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Anne Auer
Kelley School of Business

Last modified: Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New survey of CEOs' alma maters highlights role of IU in producing corporate leaders

June 2, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- According to a new survey released by Bloomberg, Indiana could be called "the cradle of chief executive officers."

Don Knauss

Don Knauss, CEO of Clorox, is one of eight IU undergraduate alumni included in Bloomberg's rankings of "CEO Undergraduate Alma Maters."

The business news service (which also publishes Bloomberg Businessweek magazine) ranked CEO undergraduate alma maters and found that more top leaders at Standard & Poor's 500 companies earned undergraduate degrees from Indiana University and the state's two other research institutions -- 23 in all.

IU and Purdue University each have eight undergraduate alumni serving as CEOs. The University of Notre Dame has seven undergraduate alumni CEOs.

The University of California tops the list with 12. A dozen CEOs also learned at what Bloomberg called "The School of Hard Knocks," which meant they had no college degree.

IU was ranked ninth overall in the survey, also listed in the Top 10 along with Harvard, the universities of Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin, and Dartmouth and Princeton.

"Ultimately, the success of any business school is measured by the success of its alumni," observed Daniel C. Smith, dean of IU's Kelley School of Business. "We have long emphasized preparing students in a well-rounded fashion with a strong grounding across all areas of business -- coupled with an emphasis on leadership and team collaboration. This preparation, along with the expectations we instill regarding high career achievement, obviously makes a difference."

Five were graduates of IU's Kelley School of Business:

  • Jeffrey Fettig, chairman and CEO of Whirlpool Corp., who earned a bachelor of science and a M.B.A. in 1981
  • Brian D. Jellison, chairman, president and CEO of Roper Industries Inc., who earned a B.S. degree in 1968;
  • David E. Simon, chairman and CEO, Simon Property Group Inc., who earned a B.S. degree in 1983;
  • Michael E. Szymanczyk, chairman and CEO of Altria Group Inc., who earned a B.S. degree in 1971
  • Bret W. Wise, chairman and CEO of Dentsply International Inc., who earned a B.S. degree in 1982

A related Bloomberg Businessweek article, "Accidental Moguls: College Majors of Top CEOs," noted that many CEOs started their academic lives studying something unrelated to business.

They include Donald Knauss, CEO of Clorox and the former CEO of Coca-Cola North America, who earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1977; and Gregory W. Cappelli, co-chief executive officer of Apollo Group Inc., who earned a bachelor's degree in economics in 1991. Both received their degrees from IU's College of Arts and Sciences.

Also recognized was Robert J. Gillette, CEO of First Solar Inc., who earned a B.S. in public affairs in 1982 from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The survey only takes undergraduate degrees into account. M.B.A. alumni of IU's Kelley School of Business who now lead Standard & Poor's companies were not included. About 500 Kelley M.B.A.s have either been or currently are CEOs at U.S. companies.

The Bloomberg list of CEO Undergraduate Alma Maters was created using a proprietary Bloomberg function to extract educational information for CEOs of the Standard & Poor's 500 companies. There are 10 CEOs for which Bloomberg was unable to confirm education information. Two companies have co-CEOs.

Where education information was not available, biographical data from individual company resources, the college or university directly or the Internet was used. Data is current as of April 30. The rankings are available online at