Heard Off the Street: Harvard breeds the most CEOs

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Mamas who want their babies to grow up to be CEOs rather than cowboys take heed: A new study indicates your chances may improve if you send them to Harvard University.

A study by Times Higher Education, a United Kingdom-based publication, revealed that 25 CEOs of companies in Fortune magazine's Global 500 hold at least one Harvard degree. The Cambridge, Mass., seat of higher learning easily beat out the second-biggest CEO breeding ground, the University of Tokyo, whose alumni include 13 CEOs on the list.

Harvard was one of four U.S. universities that made the top 10. The others were Stanford University (third), the University of Pennsylvania (seventh) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (eighth).

The rankings were based on the number of degrees awarded to CEOs, the number of CEOs who are graduates, and the annual revenue of the companies run by those CEOs.

Penn State University, which ranked 40th, was responsible for educating three Fortune 500 CEOs, as were 19 other schools. The Penn State graduates are Merck chairman, president and CEO Kenneth C. Frazier, who also holds a Harvard law degree; Nike CEO and president Mark G. Parker; and Archer Daniels Midland chairman, CEO and president Patricia A. Woertz.

Penn State finished far behind Big 10 rival Northwestern (No. 15) and just behind Princeton University (No. 36) and the University of Notre Dame (No. 37). However, it beat out three other Big 10 schools: Purdue University (No. 44), the University of Michigan (No. 46) and the University of Minnesota (No. 59). It can also boast of a higher ranking than Duke University (No. 58) and the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (No. 47).

The University of Pittsburgh was the only other Western Pennsylvania school ranked in the top 100. It placed 61st, topping new Atlantic Coast Conference rival University of Virginia (No. 75).

The Pitt alumni numbered among Fortune 500 CEOs are CVS Caremark president and CEO Larry J. Merlo, who earned a pharmacy degree, and U.S. Postal Service postmaster general and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe, who earned an economics degree from Pitt as well as a graduate degree from MIT.

Alcoa (No. 490) is the only company with strong Pittsburgh connections among the Fortune Global 500. Its chairman and CEO, Klaus Kleinfeld, earned a degree from the University of Gottingen in Germany, which ranked 29th.

Looked at another way, of the 38 U.S. schools among the top 100 CEO-producing institutions, six entered this weekend ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 NCAA football rankings. Stanford ranked the highest (No. 5) followed by Texas A&M (No. 7 for football, but No. 34 for CEOs).

The other four schools on both lists area Notre Dame, Michigan, Northwestern and the University of Southern California, which placed 23rd on the CEO list.

Speaking of the value of a good education, the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute says there is a link between how educated a state's residents are and that state's prosperity.

The Washington, D.C., policy research organization found that the four states with the most educated workforces -- as measured by the percentage of residents with bachelor's degrees or higher -- have substantially higher median wages than states with less educated workforces.

The four states with the most educated workforces are New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Arkansas, Nevada, Louisiana and Mississippi, the states with the lowest education levels, had comparatively very low median wages, the institute said.

Pennsylvania finished in the middle of the pack.

The institute found that there were no states with relatively highly educated workforces and relatively low wages and virtually no states with lower education levels and relatively high wages.

However, it noted that wages of the college educated and many other workers have not increased over the last decade, cautioning that education "is not a magic bullet for wage growth."

"The lesson of the relationship between educational attainment and median incomes is that investing in education is the path to state prosperity over the medium and longer term," the institute concluded.

It wants states to increase spending on education rather than cutting taxes to attract new business. The report described the latter policy as "a race-to-the-bottom state economic development strategy that undermines the ability to invest in education."

National unemployment figures for August released Friday indicate how important education is in finding a job. The overall jobless rate last month for those 25 years or older was 6.0 percent. But among those in that category, the jobless rate was 11.3 percent for those with less than a high school diploma, 7.6 percent for high school graduates. 6.1 percent for those with some college or an associate degree and 3.5 percent for those with a bachelor's degree or higher.


Len Boselovic: lboselovic@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1941.


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