GW is proud to boast numerous successful and famous alumni. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, these are some notable figures. Here are 15 famous alumni from George Washington University.
1. Colin Powell
In addition to being the first African American to serve as Secretary of State, Powell is also a four-star general who served as National Security Adviser and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first and presently only African-American to do so. After returning from his second tour in Vietnam, he earned a Master of Business Administration degree (MBA) from GW in 1971.
2. Kerry Washington
Washington has been nominated for an Emmy twice and a Golden Globe for her role as Olivia Pope in ABC’s Scandal. She is also known for roles in Django Unchained and two Fantastic Four films. Washington graduated GW in 1998 with a double major in anthropology and sociology (is there anything she can’t do?) She was in Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest honors society for liberal arts and sciences and one of the most prestigious.
3. Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy Onassis
The 35th First Lady of the United States, best known as Jackie Kennedy, graduated GW in 1951 with a degree in French Literature. One of our residence halls, JBKO, is named in her honor–“B” for Bouvier, her maiden name and her name at the time she attended, and “O” for Onassis, her name when she remarried years after President Kennedy was assassinated.
4. Anwar al-Awlaki
If we talk about our famous gem that is Jackie, we should unfortunately note our alumni who are famous for less-than-stellar reasons. Awlaki, who I wrote about in my article on little-known facts about GW, worked on a PhD at GW, though he never finished it.
He later became an al-Qaeda recruiter, and the first American to be targeted and killed by drone strike.
5. Red Auerbach
Auerbach coached basketball for the Washington Capitols and Tri-Cities Blackhawks (now the Atlanta Hawks) before coaching the Boston Celtics from 1950-1966; he later served as president and vice-chairman of the team. From 1957-1966 he won nine championship titles with the Celtics. He started at GW in 1937 after earning a basketball scholarship to the school
6. Harry Reid
Reid served as a U.S. senator from Nevada for 30 years, retiring at the start of this year, and has served as both the Senate Majority Leader and Minority Whip (depending on what party controlled the senate). While working for U.S. capitol police, Reid earned his J.D. from our law school, graduating in 1964.
7. John Foster Dulles
Dulles was Eisenhower’s Secretary of State from 1953 until his death in 1959. He was a prominent figure in the Cold War, advocating for a strong stance against communism, including supporting plans to overthrow the prime minister of Iran. During his undergrad he was also in Phi Beta Kappa honors society, and attended GW for law.
8. Elizabeth Warren
The senator from Massachusetts won a debate scholarship to GW when she was just 16, but left after two years when she married her high school boyfriend, who was moving to Houston as an engineer for NASA. She finished her degree at the University of Houston, majoring in speech pathology and audiology.
9. Syngman Rhee
Syngman Rhee (Korean: Rhee Syngman) earned a Bachelor of Arts from GW in 1907, while in exile in the United States. He had been imprisoned for suspicion that he had plotted against the king, but was released in 1904 at the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War. He became the first president of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in 1948.
10. J. Edgar Hoover
The now-infamous Hoover was the director of the Bureau of Information, the FBI’s predecessor, and played an instrumental role in founding the FBI, which he directed for over 35 years. He earned both a Bachelor and a Master of Law at GW, where he was also a member of Kappa Alpha.
11. Anousheh Ansari
In 2006, Ansari became the first Iranian to travel to space. She was the fourth space tourist, and the first woman to go as a space tourist to the International Space Station, where she performed several experiments on behalf of the European Space Agency. She earned her masters at GW.
12. Eric Cantor
Cantor was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001-2014, and served as House Minority Whip and House Majority leader during his time there. He completed his Bachelor of Arts at GW in 1985, and was a brother of Phi Sigma Kappa.
13. Tammy Duckworth
Senator Duckworth lost both of her legs while serving as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Iraq, making her the first disabled woman elected to the House of Representatives; she is also the first member of congress to be born in Thailand. She earned her masters at GW in international affairs, and is our 2017 commencement speaker.
14. Patricia Roberts Harris
Harris served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and then as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Carter. She was the first African-American woman to serve in the cabinet and first to enter the line of succession to the presidency. She was also the first African-American woman to be a U.S. ambassador, serving in Luxembourg under President Johnson. Harris earned her law degree from GW in 1960, graduating number one in her class.
15. Kellyanne Conway
Now best known as Counselor to President Trump or for making the term “alternative facts” a thing, Conway has also been a Republican strategist, campaign manager, and pollster. She earned her JD from GW law school in 1992.
Honorable mention: Alec Baldwin
Baldwin went to GW for two years before transferring to NYU. His ranking as just an honorable mention is due to the reasons he left GW; as the story goes, here at least, he decided to leave because he lost the election for our student association.