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Where the Fortune 500 CEOs Went to School

These schools awarded at least 10 college and graduate degrees to America’s leading executives.

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CEOs have a variety of educational backgrounds

Yahoo, which was recently ranked No. 483 on the 2012 Fortune 500 list, is reeling from a false claim on the résumé of its former CEO, Scott Thompson, who left the company yesterday. Thompson's résumé stated he held undergraduate degrees in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College, but it was revealed that he only had the accounting degree.

Thompson's decision to pad his résumé raises questions about how senior executives view their educational background. Higher education is often viewed as a credential for aspiring executives, but it's certainly not a prerequisite for a management role.

According to a U.S. News analysis of the Fortune 500 CEOs list—the magazine's annual ranking of American corporations based on gross revenue, which was released on May 7—some chief executives don't hold college degrees. And many of the CEOs who do hold academic degrees choose not to mention them among their achievements in their corporate biographies.

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The 500 executives collectively earned about 465 college degrees, which means about 35 executives didn't graduate from college. Both Ralph Lauren and Sheldon Adelson (Las Vegas Sands Corp.) are among the CEOs who dropped out of college. But the Fortune 500 executives who completed both college and graduate school collectively earned about 200 M.B.A.'s and about 140 other graduate degrees.

Harvard University topped the list of Fortune 500 CEO degree granters with 65 total degrees. The next closest school was Stanford University, which doled out 27 undergraduate and graduate degrees. University of Pennsylvania awarded a total of 24 degrees to Fortune 500 CEOs, while the executives on the Fortune list earned 18 degrees from Columbia University.

Harvard, Penn, and Stanford also count the most Fortune 500 M.B.A.'s among their ranks (40, 13, and 10, respectively), with the business schools at University of Chicago (7), Northwestern University (6), and Indiana University—Bloomington (6) trailing behind. Massachusetts Institute of Technology didn't award any M.B.A.'s to Fortune 500 CEOs, but it was third on the list of institutions that awarded the most other graduate degrees to the executives, after Harvard and Columbia.

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Among the most highly educated CEOs are Roger Ferguson, Jr., of the retirement services provider TIAA-CREF, who holds a B.A., J.D., and Ph.D. from Harvard; Charles Haldeman, Jr., of mortgage firm Freddie Mac, who earned an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College (which awarded 12 degrees to Fortune 500 CEOs) and an M.B.A. and J.D. from Harvard; and Ralph Izzo, of the power company Public Service Enterprise Group, who holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from Columbia, as well as an M.B.A. from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey—New Brunswick and Newark.

Below is a table highlighting the 13 schools that awarded at least 10 degrees to Fortune 500 CEOs. The ranks of their undergraduate program and graduate business school are also included. The table is sorted by total number of degrees awarded per institution:

Institution Total degrees Undergraduate degrees M.B.A.'s Other graduate degrees U.S. News undergraduate rank U.S. News business school rank
Harvard University 65 11 40 14 1 1
Stanford University 27 11 10 6 5 1
University of Pennsylvania 24 7 13 4 5 3
Columbia University 18 3 4 11 4 8
University of Michigan—Ann Arbor 14 6 5 3 28 13
University of Notre Dame 14 10 1 3 19 25
University of Virginia 14 4 4 6 25 13
Cornell University 13 8 3 2 15 16
Dartmouth College 12 9 3 0 11 9
Indiana University—Bloomington 11 5 6 0 75 23
Northwestern University 11 2 6 3 12 4
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey—New Brunswick 11 5 3 3 68 63
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 10 3 0 7 5 4

Sources: Company websites, Fortune, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, college and university websites.

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