Sunday, February 10, 2013

You Don't Need an Ivy League Degree to be President of an Ivy League University

The college early decisions and early actions were mailed out just a few weeks ago and there are happy high school seniors and also disappointed ones (some very).

So many students, parents, maybe even grandparents, siblings, and other relatives think that the be all and end all is to get into and matriculate at an Ivy League university. This comes from families who may have had several generations go to an Ivy League university as well as families whose parents are immigrants and/or the high school seniors may be immigrants as well and to other high achieving and ambitious hardworking students.

I thought that I would put this  into perspective, realizing that, for some, who have worked so hard academically and on their extracurricular activities, not to mention studying for the SATs, writing those college application essays, going on interviews, etc.,  that being deferred, or rejected, is emotionally and, perhaps, even, physically, painful.

Here are the data and the facts: you do not need an undergrad degree from an Ivy League university to become President of one. In fact, you may not even need even a graduate degree from an Ivy League university to become President of one.

The four female Presidents of Ivy League universities:

Dr. Shirley Tilghman, the President of Princeton University, who has served since 2001 (and will be stepping down at the end of this academic year with no announcement yet as to her replacement)  was born in Canada (as was I ) and she has an undergrad degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada and a PhD from Temple University of Philadelphia.

Dr. Christina Paxson, the new President of Brown University (my alma mater 4 times over),  received her undergrad degree from Swarthmore in Pennsylvania (and she even jokes about how quickly her rejection from Harvard University came when she applied there as an undergraduate). Her PhD is from Columbia University.

Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, who I have written about because I was a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellow at Harvard University, when she was the Dean of the Institute, and, the year after, became President of Harvard, received her undergrad degree from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania (there is something special about those eastern Pennsylvania liberal arts colleges, you must admit). Her PhD is from the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Amy Guttmann, the President of the University of Pennsylvania, whom I have also written about, received her undergrad degree from Radcliffe College (now part of Harvard), a Master's from the London School of Economics,  and her PhD from Harvard University.

Now, information on the male Presidents of the 4 other Ivy League universities.

Lee Bollinger, the President of Columbia University in NYC, has an undergrad degree from the University of Oregon and a law degree from Columbia.

Dr. David Skorton, the President of Cornell University, has an undergrad degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, as well as an MD degree from there. Note -- no Ivy League degrees and still heading Cornell for many years.

Dr. Philip Hanlon, the incoming President of Dartmouth College,  graduated from Dartmouth but received his PhD from CalTech. His dissertation advisor was Dr. Olga Taussky-Todd and I used one of her theorems in my doctoral dissertation.

Dr. Peter Salovey, the incoming President of Yale University, has a pedigree very similar to that of the outgoing President of Yale, Dr. Richard Levin: Stanford undergrad and Yale PhD. Levin also has an undergrad degree from Oxford University and Salovey has several master's degrees from Yale.

So there you go -- you don't need an Ivy league undergrad degree to become President of an Ivy League University! In fact, two out of the eight sitting Ivy League Presidents don't have a single Ivy League degree!

Leadership is earned and there are many outstanding colleges and universities in the United States, both public and private, where you can obtain an elite education. It is entirely up to you to take advantage of the great courses offered and other opportunities. Do remember and recognize the great mentors, faculty, staff, and family members that support our students.