Presidents Day: Where Famous First Ladies Went to College

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

First Lady Alma MatersFrom Large Universities to Small Women’s Colleges, These Famous First Ladies Have Some Impressive Alma Maters


Every year we take time to honor our US presidents with Presidents’ Day – but what about our first ladies? Many of the presidents and first ladies that have come through the White House have been educated at some of the country’s finest colleges and universities, for both their undergraduate and graduate educations. This month we’ve focused a lot on leadership and how higher education can foster great leaders, like our nation’s presidents. The same applies to first ladies!

Many of these great spouses have used their education and experience to lead their own initiatives in the White House – from international relations and heath to public relations and beyond! These first ladies are great leaders themselves – and some can credit their great undergraduate alma maters for their education and success.

Here are some notable first ladies and the colleges they attended for their undergraduate education:

Michelle Obama: Michelle was an ivy leaguer just like her husband, completing her undergraduate degree at Princeton University, where her brother also studied. Her oft-discussed senior thesis was titled, “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community.” Attending the school has truly become a family tradition—Michelle’s niece is currently a freshman at the institution. Will Malia and Sasha follow in her footsteps?

Laura Bush: Born and raised in Texas, Laura attended college in her home state, graduating from Dallas’s Southern Methodist University with a degree in education. In 2009, she gave the school’s commencement address. While neither of Laura’s daughters went on to attend the institution, Jenna carried on the Texas trend by studying at UT-Austin.

Hillary Clinton and Nancy Reagan both attended women’s colleges, graduating from Wellesley and Smith, respectively. At Wellesley, Hillary surprisingly did not identify as a Democrat—rather, she served as president of the college’s Young Republicans group! She also was the president of the Wellesley student government and was chosen “last minute” to speak at the 1992 commencement. At Smith, Nancy majored in drama and became an actress after graduating.

Jackie Kennedy: One of our former first ladies was a transfer student and made her way from a small college to a large institution. Though she spent her first two years of school at Vassar, Jackie enrolled at the George Washington University in DC following a year spent abroad.

Pat Nixon: On the West Coast, Pat had received a research scholarship to attend the University of Southern California. As a student, she held a variety of campus jobs and still managed to graduate cum laude.

Other females who have made history in the political sphere received their degrees from a variety of universities. Condoleezza Rice graduated from the University of Denver, Sandra Day O’Connor received her degree from Stanford, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg studied at Cornell. Both Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor attended Princeton, graduating five years apart from one another.

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