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Famous and Highly Successful English Majors

What can you do with an English major? Take a look at this list of English majors from institutions around the world and you'll get an even better idea.


Douglas Adams, Amy Tan, Tom Wolfe, Philip Roth, Bobbie Ann Mason, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates,UpdikeStephen King, Pat Conroy, Joseph Heller, Eudora Welty, Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, and John Updike


Alan Alda, David Hyde Pierce, Edward Burns, Chevy Chase, Joan Cusack, Vin Diesel, Harrison Ford, Catherine Keener, John Mahoney, Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, David Duchovny, Susan Sarandon, Reese Witherspoon, Renee Zellweger, Emma Watson, James Franco, Tommy Lee Jones, Paul Newman, Christopher Reeve, Geoffrey Rush, and Sigourney Weaver

Laura Bush

Former First Lady

Laura Bush

Supreme Court justices

Clarence Thomas, Thurgood Marshall, and John Paul Stevens

Sally zride


Sally Ride


Rachel Carson and Sandra Steingraber 

Arthur MillerPlaywright

Arthur Miller


Diane Sawyer, Russell Baker, Barbara Walters, Helen Thomas, Andrea Mitchell, Bob Woodward, Gretchen Morgenstern, and Garrison Keillor

Talk-show hosts

Joy Behar, Conan O’Brien, Mary Hart, Joan Rivers, and Johnny Carson


James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese

Harold Varmus

Nobel laureate in medicine

Harold Varmus


Cathy Guisewite (“Cathy”) 


Mitt Romney and Mario Cuomo 

Federal agency/bureau chiefs

Carol Browner (Environmental Protection Agency) and and Hank Paulson (Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush) 


Nancy Burdick Galbraith (head of the Poetry and Literature Center of the Library of Congress)

Michael Harrington

Social activist

Michael Harrington (author of The Other America


John Wooden, Joe Paterno, and Marty Shottenheimer

Bart Giamatti

Former baseball commissioner

Bart Giamatti

CEOs and former CEOs

Andrea Jung (Avon), Michael Eisner (Disney), Anne Mulcahy (Xerox), Judy McGrath (MTV), and Grant Tinker (MTM Productions)


Paul Simon, Don Henley, Sting, Kris Kristofferson, and Chris Isaak


Benjamin Spock and behaviorist B.F. Skinner


Joan Rivers, Chevy Chase, Joy Behar, Dave Barry, and Garrison Keillor

Plus there are a lot of successful but not-so-famous former English majors. On the website, SBmom posted, “I was an English major who later went into t.v. production, then made a career in screenwriting for films. I think English is a great major for almost anything, because if you know how to write you know how to think. In today’s world you need to be able to move from field to field as technologies change, etc.—almost every field favors someone who is an effective communicator and can present ideas with clarity. Plus it is a fun thing to study!

We couldn’t have put it better.

Michael Theune - Robert Harrington Endowed Professor of English and Chair of English

Department - English