Kittleman Blog

Colleges that Produce the Most CEOs

Monday, October 15, 2018

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We all like to read about how successful people got their start, but is there a “secret sauce” to the makings of someone important like a CEO or a leader of a non-profit? When we encounter a successful person, we like to know everything about them—from how they get their morning started to how they hold meetings to what kind of leadership style they use. Where they went to school can also a big indicator of their success, and many universities will tout their famous and influential alumni to recruit new generations of students.

We wanted to get a better sense of the origin stories of prosperous and successful CEOs, so we decided to take a look at all 500 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and research where each CEO earned their undergraduate degree. From there, we determined which colleges produce the most CEOs. We also took a look at what colleges produce the most non-profit leaders based on Forbes list of America’s top 100 non-profits.

So, where are all of these bosses getting their start? Let’s take a look at what we found.

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The Top 30 Universities that Produced Fortune 500 CEOs

While it’s true that any degree from a university will likely set you up with a good job after graduation, which universities can claim the prize of producing the most successful people in the country?

Although you might assume that the university that produced the most CEOs would be an Ivy League school, the data reveals that the University of Wisconsin is No. 1 with 14 CEOS of Fortune 500 companies. Coming in second place was Harvard University with 12 CEOS, followed by Cornell University with 10. Rounding out the top five is the University of Michigan with eight CEOs and Stanford University with seven CEOs.

Penn, University of California (Berkeley), Purdue, and Texas A&M all tied with six CEOS each and State University of New York (SUNY), Lehigh, Michigan State, Princeton, University of Texas, Bucknell University, University of Illinois, and Yale all tied with five CEOs.

Following Yale, the United States Military Academy, Notre Dame, University of North Carolina, Dartmouth, Boston College, Iowa State, University of Miami, New York University, Northwestern University, and University of Utah have all produced four CEOS on the Fortune 500 list. Finally, finishing out the top 30 universities was University of Nebraska, University of Alabama, and Union College, who all had three CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

Breakdown by Conference

Once we determined which individual universities that produced Fortune 500 CEOs, we also wanted to know how this broke down by conference. Were there specific regions of school that produced more CEOs than others?

The leading conference in producing CEOs for Fortune 500 companies is by far the Big Ten, which had 62 CEOs (or 12.4% of the 500). Following the Big Ten was the ACC, which had 28 (or 5.6%). In third place was the SEC with 26 CEOs (or 5.2%), followed by the Pac-12 with 24 (or 4.8%). The Mid-American conference had 16 CEOs, the Big 12 had 13, the American Athletic conference had eight, the Sun Belt had six, Mountain West had four, and Conference USA had two.

What Type of School Produces the Most Fortune 500 CEOs?

Finally, we wanted to take a look at which type of school produced the most Fortune 500 CEOs (public or private)?

The data revealed that it was actually a tie between public and private, with 213 CEOs who went to public school and 213 who attended private school. We also found that 56 Fortune 500 CEOs attended an international school and a whopping 18 Fortune 500 CEOs did not attend university at all.

Colleges that Produce the Most Non-Profit Leaders

In addition to the powerhouses in the board room, we also wanted to know where all of the most successful non-profit leaders went to school. This data had a surprisingly different set of characteristics.

The top 10 universities that produced the most powerful non-profit leaders were Yale University with four leaders followed by Georgetown University and Princeton who tied at three. State University of New York, University of Wisconsin, University of California, Boston University, Williams College, Brown University and Tufts also all tied, producing two non-profit leaders each.

Interestingly, the breakdown of public versus private with non-profit leaders looked much different than with Fortune 500 CEOs. The majority of schools who produced top non-profit leaders were private, with 55 private schools being represented and 32 public schools. Only nine top non-profit leaders didn’t attend university at all and four went to international schools. Overall, 15% of the top non-profit leaders attended an Ivy League school for their undergrad.

Methodology

In order to determine the colleges that produce the most CEOs, we first needed to find what undergraduate school each Fortune 500 CEO attended, since we based our list of CEOs list off of the Fortune 500. After calculating our results, we broke down our results into categories, such as Public and Private, as well as by conference.

We used similar methodology for non-profit CEOs and leaders. First, we found the undergraduate school of each non-profit CEO from Forbes “Top 100 Non-Profits,” which is ranked by private support, total revenue, fundraising efficiency, charitable commitment and donor dependency. From there, we broke down our results into categories, such as Public and Private, as well as by conference.

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  1. Steve Steve As a UW-Madison student, I'm wondering who the 14 CEOs are? Wednesday, November 7, 2018

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