Thursday, March 3, 2011

Interesting Fact: 50 Famous & Successful English Majors Who Shatter the Stereotype

Dear All,

There many English majors in USA who suceeded in fields from entertainment to politics.

This speaks of the potential that is found in those who took English and Literature studies but change their direction and succeeded in making a name for themselves in the new field. 

Below is a list of such personalities.

Rodney Tan


50 Famous & Successful English Majors Who Shatter the Stereotype

March 1st, 2011

English majors often get a bad rap, as do most students who choose to study within the liberal arts. Courses that revolve around abstract thinking, philosophy, psychology and art are irrationally seen as impractical for the real world. But a major in English offers extremely beneficial training in critical thinking, argument development, analysis, communication, and understanding different points of view. Not all English majors go on to be absent-minded writers or professors, or end up searching in vain for employment: here are 50 famous and successful literature students who shattered the stereotype with their exciting careers as CEOs, politicians, movie stars, and sports figures.


These executives rose to the top of industries in TV and entertainment, the nonprofit world and more.

1. Kathryn Fuller: Chair of the Ford Foundation and former President and CEO of the WWF U.S. Kathryn Fuller attended Pembroke College — now integrated into Brown University — and studied English before going to UT Law School in Austin.

2. Michael Eisner: Now a major backer for the social gaming company Diversion, former and legendary CEO or The Walt Disney Company Michael Eisner studied English and theater at Denison University.

3. Grant Tinker: Former TV producer and chairman and CEO of NBC Grant Tinker studied English at Dartmouth before producing iconic shows like The Bob Newhart Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

4. Herb Scannell: Herb Scannell serves as President of BBC Worldwide, America and previously served as President of Nickelodeon and TV Land, launching popular shows like Dora the Explorer and The Brothers Garcia. A native of Long Island, Scannell graduated from Boston College with a B.A. in English and was a manager at the campus radio station.


These successful sports figures are legends in college football and beyond.

5. Joe Paterno Penn State football coach has the distinction of being the football coach to go to more bowl games than any other in college football history. He played college ball himself for Brown, where he majored in English.

6. A. Bartlett Giamatti: Giamatti served as president of Yale for ten years and then as the Major League Baseball National League president. In 1988, he was elected Commissioner of Baseball, 28 years after earning his B.A. in English from Yale.

7. Marty Schottenheimer: Former San Diego Chargers football coach Marty Schottenheimer studied English at the University of Pittsburgh before getting drafted into the NFL.


These actors, TV personalities and musicians have made millions from their talent and ambition, but they started off as everyday English majors.

8. David Duchovny: After getting a scholarship to the prestigious Collegiate School in New York — and graduating as valedictorian — Duchovny attended Princeton, where he majored in English. He went to Yale for graduate school and taught literature as a graduate assistant.

9. Fred Savage: The Wonder Years actor graduated from Stanford with a B.A. in English in 1999.

10. Reese Witherspoon: As one of the richest women in Hollywood, Reese Witherspoon is also one of the most hard-working on and off screen. She appeared in solid roles as a teenager and majored in English at Stanford, before dropping out to pursue acting full time.

11. Amerie: Grammy nominated singer Amerie had a strict Christian upbringing and then attended Georgetown and joined the Navy ROTC to fund her education. She graduated with a B.A. in English and Fine Arts design minor.

12. Matt Damon: The Academy Award winner got some extra writing practice in when he attended Harvard as an English major, but he dropped out to focus on making a name for himself in the industry.

13. Harrison Ford: One of the most successful movie stars in America, Harrison Ford studied English at Wisconsin’s Ripon College but dropped out to pursue acting.

14. Chevy Chase: Chase attended Bard College, majoring in English and taking pre-med classes while playing drums in a band.

15. Tommy Lee Jones: Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones roomed together at Harvard, from which Jones graduated with a B.A. in English before moving to New York to perform on Broadway.

16. Cathy Guisewite: As the creator of the popular comic Cathy, Cathy Guisewite has earned an Emmy and seven honorary degrees, in addition to her own English degree after graduating from University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

17. James Cameron: As a movie director today, James Cameron generally favors large-scale blockbusters, sci-fi plots, and action movies, but as an English major, he was probably forced to read the classics, too. Cameron ended up dropping out of community college, though, and taught himself about special effects and filmmaking.

18. Heather Graham: While juggling appearances in TV shows and movies with a major in English at UCLA, Heather Graham ultimately dropped out of school. She lists The Brothers Karamazov as one of her favorite books.

19. Paul Newman: Legendary film and stage actor Paul Newman graduated with a degree in English from Kenyon College after first dropping out of Ohio University to serve in WWII. He left Ohio to go East, where he attended the Yale School of Drama, and later the Actors Studio in New York, where he studied under Lee Strasberg.

20. Conan O’Brien: Comedian and late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien gave a rousing commencement speech to his alma mater, Harvard, in 2008. He graduated with an English degree in 1985 and published a 72-page thesis called "The ‘Old Child’ in Faulkner and O’Connor."

21. Joan Cusack: Two-time Academy Award nominee Joan Cusack graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in English.

22. Vin Diesel: Here’s one actor who definitely shatters the English major stereotype. The Fast and the Furious action star is better known for his husky voice and muscles than his three-year stint at New York’s Hunter College where he studied literature.

23. Famke Janssen: Born in the Netherlands, Famke Janssen moved to New York to model. She signed with the agency Elite but also attended Columbia University as a writing and literature student.

24. Joan Rivers: The outspoken comedienne and TV host Joan Rivers is still going strong, even as she nears 80. She attended Connecticut College and Barnard, graduating from the latter in 1954 as a double major in English and anthropology.

25. Ed Burns: Queens, NY native and actor, director and writer Ed Burns attended two SUNY schools at Albany and Oneonta as an English major before transferring to Hunter College to study filmmaking.

26. James Van Der Beek: Van Der Beek’s characters’ extensive vocabulary on Dawson’s Creek may have come naturally to the young actor, who studied English at Drew University before dropping out to work on the show.

27. Sigourney Weaver: Long-time actress Sigourney Weaver graduated from Stanford with a degree in English, followed by an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.

28. Christopher Nolan: Memento and The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan studied English literature at University College London, but dabbled in filmmaking at the school’s film society.

29. James Franco: We can barely keep up with all of James Franco’s artistic and academic pursuits, but he does have a recent degree in English from UCLA.

30. Sting: Singer-songwriter and actor Sting has won awards for his music for decades, but his first real job was as a teacher. He studied English and education in the 1970s before making it big.

31. Renee Zellweger: Academy Award-nominee Renee Zellweger has played memorable parts in goofy comedies, musicals and dramas, but chose to study English in college at the University of Texas at Austin before experimenting with theater.

32. Martin Scorsese: Award-winning Martin Scorsese might be a little eccentric, but he’s made some of the most memorable films in U.S. cinematic history. He started out by attending NYU’s film school, graduating with a B.A. in English and an M.F.A. in film, directing his first short before his undergraduate years were over.

Science and Medicine

Just because you start off in the liberal arts doesn’t mean you can’t make important strides in medicine, space exploration and other scientific fields.

33. Sally Ride: Infamous for being the first woman in space, this astronaut doubled majored in English and physics at Stanford in the 1970s.

34. Harold Varmus: Harold Varmus won the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Varmus admits that when he first entered Amherst College, he was intent on preparing for medical school, but ended up switching to English literature, relishing the new academic challenges and involvement in journalism.


Studying English helped these journalists tell important stories that changed the industry and the world.

35. Barbara Walters: At one time the highest paid anchor in TV news, Barbara Walters majored in English at Sarah Lawrence College. She was nominated for 12 Emmys during her career.

36. Richard Rodriguez: Rodriguez — a contributing editor at New America Media in San Francisco and a Frankel Medal and Peabody Award winner and Pulitzer nominee — graduated from Stanford with a Ph.D. in Renaissance literature.

37. Bob Woodward: Bestselling author and Watergate buster Bob Woodward studied history and English at Yale before taking graduate classes at George Washington University.

38. Diane Sawyer: ABC World News anchor and long-time ABC news reporter Diane Sawyer earned her B.A. in English from Wellesley before turning to local TV broadcasting and helping President Nixon write his memoirs in the 1970s.

39. Russell Baker: Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative journalist Russell Baker earned a B.A. in English from Johns Hopkins in 1947. He went on to be a syndicated columnist for the Observer for 36 years.

40. Dave Barry: Writer and humorist Dave Barry has seen his columns syndicated in newspapers across the country and won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1988. He graduated with a degree in English from Haverford College in Pennsylvania in 1969.

41. Helen Thomas: White House institution Helen Thomas has been covering news from Washington for five decades, and even rebounded after a recent, controversial remark that some believed was anti-Semitic. Thomas, whose parents arrived in the U.S. from Lebanon unable to read or writer, graduated with a B.A. in English from Wayne University in Detroit in 1942.

42. Tom Wolfe: New Journalism co-founder, one-time New York Giants hopeful, art critic and best-selling author Tom Wolfe graduated with a B.A. in English from Washington and Lee University, where he founded a literary magazine and was sports editor of the college paper.

43. Maureen Dowd: Divisive but influential journalist and columnist Maureen Dowd earned a B.A. in English from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where she still bases her career.

Law and Government

English served as a solid foundation for careers as a Supreme Court Justice, governor, and other political appointments.

44. Clarence Thomas: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas prepared for his law school and his illustrious career by studying English at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. He spoke the Gullah language when he was young and decided that majoring in English literature would help him "conquer the language."

45. Pete Wilson: Former California governor Pete Wilson also served as mayor of San Diego and a U.S. senator. He studied English at Yale on a U.S. Navy ROTC scholarship and earned his law degree from UC Berkeley, too.

46. Carol M. Browner: The longest serving EPA administrator recently stepped down, but Carol Browner — who was appointed by President Clinton — worked to protect air, water and food from pollution and contaminants for the 18 years she served as head of that department. She studied English and then law at the University of Florida before working for a consumer group in D.C.

47. Mario Cuomo: Former New York Governor — and Pittsburgh Pirates minor league player — Mario Cuomo was a top student as an undergraduate English major and law student at St. John’s University in New York City.

48. Henry Paulson: Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson studied English at Dartmouth, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.

49. Jill Biden: Wife of Vice President Joe Biden, Jill attended the University of Delaware as an English major and worked as a teacher for many years before working in the nonprofit industry, and ultimately backing her husband’s political campaigns.

50. Donald Regan: Former Secretary of the Treasury and Chief of Staff under Ronald Reagan Donald Regan graduated from Harvard in 1940 with a B.A. in English, and then went on to law school. He dropped out to join the Marines in WWII, and after the war, began working with Merrill Lynch & Co., eventually becoming its chairman and CEO



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.