Celebrity U – Celebrities and Their Alma Maters

It's that time of year again...

By Joann Pan

As college kids across the country are moving back to school, we couldn’t help but think of all of the Hollywood’s finest actors, actresses and designers that also decided to go back, even though they were making $25 million with a hit movie over one weekend. It just goes to show you that, you can work hard over several years and get your undergraduate or graduate degree and, of course, still go back to have a successful (and well-rounded) career. Being that it is back to school season, we at were curious about some of our favorite celebs and where they went to school (perhaps we are even more curious if they actually had to write an admissions letter and what grades they received in school, but that’s a discussion for  another post). So, without further adieu we hope you enjoy’s list of our favorite celebrities and the schools they attended. You’ll be surprised where they went and what they majored in…

Betsey Johnson
Profession: Womenswear Designer
Alma Mater: Syracuse University

Betsey Johnson, renowned for her free-flowing dreadlock-ish locks and frilly party dresses bedazzled with huge bows and ruffles is certainly a maven in the fashion world. But before girls were wearing her designs across the globe, Johnson was attending Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY where she studied dance.  Syracuse is a pit stop along the college route of New York State between other college towns Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton and Albany. She graduated college in 1964 with magna cum laude Latin honors.

Maggie Gyllenhaal
Profession: Actress
Alma Mater: Columbia University

Not only is Maggie Gyllenhaal a film gem appearing on screen in the indie gem “Secretary” (2002) and “The Dark Knight” (2006), she also seems to have a good head on her shoulders who was in pursuit of a higher education in 2003. She attended Columbia University in New York City, studying religion with Uma Thurman’s father, Professor Robert Thurman and later studied at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Natalie Portman
Profession: Actress
Alma Mater: Harvard University
Major: Psychology

A pronounced vegetarian and screen beauty Natalie Portman is as smart as she is talented. She has appeared in movies like “The Professional” (1994), “Heat” (1995), “Beautiful Girls” (1996), “Mars Attacks” (1996) and “Closer (2004)” for which she was nominated for an Oscar.  But, perhaps, the biggest career endeavor this wise-beyond-her-actress ever embarked on was attending Harvard University in 1999 to become a psychologist. She graduated in 2003 from the private Ivy League institute located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cambridge has directly grown and benefit with Harvard University’s growth and expansion that has made it one of the leading academic institutions in the world.

James Franco
Profession: Actor, director, screenwriter, film producer
Alma Mater/Current Schools: Columbia University, UCLA, NYU, Yale University
Major: English, Creative Writing and Filmmaking

It may seem as if James Franco wants to be the person in Hollywood with the most college degrees, and judging my his recent summer romping through NYC collegiate systems he may just accomplish this After starring in hit movies such as the Spider-Man Trilogy, “Pineapple Express” (2008) and “Milk” (2008), Franco decided to broaden his horizons by going back to school for a masters degrees in English, creative writing and filmmaking. His educational career started off in Los Angeles, California at UCLA with an undergraduate degree in English, he went to New York City to attend Columbia University where he studied filmmaking, and in March 2010, his manager announced he would be attending Yale University to get his Ph.D. in English. (Yale University would be one of the four schools we would attend to if we had the time and the tuition money. They have a picture-perfect campus in New Haven, Connecticut.) There’s nothing like a tall, dark handsome man with educational ambition. (And hobbies like appearing on “General Hospital” as a psycho killer in Port Charles, NY—if you were wondering it is a fictional city).

Jon Stewart
Profession: Actor, Funnyman, Host of “The Daily Show”
Alma Mater: College of William & Mary
Major: Psychology

Jon Stewart went back to the alma mater in 2004 to deliver a commencement address in which he said, “I came to William and Mary because as a Jewish person I wanted to explore the rich tapestry of Judaica that is southern Virginia.” [Yahoo! Education] William and Mary is one of the oldest colleges in America that offers a great education. Located in Williamsburg Virginia, they are dubbed a “Public Ivy” offering a superior education that is affordable, too. Jon Stewart was a native of the tri-state New York/New Jersey region studying psychology before he held the reigns of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” aka one of the funniest politicos making fun of politics (at least in our humble opinion).

Kristin Cavallari
Profession: Reality T.V. Star
Alma Mater: Loyola Marymount University at LA
Major: Journalism

Today her name may be synonymous with drugs, rehab or ‘boyfriend stealer’ to those who watch MTV’s popular discontinued drama series “The Hills.” But back in the day Cavallari was the cute blonde on campus who wanted to be a broadcast journalist before the hit “Laguna Beach” ever came out. She never finished her time at Loyola Marymount, but says “I read a lot of books, you know.” [the NY Post] Loyola Marymount University is located in the heart of West Los Angeles, California, and was ranked one of the “Best Colleges in 2009” by U.S. News & World Report.

Joann Pan is a freelance writer and photographer based in New York City. She has interned and contributed to Buffalo Spree Magazine and Racked NY.