10 US Presidents With The Highest Recognized Degrees

American presidents may have had different views on education, but they all agreed that it served as an engine for change. John F. Kennedy said “The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.” His predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt had a more cynical view: “A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.

Were all American presidents educated? Yes. Did all of them go to school? Surprisingly the answer is No. But they were all knowledgeable enough to know the responsibilities that came with the job.

Some of the most literate American presidents of all time may surprise you.

Please note the following list is in no chronological order.

1. Woodrow Wilson

The 28th President of the United States (March 1913 - March 1921) was perhaps the most educated of the lot. He held a Ph.D. in history and political science from Johns Hopkins University and had to even learn German to complete his degree. His doctoral dissertation was titled “Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics.

2. William Howard Taft

Being the 27th President of the United States (March 1909 -March 1913), he graduated from both Yale College and later Cincinnati Law School. While at Yale, he was known as “Big Lub” and “Old Bill”. He was also a heavyweight wrestling champion at Yale. An interesting bit of trivia about President Taft is that he was a member of the infamous Skull and Bones society at Yale.

3. Franklin Pierce

This 14th President of the United States (March 1853 March 1857) graduated from Bowdoin College and was a lawyer by profession. There is a record of him attending Northampton Law School; however there is no clear evidence to show that he actually graduated. Nevertheless, he managed a very successful law career before entering politics.

4. Rutherford B. Hayes

The 19th President (March 1877 March 1881) was a graduate of Harvard Law. There is an interesting parallel between his presidential election and George W. Bush’s; both lost the popular vote but won the required Electoral College votes. In other words, both were elected but not selected.

5. Bill Clinton

The 42nd President of the United Sates (January 1993 January 2001) is a graduate of Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, University College, Oxford University (he never graduated though and this is where he never inhaled) and Yale Law. A native of Arkansas, he had a successful political career in his home state before becoming one of the presidents of the United States.

6. Gerald Ford

(August 1974 January 1977) Yes, Gerald Ford was the one who pardoned Nixon. He was a graduate of Yale Law. Before Yale he had graduated from the University of Michigan where he played football. Matter of fact, he applied to Yale as an assistant coach and wanted to study at its law school at the same time.

7. George W. Bush

The 43rd President of the United States (January 2001 January 2009) is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Business School. While at Yale, he majored in history and graduated with a B.A. From Harvard Business School, he graduated with an MBA degree. Mission Accomplished!

8. John F. Kennedy

The 35th President of the United States (January 1961 November 1963) was a graduate of Harvard College. At Harvard he majored in international relations and graduated with a Bachelor of Science cum laude. His thesis titled “Appeasement in Munich” later became a bestseller under the title “Why England Slept”. Who would’ve known that his degree would come in handy when dealing with the Soviets and the Cubans?

9. Richard Nixon

The 37th President of the United States (January 1969 August 1974) was a graduate of Whittier College and Duke University School of Law. During his law school days he was so committed and hardworking that he earned the nickname “Iron Butt” for spending endless hours in the library. Later he became the first president ever to resign from office.

10. Barack Obama

The 44th and current President of the United States (January 2009 - Present) is also one of the most educated presidents. He is a graduate of Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School. While at Columbia, he majored in political science. He graduated with a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law. Some say he is also the ‘second’ black president of the United States.

Do you think if they had majored in a different degree, their career paths and tenure as Presidents would have been different? Let us know what you think.


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