College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Famous English Majors

When you look around, you can find English majors in all kinds of careers.

. . . writers, of course, like Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison or Booker Prize-winner Aravind Adiga (author of The White Tiger: "I've wanted to be a novelist since I was a boy. I studied English literature—a lot of Elizabethan drama—at university, and wanted to write a novel about India that would be vivid, political, and funny, like The Duchess of Malfi set in Delhi") or best-selling authors like Pat Conroy, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, and Stephanie Meyer (or, from an earlier era, Elizabeth Seifert or Frank Yerby);

. . . museum curators, like John Baur (curator of the Brooklyn Museum and later director of the Whitney Museum in New York City) or Daniel Rich (director of fine arts at the Art Institute of Chicago and later director of the Worcester Art Museum);

. . . advertising writers and executives, like William Bernbach (legendary copy writer and co-founder of the Doyle Dane Bernbach ad agency), who maintained that imagination and wit are of far greater importance than market research in producing successful ad campaigns;

. . . school and college administrators, like Hollis Caswell (who eventually became president of Columbia University's Teachers College) or John Cavanaugh (who eventually became president of the University of Notre Dame);

. . . television and radio broadcasters, like Diane Sawyer (anchor of ABC's World News) or Andrea Mitchell (NBC news) or Howard Cosell (the well-known sports broadcaster) or David Faber (a market news reporter for CNBC, who has received a Peabody Award and two Emmys) or David Garroway (who established the Today show and hosted it for its first decade) or Garrison Keillor (host of Prairie Home Companion);

. . . screenwriters, like Herman Mankiewicz (who co-wrote the screenplay for Citizen Kane) or Paul Osborn (who wrote the adaptation of Steinbeck's East of Eden), and playwrights, like Arthur Miller or Christopher Durang or David Henry Hwang

. . . film directors, like Ed Burns and Derek Jarman;

. . . librarians, like Nancy Burdick Galbraith (head of the Poetry and Literature Center of the Library of Congress) or Jesse Shera (dean of the Western Reserve [later Case Western Reserve] Library School);

. . . economists, like Alvin Hansen (who did a BA in English before going on to study economics: he later held a chair in Political Economy at Harvard and was president of the American Economics Association);

. . . social activists and authors, like Michael Harrington (author of The Other America, among many other books) or Henry Spira (a noted animal rights activist);

. . . religious figures, like Philip Berrigan (a Roman Catholic priest) or Thomas Merton (a Trappist monk);

. . . actors and actresses, like Katharine Hepburn or Alan Alda or Sigourney Weaver or Jodie Foster or Emma Thompson or Matt Damon (who probably don't need any introduction) or Carroll O'Connor (who portrayed the character "Archie Bunker" on All in the Family) or Emma Watson (who plays "Hermione" in the Harry Potter movies and started at Brown University in Fall 2009, to study English literature: "It sounds so geeky, but I really do like studying and reading, and if I’m not working on Harry Potter, then my greatest relaxation is to sit with a book. That’s how I escape stress—in literature");

. . . musicians and songwriters, like Mark Knopfler or Paul Simon or Kris Kristofferson or Chris Isaak;

. . . journalists and editors, like Thomas Matthews (editor of Time) or Gretchen Morgenstern (Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist at the New York Times) or Bob Woodward (reporter for the Washington Post);

. . . lawyers, judges, and legal professionals, like Douglas Baird (former dean of the University of Chicago Law School) or John Paul Stevens and Clarence Thomas (justices of the Supreme Court);

. . . politicians, like Mitt Romney (former presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts) or Pete Wilson (former governor of California), and government administrators, like Carol Browner (former head of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy and former head of the EPA);

. . . medical doctors, like Benjamin Spock (who became the best-known childcare writer in the United States) or Harold Varmus (Nobel laureate in medicine and former director of the NIH), or psychologists, like B. F. Skinner (doyen of behaviorist psychology) or Rollo May (pioneer of existentialist psychology in the United States);

. . . scientists and science writers, like Sally Ride (physicist and astronaut), Rachel Carson (who started out as an English major before becoming a biologist), or Edwin Teale (Pulitzer Prize-winning naturalist);

. . . historians, like Pulitzer Prize-winner Allan Nevins, or folklorists, like Américo Paredes, or linguists, like S. I. Hayawaka (who later became a university president and a politician);

. . . children's book writers, like Peggy Parish (author of the Amelia Bedelia books), and children's book illustrators, like Quentin Blake (illustrator of Roald Dahl's books, among many others);

. . . humorists and comedians, like S. J. Perelman or Dave Barry or Chevy Chase or Joan Rivers;

 . . . television and film executives and producers, like Herb Scannell (president of Nickelodeon Networks and of MTV Networks Group) or Grant Tinker (former chairman and CEO of NBC) or Michael Lynne (co-founder of New Line Cinema);

. . . business executives, like Hank Paulson (former chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs and former Secretary of the Treasury) or Anne M. Mulcahy (former CEO and chairwoman of Xerox Corp.) or Steve Wynn (real estate developer);

       . . . and people in many other professions . . . people working with computers, networking, and IT; managers and human resource personnel; counselors for schools, colleges, financial aid; proofreaders and indexers; people in sales and marketing; policy analysts, political aides, press secretaries; speech writers, publicists, and public relations managers; program managers and event coordinators; fund-raisers and development or outreach coordinators; and on and on.

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