Yale University offers more than 70 possible majors, covering a vast range of subjects. With its over 300 year history, Yale is notorious for producing world leaders and game changers in their fields. This article will cover 20 different Yale alumni from a variety of courses who went on to change the world.

World Leaders and Politicians

Political sciences is Yale’s second most popular major and is ranked 10th in the world for political studies. In fact, five US presidents have attended Yale University, three of which we will look at in more detail. Yale ranks second in terms of how many presidents they have educated, with Harvard being number one with eight different presidents enrolled in the university.

George H. W. Bush

George H.W. Bush was the United States 41st President, serving one term in office from 1989 to 1993 as the leader of the Republican party. After serving in the US Navy, Bush obtained a BA in economics from Yale University where he was also active as a baseball player and a member of the Skull and Bones Society. As president, Bush focused on foreign policy in which he presided over the invasion of Panama, the Gulf war and ending the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Additionally, he campaighed for increasing the rights of disabled Americans, the Immigration Act and the Clean Air Act.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clindon was the 42rd President of the United states, serving two terms in office from 1993 to 2001 as the leader of the Democratic Party. Clinton studied Law at Yale university where he met his wife, Hillary Clinton and graduated with a JD degree in 1973. As president, Clinton presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history, oversaw the creation of 22 million new jobs and made large investments in the education standards of American schools. 

George W. Bush

George W. Bush was the 43rd President of the United States, serving in office from 2001 to 2009 as the leader of the Republican Party. Bush attended Yale University from 1964 to 1968 where he obtained a BA in history aswell as being an active cheerleader and a member of the Skull and Bones society. During his two terms as President, Bush was known for implementing a major tax cut program and an education reform bill.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton is an American politician and diplomat who served as the secretary of state under the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013 as well as being the first lady to president Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001. Hillary Clinton attended Yale Law School where she met her husband Bill Clinton and graduated with a JD degree in 1973. During her political career, Clinton advocated for health reform, gender equality and the welfare of families and children. In 2008 and 2016 Hillary Clinton ran for presidential election for the Democratic party but was defeated by Barak Obama in 2008 and Donald Trump in 2016.


There are 9 departments in the division of science at Yale ranging from Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry, Physics and Mathematics.

Samuel Morse

Samuel Morse lived from 1791 to 1872 and became a celebrated American inventor and painter throughout his career. Morse studied religious philosophy, mathematics and science at Yale University, graduating in 1810 with honors. As well as being an esteemed painter, Morse is credited with co-inventing the single-wire telegraph system and the Morse code which was essential for early radio communication.

Philip Zimbardo

Professor Philip Zimbardo is an internationally recognised psychologist, famous for research in the power of roles and group identity through the Standford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo received his masters and PhD in psychology from Yale University between 1955 to 1959. Following this, he taught at Standford University for 50 years where his pioneering research in the time paradox, the lucifer effect and the infamous Stanford prison experiment took place.

Murray Gell-Mann 

Murray Gell-Mann (1929-2019) was an American theoretical physicist known for his development in the theory of elementary particles and quantum field theory. Gell-Mann received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Yale University in 1948 and undertook his PhD at MIT. In 1969, Murray Gell-Mann was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics for contributions and discoveries in his field.


Henry Ford II

Henry Ford II (1917 – 1987) was an American businessman known for being president and CEO of the Ford Motor Company. Ford attended Yale University where he worked on the campus magazine, ‘The Yale Record’ but left in 1940 and did not graduate. Henry Ford II is generally credited for reviving the Ford Motor Company which now has a networth of over $48 billion.

Indra Nooyi 

Indra Nooyi is an American business executive who was the chairman and CEO of PepsiCo from 2006 to 2018, a company with a net worth of over $238 billion. Nooyi earned her master’s degree in public and private management from Yale University in 1980 and in 2019 was awarded a second honorary degree by Yale.

Anne Wojcicki 

Anne Wojcicki is an American entrepreneur who co-founded the genomics company 23andMe and is currently the CEO. Wojcicki received a BSc in biology from Yale University in 1996 where she was also active in the women’s ice hockey team. Anne is a self-made billionaire and has won numerous awards and titles for her innovative work.

Fred Smith

Frederick Smith, an American businessman is best known for founding and chairing the FedEx Corporation and considered one of the most successful transportation entrepreneurs in the world. Smith studied economics at Yale University where, interestingly, he received a C for a paper outlining an overnight delivery service that would become FedEx!

Writers and Journalists

Anderson Cooper 

Anderson Cooper is an American journalist and broadcaster, currently anchoring a show on CNN news. Cooper graduated from Yale University in 1989 with a major in political science. Throughout his carrer, Cooper is known for his political commentry, news coverage of breaking world events and as being a correspondent for CBS News’ 60 Minutes. Among other awards, Anderson has 18 Emmy Awards to his name.

Ronan Farrow 

Ronan Farrow is an American journalist best known for his investigative reporting on the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations. Farrow earned a JD degree from Yale Law School in 2009 and later obtained a PhD at the University of Oxford. Ronan Farrow is also an active spokesperson for UNICEF, advocating for women and children caught in ongoing crises.


Yale’s David Geffen School of Drama was founded in 1924 and offers a range of degrees including acting, directing and playwriting. However, individuals do not need to study drama at University in order to be a successful actor, as those below will highlight.

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep is an American actress famous for her versatility of roles and accent adaptability. Meryl attended Yale School of Drama where she played a variety of different roles and graduated with an MFA in 1975. As well as being a household name for her acting work, Meryl Streep holds an array of awards including 21 Academy Awards (and the most nominated in history) and 3 Oscars.

Jennifer Connelly

Jennifer Connelly, an American actress studied English Literature at Yale University before moving onto drama at Standford University. In addition to an impressive filmography list, Connelly is also known for her charity work with Same the Children and Amnesty International.

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster is an American actress and filmmaker best known for her role in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. Foster studied African-American literature at Yale University, graduating in 1985 and later received a second honorary degree from Yale. Jodie Foster has five Academy Awards, three BAFTA Awards and three Golden Globe Awards in recognition of her various acting roles.


Yale offers degrees in economics at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and currently ranks 8th in the world in terms of its economics teaching.

Steven Terner Mnuchin

Steven Mnuchin is an American investment banker and film producer who also served as secretary of treasury under Donald Trump’s administration. Mnuchin graduated from Yale University with a degree in economics in 1985 and was a member of the Skull and Bones society. Mnuchin achieved great success at the investment bank Goldman Sachs where he founded several hedge funds.

Tom Steyer 

Tom Steyer is an American bussinessman, philanthropist and climate investor who graduated from Yale University with a degree in economics and political science. Steyer is well known for his work and advocacy in environmentalism being co-chair of Galvanize Climate Solutions and founding NextGen America, a non-profit supporting the progressive positions of immigration, healthcare, climate change and education.

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman is an American economics professor who is currently teaching at the University of New York. Krugman received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale University before obtaining his PhD at MIT. Paul Krugman’s research in economics led to him winning the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and his role as a columnist for ‘The New York Times’.

Spend your Summer in Yale with Summer Courses

To start your journey of becoming a Yale student, you can take part in one of their many summer programmes which can kickstart the personal and academic growth needed to become a world changer one day. Yale Summer Sessions can be taken on campus or online and in a range of subjects.

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Our admissions experts are happy to answer any questions you have and support you in finding the perfect summer experience.