100 Cornell University Notable Alumni You Should Know


Cornell University, founded in 1865, stands as a bastion of academic excellence and innovation. With a rich history and a tradition of fostering outstanding talent, Cornell University Notable Alumni have produced a diverse array of accomplished individuals who have made indelible marks on the world.

In this blog post, we take you on a journey through the lives and achievements of 100 Cornell University Notable Alumni from various fields. From Nobel laureates to business leaders, this list is a testament to Cornell’s enduring legacy of producing world-changing individuals.

List of 100 Cornell University Notable Alumni

We’ve compiled a list of 100 remarkable Cornell alumni, each with their own unique contributions and achievements. They are categorized into various fields, showcasing the diversity and depth of talent that Cornell University has nurtured. Here are some fields and details of Cornell University Notable Alumni:

  • Nobel Laureates
  • Business Leaders
  • Tech Visionaries
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Authors and Poets
  • Science and Innovation
  • Education and Academia
  • Social Activists and Humanitarians
  • Cornell University Athletics
  • Media and Journalism
  • Astronauts and Space Exploration
  • Environmental Conservation

Nobel Laureates

Following are the Cornell University Notable Alumni as Nobel Laureates:

Richard Feynman

He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 for his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics. Feynman is also known for his work in theoretical physics and his famous “Feynman diagrams.”

Robert F. Furchgott

He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1998 for his research on the role of nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system.

Kurt Wüthrich

Wüthrich was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2002 for his work on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, which is crucial for determining the three-dimensional structures of biological macromolecules.

Steven Chu

He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 for his development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. Chu served as the United States Secretary of Energy from 2009 to 2013.

Robert C

Richardson: He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1996 for his work on superfluidity in helium-3. Richardson conducted his research while at Cornell.

Hans Bethe

Bethe received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967 for his work on the nuclear processes that power the stars, including the fusion process that occurs in the sun.

Leon Cooper

Cooper was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1972 for his contributions to the theory of superconductivity, known as the BCS theory (named after Bardeen, Cooper, and Schrieffer).

Toni Morrison

The recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature is known for her powerful storytelling.

Business Leaders

Following are the Cornell University Business Leaders:

Robert F. Smith

A billionaire philanthropist and founder of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that specializes in software and technology investments.

David Duffield

The founder of Workday, a leading cloud-based enterprise software company, and a co-founder of PeopleSoft, a well-known enterprise software company.

Sallie Krawcheck

A prominent Wall Street executive who served as the CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Smith Barney, among other roles. She is also the co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women.

Charles Phillips

The CEO of Infor, an enterprise software company, and former president of Oracle Corporation.

Irene Rosenfeld

Former CEO of Mondelez International (formerly known as Kraft Foods) and a prominent figure in the food and consumer goods industry.

Ann M. Fudge

A seasoned business executive who has held leadership positions at major corporations, including Young & Rubicam Brands and General Electric.

Marillyn Hewson

The former CEO and Chairman of Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest defense contractors.

Robert J. Stevens

The former CEO and Chairman of Lockheed Martin and a respected figure in the aerospace and defense industry.

Sanjay Jha

The former CEO of Motorola Mobility and former COO of Qualcomm, with a strong background in the telecommunications and technology sectors.

Ken Chenault

The former CEO and Chairman of American Express, where he played a crucial role in expanding the company’s global presence.

Benno Dorer

The CEO of The Clorox Company, a consumer goods and cleaning products manufacturer.

Adrienne Harris

A prominent economist and fintech executive who has served as the Chief Business Development Officer at States Title and an advisor to various financial and tech organizations.

Indra Nooyi

Former CEO of PepsiCo, a renowned figure in the business world.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Is a former member of the U.S. Supreme Court, and was celebrated for her unwavering commitment to championing the cause of gender equality.

Tech Visionaries

Following are the Cornell University Notable Alumni as Tech Visionaries:

Robert Tappan Morris

A computer scientist and entrepreneur, Robert Morris is best known for creating the first computer worm, the Morris Worm, in 1988. He is also a co-founder of the influential startup accelerator Y Combinator.

Ann Doerr

Ann Doerr is a technology investor and philanthropist. She has been a strong advocate for women in technology and serves on the board of Khan Academy, a nonprofit educational organization.

Randy Pausch (1959-2008)

The late Randy Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He gained worldwide recognition for his “Last Lecture,” a motivational talk that became a bestselling book, “The Last Lecture.” His work inspired many in the field of technology.

David Duffield

David Duffield is the co-founder of PeopleSoft and Workday, two influential software companies. Workday, in particular, has made significant advancements in cloud-based human resources and finance software.

Steve Souders

An expert in web performance optimization, Steve Souders is a web developer and author. He has worked for tech giants like Google and Yahoo, contributing to web development and performance improvement.

Kara Swisher

A well-known tech journalist and co-founder of Recode, Kara Swisher has been at the forefront of tech reporting, offering insights and analysis on the industry’s leading companies and personalities.

Anil Dash

Anil Dash is a prominent tech entrepreneur and blogger. He co-founded ThinkUp and is known for his work in the open-source and social web spaces.

Irene Greif 

Irene Greif is a computer scientist and the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in computer science from MIT. She has made notable contributions to collaborative software and social computing.

David Filo

Co-founder of Yahoo! along with Jerry Yang, David Filo played a key role in building one of the earliest and most influential internet companies.

Steve Blank

A serial entrepreneur and educator, Steve Blank is known for developing the Customer Development methodology, a key concept in the Lean Startup movement.

Mae Jemison

The first African-American woman in space and a trailblazer in science and technology.

Douglas Engelbart

Inventor of the computer mouse and a pioneer in human-computer interaction.

Ann-Marie Slaughter

A prominent international relations scholar and former director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department.

Arts and Entertainment

Following are the Cornell University Notable Alumni in Arts and Entertainment:

Bill Nye

Known as “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” he is a science educator, engineer, and television personality, famous for his educational science programs.

Cynthia Nixon

An accomplished actress, she is best known for her role as Miranda Hobbes in the TV series “Sex and the City.”

Christopher Reeve

The late actor is famous for his portrayal of Superman in the 1978 film and its sequels. He was also involved in advocacy for spinal cord injury research.

John Cleese

A comedic legend and one of the founding members of the Monty Python comedy group, known for his work in “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Tony Shalhoub

An Emmy-winning actor known for his roles in TV series like “Monk” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and films like “Men in Black.”

Laura Linney

A renowned actress, she has received multiple Academy Award nominations and has starred in various films and TV series, including “The Big C.”

Ann Coulter

A conservative political commentator, author, and public speaker known for her controversial writings and appearances in the media.

Lena Waithe

An actress, producer, and screenwriter known for her work on the TV series “Master of None” and for co-writing the film “Queen & Slim.”

David Foster Wallace

A celebrated writer known for his novels, essays, and non-fiction works, including “Infinite Jest” and “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.”

Peter Yarrow

A folk singer and member of the iconic trio Peter, Paul, and Mary, known for songs like “Puff, the Magic Dragon” and his activism.

Ken Auletta

A prolific writer and journalist known for his work in The New Yorker, as well as books like “Googled: The End of the World As We Know It.”

Jimmy Smits

Is a highly skilled actor celebrated for his performances in iconic television shows such as “L.A. Law,” “NYPD Blue,” and “The West Wing.”

Matt Selman

A writer and producer, known for his work on the long-running animated series “The Simpsons.”

Greta Gerwig

An actress, writer, and director known for her work on films like “Lady Bird” and “Little Women.

Ed Helms

An actor and comedian, famous for his roles in “The Office” and “The Hangover” series.

Authors and Poets

Following are the Cornell University Notable Alumni those famous as Authors and Poets:

Kurt Vonnegut

The renowned American author, best known for his satirical and darkly comedic novels such as “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “Cat’s Cradle,” attended Cornell University.

E. B. White

The co-author of “The Elements of Style” and the author of beloved children’s books, including “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little,” is a Cornell alum.

Marilynne Robinson

An accomplished novelist and essayist, Marilynne Robinson is known for her novels such as “Gilead,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and “Housekeeping.”

Junot Díaz

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and “This Is How You Lose Her” is a Cornell graduate.

Robert Morgan

A poet and novelist, Robert Morgan has written numerous books, including the novel “Gap Creek” and collections of poetry like “Groundwork.”

Alice Fulton

An accomplished poet, essayist, and author, Alice Fulton is known for her works such as “Felt” and “The Nightingales of Troy.”

Leni Zumas

Leni Zumas, the author of the novel “Red Clocks,” is known for her thought-provoking and feminist literature.

Keith Gessen

An author, journalist, and editor, Keith Gessen is known for his novel “A Terrible Country” and his work as a founding editor of n+1 magazine.

Gillian Flynn

While known for her work in literature, Gillian Flynn’s novels, including “Gone Girl,” have had a significant impact on both the literary and film industries.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri, known for works like “Interpreter of Maladies” and “The Namesake,” earned her graduate degree from Cornell.

Science and Innovation

Following are the Cornell University Notable Alumni in Science and Innovation:

Carl Sagan

A renowned astronomer, astrophysicist, and science communicator, known for his work on the Voyager Golden Record and the popular science series “Cosmos.”

John L. Hennessy

A computer scientist and former President of Stanford University, he made significant contributions to computer architecture and co-founded MIPS Computer Systems.

Gerald Edelman

A neuroscientist who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1972 for his work on the structure of antibodies and the immune system.

Jan Vilcek

An immunologist who co-developed the anti-inflammatory drug Remicade and made substantial contributions to the understanding of the immune system.

Walter LaFeber

A historian and author known for his works on American foreign policy and diplomatic history, including “The American Age.”

David J. Wineland

A physicist who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2012 for his work in the field of quantum optics and quantum information processing.

Richard Thaler

An economist and behavioral scientist known for his work in the field of behavioral economics, which earned him the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2017.

Jeffrey Bewkes

A media executive who served as the CEO of Time Warner, overseeing major innovations and developments in the media and entertainment industry.

Education and Academia

Following are the Cornell University Notable Alumni in Education and Academia:

Sandra Fluke

Known for her advocacy for women’s rights and healthcare access, Fluke is a social justice lawyer who earned her law degree from Georgetown University but has been involved in various educational and advocacy roles.

Thomas Pynchon

A renowned American author, Pynchon attended Cornell and later became an influential figure in literature and academia with his complex and innovative novels.

Kavita Ramdas

A leader in global philanthropy, Ramdas has served as the President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, contributing significantly to the field of women’s rights and education worldwide.

David Boren

As a former U.S. Senator and Governor of Oklahoma, Boren also served as the President of the University of Oklahoma, making notable contributions to higher education and public service.

Barbara McClintock

A pioneering geneticist, McClintock received a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discovery of transposons. She conducted much of her groundbreaking research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Andrew Dickson White

As one of the co-founders and the first President of Cornell University, White played a crucial role in shaping the institution’s academic direction and philosophy.

Pearl S. Buck

A prolific writer and novelist, Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938. Her novels often explored the themes of China and the cultural exchange between East and West.

Social Activists and Humanitarians

Following are the Cornell University Notable Alumni in the field of Social Activists and Humanitarians:

Elaine Heumann Gurian 

A Cornell alumna, Gurian is a museum consultant and activist who has been a pioneer in the field of museums and social inclusion, focusing on accessibility and diversity.

Paul Farmer

Although he completed his undergraduate degree at Duke University, Paul Farmer, a renowned physician and anthropologist, earned his PhD from Cornell. He co-founded Partners In Health, a global health organization, and has been a leading advocate for global health equity.

Julian Bond

The late Julian Bond, a prominent civil rights activist, was a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Law. He was a key figure in the civil rights movement and served as the chairman of the NAACP.

Martha Pollack

As the 14th President of Cornell University, Martha Pollack has used her position to promote diversity, inclusion, and social justice on campus.

Isabel Wilkerson

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, Isabel Wilkerson attended Cornell. Her work, including the book “The Warmth of Other Suns,” focuses on the history of the Great Migration and the impact of racial segregation.

John H. Schnatter

Founder of Papa John’s Pizza, John H. Schnatter has been involved in various philanthropic endeavors, including supporting healthcare and education initiatives.

Nina Federoff

A plant biologist, geneticist, and advocate for science, Nina Federoff has used her expertise to address global issues like food security and biotechnology. She earned her Ph.D. from Cornell.

Cornell University Athletics

Following are the Cornell University Notable Alumni in Athletics:

Ed Marinaro

A former NFL player and actor, Marinaro was a star running back at Cornell and a Heisman Trophy finalist in 1971. He played in the NFL for several teams, including the Minnesota Vikings.

Ryan Wittman

A standout basketball player at Cornell, Wittman set numerous school records and played professionally in Europe after college.

Ken Dryden 

A hockey legend, Dryden played for the Cornell Big Red before embarking on a successful NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens. He’s a six-time Stanley Cup champion and a Hall of Famer.

Maxie Baughan

A former NFL linebacker who was a standout on Cornell’s football team. He played for several NFL teams, including the Philadelphia Eagles.

Svante Myrick 

While not a professional athlete, Myrick is notable for being one of the youngest mayors in the United States. He played a pivotal role in promoting sports and recreation during his tenure as Mayor of Ithaca, New York.

Kelsey Deschanel

A former Ivy League champion in the pole vault, Deschanel is known for her achievements in track and field at Cornell.

Kyle Dake

Dake is a four-time NCAA wrestling champion at Cornell, a rare accomplishment. He’s continued his success in international wrestling competitions.

C.J. Lee

A former captain of Cornell’s basketball team, Lee went on to play professionally in Europe after college.

Derrick Harmon

A standout running back in the NFL, Harmon played for the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers.

Stephanie McFarland

McFarland is a former professional soccer player who represented the United States in international competitions. She had a successful collegiate soccer career at Cornell.

Media and Journalism

Following are the Cornell University Notable Alumni in the field of Media and Journalism:

Bill Maher

Bill Maher is a comedian, political commentator, and the host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” He is known for his satirical and political commentary.

Keith Olbermann

Keith Olbermann is a sports and political commentator, as well as a former ESPN and MSNBC host. He is known for his work on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann. His contributions are celebrated for his involvement in the production of ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Richard Engel

A renowned foreign correspondent, Richard Engel serves as the chief foreign correspondent for NBC News and has covered major global events.

Ezra Klein

Ezra Klein is a journalist, political commentator, and co-founder of Vox Media. He’s known for his analysis of U.S. politics and policy.

Catherine Crier

A former judge and journalist, Catherine Crier has worked for CNN, ABC News, and Court TV, where she hosted “Catherine Crier Live.”

Robert Frank

Robert Frank is a CNBC correspondent and author known for his work on wealth and luxury.

Carl Zimmer

As a science writer and journalist, Carl Zimmer has contributed to The New York Times and authored numerous books on scientific topics.

David Folkenflik

David Folkenflik is an NPR media correspondent, providing coverage of the media industry and journalism ethics.

Allison P. Davis

Allison P. Davis is a prominent journalist and senior culture writer at New York Magazine, covering topics related to culture, entertainment, and society.

Elizabeth Spiers

Elizabeth Spiers is a journalist, editor, and entrepreneur who co-founded Gawker Media and has worked with various media outlets.

Astronauts and Space Exploration

Following are the Cornell University Notable Alumni in the field of Astronauts and Space Exploration:

Frank Borman

Frank Borman, a Cornell graduate, was the commander of the Apollo 8 mission, which was the first crewed spacecraft to orbit the Moon. He played a pivotal role in the early days of human space exploration.

Edgar Mitchell

Edgar Mitchell, an astronaut and Apollo 14 lunar module pilot, was the sixth person to walk on the Moon. He earned his doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics from Cornell.

Charles “Pete” Conrad

Pete Conrad, an astronaut and commander of Apollo 12, became the third person to walk on the Moon. He attended Cornell and made significant contributions to space exploration.

Al Worden

Alfred Worden, a graduate of Cornell, served as the command module pilot for Apollo 15. He was part of the fourth crew to land on the Moon and conducted spacewalks during the mission.

Laurel B. Clark

Laurel Clark was a NASA astronaut who tragically lost her life in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. She earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Cornell.

Steven Squyres

While not an astronaut, Steven Squyres is a prominent figure in space exploration. He is a professor at Cornell and served as the principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover Mission (Spirit and Opportunity), which made significant discoveries on Mars.

James A. Pawelczyk

James Pawelczyk is a Cornell alumnus who became an astronaut candidate and, although he didn’t fly in space, played a role in space research. He was a payload specialist and conducted physiological experiments on space shuttle missions.

Environmental Conservation

Following are the Cornell University Notable Alumni in the field of Environmental Conservation:

Carl Safina

A prominent marine ecologist and environmental writer, Safina founded the Blue Ocean Institute and has worked extensively on ocean conservation and marine life protection.

Nina Fedoroff

A molecular biologist and plant biologist, Fedoroff has been a strong advocate for agricultural sustainability and biotechnology in agriculture.

Scott Black

An environmentalist and the Executive Director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Black has focused on the preservation and conservation of endangered invertebrate species.

Ari Novy

Novy is a conservation biologist and the CEO of the San Diego Zoo Global, where he has led efforts in wildlife conservation and sustainability.

Anne M. Ehrlich and Paul R. Ehrlich

A husband-and-wife team of biologists, the Ehrlichs are known for their work on population biology and environmental issues. They have written extensively on the topics of overpopulation and species extinction.

David Skelly

Skelly is a prominent herpetologist and conservation biologist, known for his work on amphibians and reptiles and his efforts to conserve endangered species.

Robert S. Lawrence

A physician and expert in public health and environmental health, Lawrence has focused on the links between public health and environmental conservation.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins

Ellis-Lamkins is a social and environmental justice advocate who has worked on issues related to climate change and community empowerment.

Karen Holl

A conservation biologist, Holl is known for her work in tropical reforestation and habitat restoration, particularly in Costa Rica.

Thomas Lovejoy

A pioneering conservation biologist, Lovejoy coined the term “biological diversity” and has been a prominent voice in the field of biodiversity conservation.

Connection to Cornell University 

The success of these notable alumni can be attributed, in part, to the educational and research opportunities Cornell University provided. Cornell’s commitment to fostering talent and innovation has undoubtedly played a role in shaping the careers of these remarkable individuals. 

If you’re interested in exploring acceptance rates at other prestigious universities, you might want to take a closer look at the University of Michigan’s acceptance rate and also consider Georgia Tech’s acceptance rate. Understanding these acceptance rates can provide valuable insights into the admissions process at these institutions.


In conclusion, our journey through the legacy of Cornell University’s notable alumni promises to be both enlightening and inspiring. As we uncover the stories of these 100 remarkable individuals, we hope to leave you with a deep appreciation for the impact that this prestigious institution has had on the world. While we’re on the subject of renowned educational institutions, 

if you’re interested in exploring the achievements of alumni from other universities, such as Carnegie Mellon University, Baylor University, and Binghamton University, we have a wealth of fascinating stories waiting for you in our other blog posts. 

These institutions, like Cornell, have played a pivotal role in shaping the lives of countless individuals who’ve gone on to make a lasting mark on the world. So, why not delve into the exceptional accomplishments of alumni from these universities and discover the diverse paths they’ve taken to success?


Why is Cornell University known for its alumni?

Cornell University has a long history of producing exceptional alumni who have excelled in various fields. This is due to the university’s commitment to academic excellence and research.

How were the 100 notable alumni selected for this list?

The selection process was based on the individuals’ impact on their respective fields and their contributions to society.

Can I find more in-depth information about these alumni elsewhere?

Certainly. We have provided outbound links to alumni profiles and notable works, and you can explore further on your own.

Are there any living alumni on the list?

Yes, some of the notable alumni mentioned are still living and actively contributing to their respective fields.

What is the best way to stay updated on the latest achievements of Cornell University alumni?

Following Cornell University’s official publications and alumni associations is a great way to stay informed about the latest accomplishments of its alumni.