Published Date

May 18, 2021

Resource Type

AHA Resource, For Departments

AHA Topics

Career Paths, Professional Life, The History Major, Undergraduate Education

Did you know that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Conan O’Brien, and Sonia Sotomayor were history majors? This list offers an entertaining glimpse into the unusual careers some well-known history majors have pursued after their undergraduate studies.

Some of these history majors are famous, some are not so famous, and some are even infamous. Some, like Abdul-Jabbar, have remained committed to promoting history throughout their careers.

The list is not comprehensive, and inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by the AHA.  Since the focus of the list is on those who went on to careers outside of the historical profession, we have excluded individuals who currently draw significant income from writing or teaching about the past.



Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — NBA
Univ. of California, Los Angeles

Grant Hill — NBA
Duke Univ.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee — Athlete
Univ. of California, Los Angeles

Bud Selig — Commissioner of Baseball
Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison

Shaka Smart — Athlete and College Basketball Coach
Kenyon Coll.


Business and Nonprofits

Kenneth Chenault — CEO and Chairman, American Express; Chairman, General Catalyst Partners
Bowdoin Coll.

Chelsea Clinton — Author, Nonprofit Leader, and Health Advocate
Stanford Univ.

Carly Fiorina — Businesswoman, Hewlett-Packard
Stanford Univ.

Chris Hughes — Co-Founder, Facebook
Harvard Univ.

Sam Kass — Chef, Nonprofit Leader
Univ. of Chicago

Robert L. Johnson — Entrepreneur, BET
Univ. of Illinois

Alexis Ohanian — Co-Founder and Chairman, Reddit
Univ. of Virginia

Sam Palmisano — CEO, IBM
Johns Hopkins Univ.

John Pepper — CEO and Chairman, Procter & Gamble
Yale Univ.

Martha Stewart — Businesswoman
Barnard Coll.

Sevetri Wilson — CEO, Resilia
Louisiana State Univ.

Susan Diane Wojcicki — CEO, YouTube
Harvard Univ.


Film and Television

Sean Astin — Actor
Univ. of California, Los Angeles

Ellen Barkin — Actor
Hunter Coll.

Sacha Baron Cohen — Comedian
Univ. of Cambridge

Dean Cain — Actor
Princeton Univ.

Steve Carell — Comedian
Denison Univ.

Julia Child — Chef, Author, TV Presenter
Smith Coll.

Larry David — Comedian
Univ. of Maryland

Brian Dennehy — Actor
Columbia Univ.

Will Forte — Actor
Univ. of California, Los Angeles

Cary Fukunaga — Director
Univ. of California, Santa Cruz

Katherine Hepburn — Actor
Bryn Mawr Coll.

John Lithgow — Actor
Harvard Univ. (History and Literature)

Christopher Meloni — Actor
Univ. of Colorado Boulder

Errol Morris — Documentarian
Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison

Edward Norton — Actor
Yale Univ.

Conan O’Brien — Comedian
Harvard Univ. (History and Literature)

Michael Palin — Actor
Univ. of Oxford


Journalism and Writing

Ramtin Arablouei — Journalist, NPR
Saint Mary’s Coll. of Maryland

Chris Berman — Commentator, ESPN
Brown Univ.

Wolf Blitzer — Journalist, CNN
Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York

Terry Gannon — Sportscaster
North Carolina State Univ.

Jasmine Guillory — Novelist
Wellesley Coll.

Alix Harrow — Novelist
Berea Coll.

Seymour Hersh — Journalist, New Yorker
Univ. of Chicago

Mikki Kendall — Author and Commentator
Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Charles Kuralt — Journalist, CBS
Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Annie Proulx — Novelist
Univ. of Vermont

Kai Ryssdal — Host, NPR’s Marketplace
Emory Univ.

Kristen Welker — Journalist, NBC
Harvard Univ.



Eric Holder — Former US Attorney General
Columbia Univ.

Elena Kagan — US Supreme Court Justice
Princeton Univ.

Brett Kavanaugh — US Supreme Court Justice
Yale Univ.

Joshua Matz — Attorney
Univ. of Pennsylania

John Roberts — US Supreme Court Chief Justice
Harvard Univ.

Antonin Scalia — Former US Supreme Court Justice
Georgetown Univ.

Sonia Sotomayor — US Supreme Court Justice
Princeton Univ.

Joshua Stein — Attorney General of North Carolina
Dartmouth Coll.



Jimmy Buffett — Singer-songwriter
Univ. of Southern Mississippi

Anthony da Costa — Singer-songwriter
Columbia Univ.



John Baldacci — Governor of Maine
Univ. of Maine, Orono

Joseph Biden Jr. — US President
Univ. of Delaware

Gordon Brown — UK Prime Minister
Univ. of Edinburgh

George W. Bush — US President
Yale Univ.

Tom Cole — US House of Representatives
Grinnell Coll.

Ron DeSantis — Governor of Florida
Yale Univ.

Ken Dryden — NHL, Canadian Parliament
Cornell Univ.

Newt Gingrich — US House of Representatives
Emory Univ.

Orrin Hatch — US Senate
Brigham Young Univ.

Josh Hawley — US Senate
Stanford Univ.

Deidre Henderson — Utah Lt. Governor
Brigham Young Univ.

Richard Nixon — US President
Whittier Coll.

Stacey Plaskett — US House of Representatives Delegate
Georgetown Univ.

Susan Rice — National Security Advisor, Domestic Policy Council Director
Stanford Univ.

Pat Robertson — Televangelist and Presidential Candidate
Washington and Lee Univ.

Franklin D. Roosevelt — US President
Harvard Univ.


Famous History Majors is maintained and updated by AHA staff. The AHA is grateful to Catherine M. Burns (Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison), who provided the basis for the original version of this compilation, and to Charles V. Reed (Elizabeth City State Univ.) for additional suggestions.