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15 Famous Syracuse University Alumni

15 Famous Syracuse University Alumni

Syracuse University has many notable alumni who have gone on to accomplish amazing things. These are some famous Syracuse University Alumni!

Syracuse University is an amazing college for so many reasons! From Shaquille O’Neal to Betsey Johnson, here are 15 Famous Syracuse University Alumni you may not have known about!

1. Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams graduated high school as one of twelve students accepted into Carnegie Mellon University’s theatre arts program. However, she chose to study at Syracuse University and attended from 1981 to 1983 when she entered the Miss Greater Syracuse pageant. This lead to her becoming the first crowned African-American Miss America. She later became a 16-time Grammy nominated musical artist and actor starring in TV shows, movies, and on Broadway. She received her bachelor of fine arts degree from Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts in May, 2008.

2. Robert Jarvik

Robert Jarvik, biomedical engineer of the first fully functioning artificial heart, began his collegiate education at Syracuse University in 1964, originally studying mechanical drawing and architecture. However, after his father was diagnosed with heart disease, he adjusted his major to a pre-med track and graduated in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in zoology.


3. Joe Biden

The 47th Vice President of the United States attended Syracuse University’s College of Law. Despite finding law school to be “the biggest bore in the world”, he graduated in 1968. He has since returned to deliver Syracuse University College of Law’s Commencement addresses in 1994, 2002, 2006, 2009 and 2016. Also to promote his “It’s On Us” educational campaign to combat sexual assault and to receive an honorary degree from the University.

4. Jerry Stiller

Jerry Stiller, father of Ben and Amy Stiller, is a comedic actor known for his roles on Seinfeld and King of Queens. He was a theatre major at Syracuse University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Speech and Drama in 1950.

5. Eileen Collins

Eileen Collins is one of the only two female NASA Space Shuttle Commanders.  She received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics from Syracuse University in 1978.


6. Carmelo Anthony

The current New York Knicks NBA player attended Syracuse University from 2002-2003 where he led the ‘Cuse team to their first NCAA tournament victory in 2003. Although he intended to attend Syracuse for a few basketball seasons, he received permission to leave the team and declare himself eligible for the 2003 NBA draft.

7. Dick Clark

Dick Clark attended Syracuse University, was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and graduated in 1951 with bachelor’s degree in Advertising and a minor in radio. Known for his work as an American TV and radio personality, he became successful and now has a high-tech entertainment production studio in Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Public Communications named in his honor.

8. Steve Rubell

Steve Rubell was a co-owner of the famed New York disco Studio 54 where Bianca Jagger, Calvin Klein and Donald Trump were regulars. While he originally attended Syracuse University to study dentistry, he switched to a major in finance and received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.


9. Emme Rylan

A Syracuse 1985 graduate from the College of Visual and Performing arts. She is often referred to as the first plus size supermodel and was the first plus size supermodel selected for People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 1994. She attended Syracuse University on a full athletic scholarship for their crew team.

10. Lisa Lampinelli

Lisa Lampinelli, a stand up comic known for her work as “Comedy’s Lovable Queen of Mean”, graduated with a Journalism degree in 1983 from Syracuse University. Although she doesn’t credit her comedic success to her degree, she did acquire a strong work ethic while attending SU.

11. Ina Garten

Ina Garten, also known as The Barefoot Contessa, is a successful business woman and chef on Food Network. Despite her career in culinary arts, she briefly studied Economics at Syracuse University before postponing her education to marry her husband, Jeffrey Garten.

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12. Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt, considered to be the founder of Minimal and Conceptual art, graduated from The School of Art and Design in Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts in 1949. His sculpture “Six Curved Walls” can be seen on the Syracuse University campus on the hillside of Crouse College.

13. Betsey Johnson

Fashion designer Betsey Johnson studied at the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. She was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa society, and graduated magna cum laude in 1964.


14. Vera Farminga

American Actress Vera Farminga studied performing arts at Syracuse University and graduated in 1995. Since then, she has starred in many productions including movies like The Conjuring and Orphan. She currently stars in the television show Bates Motel as Norma Louise Bates.

15. Shaquille O’Neal

NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, also known as Shaq, studied at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School in a three-day course called Sportscaster U. This program is geared towards NBA players looking to pursue broadcasting after their careers.

Do you know any more famous Syracuse University Alumni? Share in the comments below!
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