25 Hugely Successful Big 10 Alumni That Show It Can Hang With The Ivy League


America seems to have a fascination with college, and not just college in general nowadays, but with “elite” colleges. Yes, I know that the Ivy League has given us a boatload of presidents and CEOS, actors and actresses – all that good, famous stuff. Don’t get me wrong, if you can get into an Ivy League, good for you, but I also think that there are a lot of other colleges that deserve as much praise and respect as Harvard and Yale.

On that note, I truly think that the schools of the Big 10 are some of the best. Sure, I’m a little biased as a Wisconsin grad, but I know that the education I got there was amazing and the experiences I had outside of class were just as awesome. The Big 10 has some of the coolest, well-rounded alumni and attendees. Here’s a list, in no particular order, of just some of the coolest people to have ever come out of the Big 10 (both graduates and dropouts – I don’t discriminate):

1. Mark Cuban (Indiana) – Besides being an Indiana business school grad and the charismatic owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban is also the sole reason why I watch Shark Tank on ABC.

2. Suze Orman (Illinois) – Suze Orman is crazy enthusiastic about personal finances, which seems kind of like an oxymoron, but the Illinois grad has made a very successful career out of it.

3. Neil Armstrong (Purdue) – First guy to walk on the moon, enough said.

4. Gerald Ford (Michigan) – The man who would later replace Nixon as the President of the United States attended Michigan where he also played football. Ford was so good that he was even named MVP for their 1934 team.

5. Jesse Owens (Ohio State) – Also known as the “Buckeye Bullet,” Owens single-handedly gave Hitler and his idea of the “Aryan master race” the most awesome middle finger at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin when he won four gold medals in track and field.

6. Jessica Lange (Minnesota) – Before her work on American Horror Story and the two Academy Awards she won for acting, Jessica Lange was a student at the University of Minnesota.

7. John Muir (Wisconsin) – The Scottish-born “Father of the National Parks” took his first botany class as an undergrad sitting beneath a black locust tree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

8. Magic Johnson (Michigan State) – Magic Johnson, AIDS activist and one of the greatest basketball players, first gained fame when he led his Michigan Spartans to an NCAA title in 1979 over Larry Bird’s Indiana State.

9. Tennessee Williams (Iowa) – One of the greatest American Playwrights, Williams graduated with a degree in English from Iowa and then went on to gave us such classics as A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

10. Warren Buffett (Nebraska) – Buffet is one of the richest men in the world and also one of the coolest after declaring that he will donate 99% of his wealth to charity. Oh yeah, and this guy got rejected from Harvard, but it’s okay, we all make mistakes.

11. Stephen Colbert (Northwestern) – While the fictional character Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report went to Dartmouth, the real Stephen Colbert graduated from Northwestern class of ’86.

12. Michael P. Murphy (Penn State) – You’ve probably not heard of Michael P. Murphy, but you should. He was a Navy SEAL and the first person awarded the Medal of Honor for the War in Afghanistan and the first to win the award since the Vietnam War.

13. Drew Brees (Purdue) – One of the most well-liked and talented guys in the NFL, the Saints QB and XLIV Super Bowl MVP was born and raised in Texas, but played for and graduated from Purdue.

14. Herb Brooks and the majority of the 1980 Men’s Olympic Hockey Team (Minnesota) – Hailed as one of the greatest moments in American sports history, the Miracle on Ice was amazingly won by a team comprised solely of American college hockey players.

15. Leslie Knope (Indiana) – Founder of Galentine’s Day and lover of waffles, Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation graduated from Indiana summa cum laude. Sure, she’s a fictional character but that doesn’t make her any less awesome.

16. Michael Phelps (Michigan) – Besides a lucrative career as a Subway spokesperson, Michael Phelps also happens to hold pretty much every single Olympic record when it comes to medals, specifically the gold kind.

17. Anyone playing in the NFL who went to Ohio State and says “THE Ohio State University” when they’re doing their introductions (Ohio State) – That’s just badass.

18. Bob Dylan (Minnesota) – Dylan is one of the greatest songwriters of all time and came onto the folk music scene while studying at the University of Minnesota.

19. Ang Lee (Illinois) – Before winning multiple Academy Awards for Best Director, Taiwanese-born Lee moved to the States and subsequently earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

20. Coleen Rowley (Iowa) – A former FBI agent and a 9/11 whistleblower who shared TIME’s Person of the Year in 2002, Rowley received her JD from the University of Iowa’s Law School.

21. Anders Holm (Wisconsin) – The Workaholics star and most recent UW graduation speaker was also on the swim team while he was getting weird at Wisconsin.

22. Cindy Crawford (Northwestern) – Cindy earned an academic scholarship to study chemical engineering at Northwestern, but dropped out after a semester to pursue a modeling career, which, you know, turned out pretty well.

23. Chris Hansen (Michigan State) – Before he was Chris “no hug for me?” Hanson on To Catch A Predator, he studied at Michigan State and worked for the NBC Lansing affiliate his senior year of college.

24. John J. Pershing (Nebraska) – The only man to be appointed General of the Armies of the United States, a.k.a. the highest possible rank in the U.S. Army, in his lifetime not only attended Nebraska for law school, but also taught there.

25. David Bohm (Penn State) – Bohm was a quantum physicist who graduated from Penn State with a degree in Physics. Oh yeah, and he is often regarded as one of the greatest theoretical physicists of the 20th century.

Bonus – In honor of the two teams joining the Big 10 in 2014. Sure, it’s kind of a touchy subject for us, but we’re an inclusive bunch. Promise. 

Liz Lemon (Maryland) – According to her character bio, Liz obtained a partial competitive jazz dance scholarship to the University of Maryland.

Junot Díaz (Rutgers) – A Pulitzer Prize winner and a MacArthur Fellow, the Dominican-born Díaz graduated from Rutgers with a degree in English, i.e. he’s a very accomplished guy.

Feel free to also add your favorite Big 10 alumni; like I said, I know there are tons, so keep ‘em coming.