Columbia University in the City of New York has hosted some extremely famous students over the course of its 266-year history. Back in the 18th century—when it was still called “King’s College,” after King George II—the Ivy League institution educated Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, both of whom now have buildings named after them.

As time passed and Manhattan became more of a cultural hub, the university began to attract a different kind of celebrity clientele: actors, artists, musicians, and writers of every variety. However, the university has never been devoid of students with political aspirations: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for example, graduated from Columbia Law School in 1959, and President Barack Obama transferred there in the early 1980s to finish his undergraduate degree.

Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac practically birthed Beat writing while in attendance, and other acclaimed writers, including J.D. Salinger, Zora Neale Hurston, and Hunter S. Thompson, have also walked Columbia's hallowed halls (though they didn’t all necessarily graduate).

When it comes to musicians, Ezra Koenig and the rest of his Vampire Weekend band members have Columbia degrees, as do Richard Rodgers and his songwriting partner, Oscar Hammerstein II. Leonard Cohen, Ira Gershwin, and Alicia Keys all took classes but dropped out to pursue musical careers.

Scroll on to discover more notable Columbia grads, as well as some who didn’t quite make it to commencement.

Columbia University Graduates

  1. Isaac Asimov // Science fiction writer and biochemist
  1. Kathryn Bigelow // First woman to win the Best Director Oscar
  1. Warren Buffett // Business magnate and investor
  1. Chelsea Clinton // Author and daughter of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton
  1. Sasha Cohen // Former Olympic figure skater
  1. Brian Dennehy // Award-winning actor
  1. Art Garfunkel // Grammy-winning folk rock musician
  1. Lou Gehrig // Former New York Yankees baseball player
  1. Allen Ginsberg // Writer and poet of the Beat Generation
  1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg // Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
  1. Maggie Gyllenhaal // Oscar-nominated actress
  1. Alexander Hamilton // Founding Father and first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
  1. Zora Neale Hurston // 20th-century author
  1. John Jay // Founding Father and first U.S. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
  1. Jack Kerouac // Writer and poet of the Beat Generation
  1. Ezra Koenig // lead vocalist and guitarist of the band Vampire Weekend
  1. Alfred Knopf // Book publisher
  1. Tony Kushner // Tony Award-winning playwright
  1. Kate McKinnon // Emmy-winning comedian and SNL star
  1. Barack Obama // 44th President of the United States
  1. Jacques Pépin // French chef
  1. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II // Award-winning musical theater writing duo
  1. Jenny Slate // Comedian and writer
  1. George Stephanopoulos // Television anchor and political correspondent
  1. Julia Stiles // Actor
  1. Jonathan Taylor Thomas // Actor and director
  1. Eudora Welty // Pulitzer Prize-winning 20th-century author
  1. Dr. Ruth Westheimer // Sex therapist and talk show host

People WHO Attended Columbia, but didn't graduate

  1. Casey Affleck // Oscar-winning actor and director
  1. Timothée Chalamet // Oscar-nominated actor
  1. Leonard Cohen // Grammy-winning musician and writer
  1. E.L. Doctorow // 20th-century novelist
  1. Amelia Earhart // First female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean
  1. Federico García Lorca // Spanish poet and playwright
  1. Ira Gershwin // Pulitzer Prize-winning 20th-century lyricist
  1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt // Actor
  1. Jake Gyllenhaal // Oscar-nominated actor
  1. Lauryn Hill // Grammy-winning singer and songwriter
  1. Langston Hughes // 20th-century writer and activist
  1. Jane Jacobs // Journalist and activist
  1. Alicia Keys // Grammy-winning musician and actress
  1. Yo-Yo Ma // Grammy-winning cellist
  1. Anna Paquin // Oscar-winning actress
  1. Gene Roddenberry // Creator of the original Star Trek series
  1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt // 32nd President of the United States
  1. Theodore Roosevelt // 26th President of the United States
  1. J.D. Salinger // 20th-century author
  1. David O. Selznick // Oscar-winning producer and screenwriter
  1. Hunter S. Thompson // 20th-century author and father of gonzo journalism