beautiful! We as a people can do ANYTHING we set our minds to do!