The 30 Most Famous Yale Students Of All Time

In this article, we discuss the 30 most famous Yale students of all time. If you want to see more famous alumni, check out The 10 Most Famous Yale Students Of All Time

Yale University has the second largest university endowment globally and is known for having one of the top-performing investment portfolios in US higher education. The endowment at Yale University was established in 1718 with a starting amount of £562 from Elihu Yale. Over the past 300 years, it has grown to a value exceeding $40 billion and is overseen by the Yale Investments Office.

Yale's Investments

The Yale Investments Office's innovative use of modern portfolio theory to create a well-diversified investment portfolio has resulted in steady growth with lower risk, reinforcing Yale's strong financial position. Over the past several decades, Yale's investment returns have added tens of billions of dollars in value compared to a benchmark strategy that divides investments 60% into stocks and 40% into bonds.

Yale's endowment saw a 0.8% return on investment, after subtracting fees, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, resulting in $266 million in investment gains. Following the distribution of $1.6 billion for spending to the operating budget, the endowment value dropped from $42.3 billion on June 30, 2021 to $41.4 billion on June 30, 2022. Matt Mendelsohn, Yale’s chief investment officer, said in a report dated October 4, 2022:

“In such a volatile year for the world’s financial markets, we are pleased to have protected Yale’s capital. That said, we expect challenging times ahead as rising interest rates, inflation, and the geopolitical environment provide stiff headwinds.”

Yale’s investment strategy is designed to achieve its goals through allotment across multiple asset classes, including public equities, marketable alternatives, leveraged buyouts, venture capital, and real assets. This investment approach has yielded impressive long-term outcomes, as Yale's endowment saw an annual return of 12.0% in the decade ending on June 30, 2022, outpacing the average 10-year return of college and university endowments by 3.4% per annum. At the end of September 2022, Yale’s investment portfolio held positions in Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund (NYSE:VWO), PROCEPT BioRobotics Corporation (NASDAQ:PRCT), iShares MSCI Turkey ETF (NASDAQ:TUR), and Riley Exploration Permian, Inc. (NYSE:REPX). 

Yale’s most famous students of all time have worked in, founded, and led prominent corporations, such as PepsiCo, Inc. (NASDAQ:PEP), Blackstone Inc. (NYSE:BX), and Franklin Resources, Inc. (NYSE:BEN). 

Our Methodology 

Yale’s most famous alumni include prominent politicians, actors, and businessmen. We picked the most famous Yale students based on consensus picks from credible sources like Forbes and Business Insider. We roughly picked an equal number of politicians, actors, and businessmen to cover all categories of alumni. We have ranked the last eight students in ascending order of net worth, while the rest of the list is not ranked in any particular order since the net worth of all individuals were not publicly available. 

The 30 Most Famous Yale Students Of All Time
The 30 Most Famous Yale Students Of All Time

Anthony Correia/

The Most Famous Yale Students Of All Time

30. Meryl Streep

American Actress

Meryl Streep is a highly acclaimed American actress renowned for her versatility and mastery of accents. Over the course of her five-decade career, she has earned a reputation as the best actress of her generation. Her numerous awards and accolades include 21 Oscar nominations and three wins, as well as 32 Golden Globe nominations and eight wins. She received her undergraduate degree cum laude in 1971 and went on to earn her MFA from the Yale School of Drama. Meryl Streep is one of the most famous Yale students of all time. 

While Streep became an award-winning actress, some of the other famous Yale alumni were part of organizations like PepsiCo, Inc. (NASDAQ:PEP), Blackstone Inc. (NYSE:BX), and Franklin Resources, Inc. (NYSE:BEN). 

29. Charles B. Johnson

American Billionaire Businessman

Charles B. Johnson is an American billionaire and former CEO of Franklin Resources, a mutual fund company started by his father. At the young age of 24, he took over the CEO position in 1957. Johnson attended Montclair High School and later graduated from Yale College in 1954. During his time at Yale, he played offensive guard on the football team. 

28. Jennifer Connelly

American Actress

Jennifer Connelly is a talented American actress. She started her career as a child model before making her acting debut in the 1984 film "Once Upon a Time in America." Following her modeling career, she focused on acting and starred in numerous films. After high school, she studied English literature at Yale University for two years before transferring to Stanford University to pursue a degree in drama.

27. Anderson Cooper

American Broadcast Journalist and Political Commentator

Anderson Cooper is a prominent American journalist and political commentator with a background in the Vanderbilt family. He is the main host of the CNN news program "Anderson Cooper 360°". He studied at Yale University and lived in Trumbull College. While at Yale, he participated in lightweight rowing and was a member of the Manuscript Society, majoring in political science. After receiving his BA in 1989, he traveled globally to report on war zones for Channel One News.

26. Jordana Brewster

American Actress

Jordana Brewster is a Panamanian-American actress, widely recognized for her role as Mia Toretto in the Fast & Furious franchise. She started her acting career in 1995 with a guest appearance on the show "All My Children". After appearing in "The Fast and the Furious", she took a break from acting to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Yale University, which she graduated from in 2003. Her paternal grandfather, Kingman Brewster Jr., was a notable figure, having served as the president of Yale University from 1963 to 1977, and then as the US Ambassador to the UK from 1977 to 1981.

25. Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden

Heir Apparent to the Swedish Throne

Victoria, the Crown Princess of Sweden and the Duchess of Västergötland, is the first in line to succeed the Swedish throne as the eldest child of King Carl XVI Gustaf. During the years 1998 to 2000, she lived in the US and took various courses at Yale University. Victoria is one of the most popular Yale alumni. 

24. Ben Carson

Former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Ben Carson is a former American neurosurgeon and politician, who held the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2021. He was a trailblazer in the field of neurosurgery and ran for the US Presidential elections as a Republican candidate in 2016. Carson was granted a full scholarship to attend Yale University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology in 1973.

23. Jodie Foster

American Actress

Jodie Foster is a highly acclaimed American actress and film director. She has won several awards, including 2 Oscars, 3 BAFTA Awards, 3 Golden Globe Awards, and has received an honorary award from Cecil B. DeMille. She studied at Yale University, where she focused on African-American literature, wrote her thesis on Toni Morrison with the help of Henry Louis Gates Jr., and graduated with high honors in 1985. Jodie Foster is one of the most famous Yale alumni. 

22. Mary Ellen Iskenderian

President of Women's World Banking

Mary Ellen Iskenderian is the president and CEO of Women's World Banking, the largest microfinance and banking network in the world. She has published articles in Forbes and The Wall Street Journal, and is a frequent writer for the Harvard Business Review blog. Iskenderian has an MBA from the Yale School of Management and a Bachelor of Science in International Economics from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

21. David Duchovny

American Actor

David Duchovny is a multi-talented American performer who has excelled as an actor, writer, producer, director, author, and musician. He is famous for his roles as Fox Mulder on "The X-Files" and Hank Moody on "Californication," both of which have won him Golden Globe Awards. He holds a Master's degree in English Literature from Yale and started working on a Ph.D. but did not complete it.

20. Sara Gilbert

American Actress

Sara Gilbert is a well-known American actress, best remembered for her portrayal of Darlene Conner on the popular TV show "Roseanne" and its spin-off "The Conners." She received two Emmy Award nominations for her work on the show. Sara is also the creator and former co-host of the CBS talk show "The Talk," and had a recurring role on "The Big Bang Theory" as Leslie Winkle. In 1997, she graduated from Yale University with honors, having studied art with a focus on photography.

19. Brett Kavanaugh

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

Brett Kavanaugh is a prominent American lawyer and judge who currently serves as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was nominated by President Donald Trump and took office on October 6, 2018. Before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and worked as a staff lawyer for various branches of the federal government. He graduated from Yale University in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and earned a Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School in 1990.

18. Sam Waterston

American Actor

Samuel Waterston is a celebrated American actor with a career spanning across theater, television, and film. He has won several awards including an Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild award, and has also been nominated for other prestigious awards like the Academy Award, Tony Award, and BAFTA. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale College in 1962. Samuel Waterston is one of the most famous Yale students. 

17. Fareed Zakaria


Fareed Zakaria is a renowned Indian-American journalist, commentator, and author. He hosts the CNN show "Fareed Zakaria GPS" and writes a weekly column for The Washington Post. He has held positions as a columnist for Newsweek, editor of Newsweek International, and editor-at-large for Time. Zakaria earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University in 1986, where he held various leadership roles, including serving as the president of the Yale Political Union, editor-in-chief of the Yale Political Monthly, and a member of the Scroll and Key society and the Party of the Right.

16. Gerald Ford

38th U.S. President

Gerald Ford was a prominent American politician who served as the 38th President of the United States from 1974 to 1977. Before his presidency, he held leadership positions in the Republican Party in the House of Representatives, and was appointed as the 40th Vice President in 1973. In 1937, he spent a summer as a student at the University of Michigan Law School and was later admitted to Yale Law School in the spring of 1938. During that same year, he was also appointed as the head football coach for the junior varsity team at Yale. Ford passed away on December 26, 2006, due to arteriosclerotic cerebrovascular disease and diffuse arteriosclerosis, at his home in Rancho Mirage, California.

15. Lupita Nyong'o 

American Actress

Lupita Nyong'o is an actress with Kenyan-Mexican heritage who has won many awards, including an Academy Award. She has also been nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards and a Tony Award. During her time at the Yale School of Drama, where she pursued a master's degree in acting, she performed in several stage productions including plays by Gertrude Stein, Chekhov, and William Shakespeare.

14. Bill Clinton 

42nd U.S. President

Bill Clinton, a former American political figure, was the 42nd President of the United States during his term from 1993 to 2001. After studying at Oxford, he went on to receive his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1973.

13. Hillary Clinton 

Former United States Secretary of State

Hillary Clinton is a former American political figure and diplomat who held several notable positions throughout her career. She served as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013, as a Senator for New York from 2001 to 2009, and as First Lady alongside her husband President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001. During her time at Yale Law School, she was part of the editorial board for the Yale Review of Law and Social Action and worked at the Yale Child Study Center. She received her J.D. from Yale in 1973.

12. George W. Bush

43rd U.S. President

George W. Bush is a former American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States from 2001 to 2009. He received his undergraduate education at Yale University from 1964 to 1968, earning a Bachelor's degree in history. While at Yale, he was a cheerleader and held leadership positions in the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and the Skull and Bones society. He was also a rugby union player and was a part of Yale's first fifteen team. George W. Bush is one of the most famous Yale students. 

11. Indra Nooyi

Former Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of PepsiCo

Indra Nooyi is an Indian-American corporate leader and former CEO and chairman of PepsiCo. She has regularly been listed among the world's most influential women. In 1978, she was accepted into the Yale School of Management and relocated to the US, where she earned a master's degree in both public and private management in 1980. Indra Nooyi is one of the most famous Yale students of all time. 

Yale alumni can be found at leadership positions in companies like PepsiCo, Inc. (NASDAQ:PEP), Blackstone Inc. (NYSE:BX), and Franklin Resources, Inc. (NYSE:BEN). 

Click to continue reading and see The 10 Most Famous Yale Students Of All Time

Suggested articles:


Disclosure: None. The 30 Most Famous Yale Students Of All Time is originally published on Insider Monkey.