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Did You Know These Celebrities Are Highly Educated?

highly educated

When you are rich and famous, you probably don’t even need to have a college diploma to succeed! In fact, many actors/actresses and sports stars skip college altogether because, in their career industry, they don’t need one! Yet, some celebrities, regardless of their career choices, decided that education was important and attended college/university. Some even went to Ivy League schools and some went on to get their Ph.Ds! Check out these celebrities who are highly educated.

1. Emma Watson

Emma Watson was set for life at a very young age but just like Hermoine Granger would have done, she went to an Ivy League!

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There was a rumor floating around that while the actress attended Browne University, students would yell out “10 POINTS FOR GRYFFINDOR” every time she answered a question correctly in class. Because she kept up with her acting career while in school, it took her 5 years to earn her BA in English literature.

2. Mayim Bialik

Mayim Bialik isn’t just an actress that plays a super smart neuroscientist on Big Bang Theory, she actually is really smart in real life!

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Like her TV show character, she is a neuroscientist and has a Ph.D.! While she was accepted to both Ivy League schools Harvard and Yale, she decided to stay close to home by attending UCLA. There, she earned her B.S. degree in Jewish studies, Hebrew studies, and neuroscience.

3. Claire Danes

Speaking of a TV character who is smart onscreen and in real life, Claire Danes was clearly a good choice to play a CIA agent dealing with terrorist attacks.


After graduating from Lycée Français de Los Angeles in 1997, Danes attended Yale University for two years before dropping out. There, she studied psychology which definitely helped later in her career with her Homeland character being bipolar!

4. John Legend

If you went to college at the same time John Legend did, you probably saw him all the time with his guitar!

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The famed musician attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and earned his degree in  English with an emphasis on African-American literature. While at college, he was the president and musical director of Counterparts, a cappella group.

5. James Franco

James Franco really liked college as he attended seven, including two Ivy League universities. So it is no wonder surprise to find out that he is incredibly smart!

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The first school he attended was UCLA and it was reported that he took 62 credits per quarter instead of the required 19, which is why Franco was able to graduate in 2 years. After that, he moved to NYC to attend 4 colleges and received his MFA from Columbia University. Now, he is a Ph.D. student at Yale University!

6. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman is considered to be one of the most highly educated actresses in Hollywood!

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The award-winning actress was considered such a role model for skipping her own premiere of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace because she had high school finals to study for. Both acting and school stayed important to her as she juggled both while attending Harvard University, which she graduated from in 2oo3 with a degree in psychology.

7. Ashton Kutcher

For a guy that was known as the extremely dumb Kelso on That 70’s Show, he is actually highly educated!

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When Ashton Kutcher first attended the University of Iowa, he planned to study biochemical engineering in hopes to find a cure for his twin brother who has cerebral palsy but later dropped out to pursue modeling in NYC.

8. Shaquille O’Neal

A lot of talented basketball players may have been drafted while they were in college but many never actually stayed to finish their degree.

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Shaquille O’Neal, however, promised his mother that no matter what he would get his degree. He was drafted into the NBA while he was at LSU and although he did drop out after that, he eventually returned to earn his BA. The famed basketball player went on to get an MBA at the University of Phoenix and an Ed.D. at Barry University.

 9. John Krasinski

After graduating high school in 1997, John Krasinski went to Costa Rica to teach English as a foreign language.

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When he returned, The Office actor attended Brown University and studied theater arts. In 2001, he graduated with honors as a playwright and then moved to NYC to start his acting career!

10. Meryl Streep

Not everyone knows what they want to do when they start college, including Meryl Streepbut eventually, she chose the path that led her to great Hollywood success!

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It was while attending Vassar College that she discovered her passion for theater and soon, her talent showed as well! After she graduated in 1971 with honors, she attended the Yale School of Drama to receive her MFA. It is funny to think that Streep started out as a pre-law student!

 11. Paul Giamatti

Yale University seems to be a pretty popular university for celebrities to attend as the actor Paul Giamatti also went there!

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As a Yale student, he became a member of the Skull and Bones secret society. He was also very involved in theater and worked with Ron Livingston and Edward Norton, who were students there as well! After receiving his BA in English, Giamatti went on to get his MFA at Yale too.

12. Conan O’Brien

He is one of our favorite late night TV hosts and although he is a comedian, that doesn’t mean he isn’t smart!

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In high school, he was the editor of his school’s newspaper, an intern for Congressman Robert Drinan of Massachusettes, won the National Council of Teachers of English writing contest, and was valedictorian! Then, the comedian went on to attend Harvard where he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in history and literature.

 13. Mindy Kaling

Here is another actor from The Office and like John Krasinski, she also attended an Ivy League school!

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Mindy Kaling, though, went to Dartmouth College and majored in classics but got her BA in playwriting. While at college, she was a member of the a cappella group “The Rockapellas” and wrote for the school’s magazine Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern.

14. Jodie Foster

Even as a young girl, Jodie Foster was considered to be a gifted child and she managed to learn how to read when she was only 3 years old!

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She is fluent in French with an understanding of German, Italian, and Spanish. For college, Foster attended Yale University where she graduated magna cum laude and majored in literature. In 1997, Yale awarded her an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree!

15. Rachel McAdams

Rachel McAdams may sometimes play the dumb blonde in movies but she certainly isn’t one in real life.

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At the age of 7, the actress discovered her passion and that is why, after high school, she decided to enroll in a 4-year theater program at York University. She graduated from there in 2001 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts honors degree!

16. Bill Cosby

For someone who is highly educated and considered a smart man, he sure made a lot of bad choices in his life.

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When he was younger, Bill Cosby didn’t take school all that seriously and eventually dropped out of high school to work at a shoe repair shop.  After his stint in the military, the comedian took classes to earn his equivalency diploma and then attended Temple University. In 1976, Cosby earned his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  

17. Mike Marshall

It’s not every day that an MLB player earns a Ph.D. but Mike Marshall, known as Iron Mike, managed to do so!

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At a young age, he became obsessed with kinesiology after he survived a car crash that killed his uncle and applied that interest in college. Marshall earned 3 degrees at Michigan State University, including his Ph.D. in 1978.

18. Brooke Shields

By the time she graduated high school, Brooke Sheilds was one of the most recognizable stars in the world but education was still important to her!

That is why she put her career on hold to attend Princeton University and there, she studied French literature. Shields graduated in 1987 with a BA with honors and wrote her thesis on her experience as a young actress in serious films.

19. Alan Alda

Alan Alda became famous and widely known for playing Captain Hawkeye Pierce on the popular TV show M*A*S*H. 

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He had a tough childhood as he contracted polio and had to do painful treatment programs. Despite this, he still kept up with his education and attended Fordham University in NYC. He graduated in 1956 with a BA in English and was a member of the ROTC.

20. James Woods

James Woods might be the smartest man on this list and spent most of his higher education at one of the most revered institutions in the United States.

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He didn’t even graduate from college so the highest degree he has is a high school diploma! Woods attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for almost 4 years and majored in political science. At first, he wanted to become an eye surgeon but then found his passion in acting and dropped out.

21. Arnold Schwarzenegger

You know him as an actor, a politician, a body builder, and a businessman but did you also know he is highly educated?

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I guess you have to be pretty smart to go from rags to riches! After moving to America, Arnold Schwarzenegger took English classes at Santa Monica College and then earned his BA by correspondence at the University of Wisconsin–Superior!

22. Phil McGraw

Phil McGraw isn’t just called Dr. Phil because of his TV show, he actually earned that title in 1979!

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It shouldn’t be too surprising that the man who helps troubled Americans got his BA in psychology! He earned that at the Midwestern State University and then his M.A. in experimental psychology the following year. Dr. Phil received his doctorate at the University of North Texas.

23. Steve Carell

It seems like the producers of The Office only wanted highly educated people to star in their show because Steve Carell is yet another cast member with a college diploma.

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He was always very interested in history and followed through with this interest in college by majoring in it. Carell graduated from Denison University in 1984 and then began focusing on his acting career.

24. Stephen King

If you have ever read any of his books or, at least, seen the movies based on them, you know that Stephen King is a pretty gifted guy.

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He has been writing stories since he was in elementary school and in high school, he won a Scholastic Art and Writing Award! For college, King went to the University of Maine and majored in English, earning his BA in 1970.

25. Steve Martin

It seems like the funnier a man is, the smarter he is! This certainly rings true for Steve Martin!

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In the beginning, the comedian wanted to be a professor because he loved the philosophy classes he took at California State University, Long Beach yet, he soon discovered his other passion. He then transferred to UCLA to major in theater and the rest is history!

26. Rowan Atkinson

It is hard to imagine Mr. Bean as a highly educated man but the comedian Rowan Atkinson is actually pretty smart!

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He first attended Newcastle University in England, earning a degree in Electrical Engineering and then went on to attend The Queen’s College, Oxford. There, Atkinson studied to get his degree of MSc in Electrical Engineering and in 2006, the school made him an Honorary Fellow!

27. Brian May

You may know Brian May as the super cool rocker that everyone wants to be like and that will absolutely “rock you” with his mad guitar playing skills.

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What you might now know about Brian May is that not only is he super schooled in the world of rock n’ roll, he’s incredibly schooled in other things, too! Brian May attended his local Hampton Grammar School in Hampton, London, then went on to study Mathematics and Physics at Imperial College London, and even graduated with honors. In 2007, May acquired a PhD in astrophysics from the same college.

28. Anna Paquin

Anna Paquin has been acting for a very long time and is known for several of her superhuman roles, but did you know that she also has a superhuman brain?

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While Paquin was living in New Zealand, she attended Hutt Intermediate School and completed her high school diploma before moving to the United States with her mother. Paquin continued her schooling in the U.S. and even attended Columbia University for a year, but left to continue pursuing her acting career.

29. Shakira

Shakira is well known for her dancing skills, but she also has a lot of skills when it comes to using her intelligence and good nature!

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Shakira moved around a lot in her youth, but always attended Catholic schools wherever she went. When she was only 4 years old, Shakira wrote her very first poem, “La Rosa de Cristal” (The Crystal Rose). Shakira was often taken out of school in her youth due to hyperactivity, but that didn’t mean that she wasn’t super smart! She’s now opening up more schools in Colombia to help the children of the country.

30.  Edward Norton

Ed Norton is an incredibly talented and well-known actor, known for his roles in movies such as Fight Club, Kingdom of Heaven, and Hulk.

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Ed Norton is a very smart individual and has attended schooling all of his life. In 1991, Norton graduated from Yale University where he studied History, though he spent a lot of his time acting alongside his fellow talented classmates. It was after he graduated that he became involved in Broadway theater.

31. David Duchovny

David Duchovny has been an actor for a very long time, though his most notable role is probably Fox Mulder on The X-Files.

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David Duchovny went to Grace Church School and The Collegiate School, both in Manhattan, before he went full force into his collegiate studies at Princeton University. In 1982, he graduated from there with Phi Beta Kappa honors in English Literature. His senior thesis was entitled, “The Schizophrenic Critique of Pure Reason in Beckett’s Early Novels.” He then went on to get his Masters from Yale University and started a PhD, but never finished.

32. Geena Davis

Geena Davis is a beloved model and actress, who has acted in many movies including The Fly, Beetlejuice, Thelma & Louise, and A League of Their Own.

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Geena Davis took many music lessons as a child, learning several different instruments, including the flute and organ. After graduating high school, Davis went to New England College, then graduated from Boston University in 1979. She’s also a member of Mensa!

33. Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman is the beautiful Australian starlette that we all love for her roles in films such as Moulin Rouge! and The Paperboy, among many others.

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Nicole Kidman began taking ballet lessons when she was only 3 years old, then acting all throughout her primary and high school years. In Sydney, Kidman studied at Philip Street Theatre and the Australian Theater for Young People – leading up to a great film and television year.

34. Frank Ryan

You don’t always expect burly football players to be the smartest guys on the block, but Frank Ryan is actually one very smart dude!

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Ryan played football all throughout high school, then was recruited to attend Yale University on a football schedule. However, he decided to go to Rice University instead. He later went to both the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of California at Berkeley before becoming a professional football player.

35. Madonna

Madonna has created a ton of super catchy tunes throughout her music career. Some of her hits include Open Your Heart, Vogue, Like A Virgin… and those are just a few of them!

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Madonna had a tough home life, but she always studied and made sure that she got good grades; in fact, she was notorious for her high grade point averages! After graduating high school, Madonna got a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and attended for some time before dropping out and heading to New York City. The rest is history!

36. Jordana Brewster

Jordana Brewster made her debut on All My Children, though she really broke out as an actress when she starred in the Fast and the Furious series.

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Brewster moved around a lot as a child, though she eventually settled down in Manhattan where she studied at the Convent of the Sacred Heart and then the Professional Children’s School. In 2003, Brewster graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in English!

37. Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel is currently the Chancellor of Germany and is often considered to be not only the most powerful woman in the world, but one of the most powerful people as a whole!

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At school, Merkel was awarded prizes for her proficiency in mathematics and Russian language. From 1973 to 1978, Merkel studied Physics at the University of Leipzig. Towards the end of her career there, she sought an assistant professorship at an engineering school, but instead went to the Academy of Sciences in Berlin and ultimately got a doctorate in quantum chemistry.

38. Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd is an actress who grew up in a very famous family – her mother is country singer Naomi Judd and her sister is Wynonna Judd.

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Judd moved around a lot as a child and attended 13 schools before entering college. Ashley graduated as Kappa Kappa Gamma from the University of Kentucky, with a major in French and minors in art history, theater, anthropology, and women’s studies.

39. Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters is a true American icon, what with her countless years of interviewing countless celebrities and influensters – she’s always there when it’s most important!

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Walters attended a private school in her youth in Manhattan until she moved to public school for high school. In 1951, Walters attended Sarah Lawrence College and and received a B.A. in English. She immediately began looking for work in New York City, and the rest is history!

40. Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin has been an actor and a comedian for many years, though he’s most recently skyrocketed to fame (again) for hilarious Donald Trump impressions on Saturday Night Live.

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Baldwin played football during high school, though he didn’t pursue it after that. He attended college at George Washington University for some time, before transferring to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Ultimately, he was accepted to the Actors Studio.

41. Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone is a great actress who has been in movies such as Basic Instinct and Casino. She’s been continuously acting since then, and she’s proven herself to be a smart girl!

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After graduating high school, Stone attended Edinboro University in Pennsylvania and attended some pageants while she was there, even winning the title of Miss Crawford County! After this, she pursued modeling full time.

42. Adam Sandler

Who said that comedians weren’t smart? Adam Sandler is an incredibly funny comedian and film-maker, but he’s also pretty smart!

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Adam Sandler grew up in New Hampshire, attending Manchester Central High School. While he was a teenager, Sandler was in BBYO, which is a popular Jewish youth group, and from there he attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

43. Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart is the woman that everyone turns to whenever they need some advice with household decorating, recipes, or basically anything having to do with the household!

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After graduating high school, Martha Stewart attended Barnard College where she was intending on studying chemistry, though she eventually ended up studying art, then European history, then finally architectural history. Ultimately, she double majored in Architectural History and History!

44. Maggie Gyllenhaal

Maggie Gyllenhaal is a beloved actress and is sister to the equally beloved actor, Jake Gyllenhaal. She just recently made her Broadway debut!

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Maggie grew up in Los Angeles, California and attended a Harvard-Westlake preparatory school there. She graduated in 1995 then went to Columbia University in New York, where she studied Eastern religions and literature. She also spent a semester studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

45. Lisa Kudrow

Lisa Kudrow played the less-than-intelligent Pheobe Buffet on the hit comedy Friends, but Lisa Kudrow herself is actually quite intelligent!

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After graduating high school in Los Angeles, California, Kudrow attended Vassar College where she received a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Kudrow did biology research for 8 years before changing fields and going into acting!

46. Katie Couric

Katie Couric is one of America’s most well known journalists  and authors – she’s currently working as a Global News Anchor for Yahoo!

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Couric attended public schools in Arlington, and was a cheerleader throughout that whole time. During high school, she interned at an all-news radio station, then joined the University of Virginia in 1975. She worked on her school newspaper the entirety of her time there, and graduated in 1979 with a degree in American Studies!

47. Peter Weller

Peter Weller is an American actor who’s well known for being the star of RoboCop. Though the movie lacked a certain intelligence, it’s main star did not!

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Peter Weller attended the University of North Texas and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. His education didn’t end there, though – Weller also attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and from there he began his acting career!

48. Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow hosts a talk show alongside Brian Williams, so you know that she’s a smart cookie! She definitely has the education to prove it.

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Maddow attended Castro Valley High School as a teenager, then went on to attend Stanford University. In 1994, she graduated with a degree in public policy. Upon graduation, she was awarded the John Gardner Fellowship and also the Rhodes Scholarship, which she used at Lincoln College, Oxford. In 2001, she got a Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Oxford!

49. Quentin Tarantino

With all of Quentin Tarantino’s brilliant film work, it’s absolutely no surprise that he’s as smart as he is, and as hard of a worker as he is!

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Tarantino dropped out of his Los Angeles high school when he was only 15 or 16, and immediately started working. Once he could afford it, Tarantino enrolled himself in acting classes at James Best Theater Company. He continued working after that, all the while self educating himself on film and film production, which would eventually get him to where he is now!

50. Montel Williams

Montel Williams was *surprise, surprise* the star of the Montel Williams Show, and he didn’t get to have his own show without any education!

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After graduating from high school, Montel Williams joined the U.S. Marine Corps, where he received training for several years before being placed in the Naval Academy Preparatory School. He completed one year there before he joined the U.S. Naval Academy, which he graduated from in 1980.

51. Greg Graffin

You don’t typically think of punk rockers as being the smartest of the bunch, but that’s exactly what Greg Graffin is! This lead singer of Bad Religion is one smart rocker.

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After graduating high school, Graffin attended the University of California at Los Angeles as a double major in anthropology and geology, but he didn’t stop there. He continued his studies at UCLA and earned a Masters degree in geology, then went on to receive PhD in zoology from Cornell University.

52. Nolan Gould

Nolan Gould plays the less-than-smart sibling on Modern Family, but in actuality, he’s one of the smartest people on this list!

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Though he’s young, Nolan Gould is already a member of Mensa – that’s incredibly impressive! By 2012, Gould had already accelerated ten grades in school and when he was only 13 years old, he graduated high school. Though he’s mostly focused on his acting career right now, he said he hopes to continue on to college through online courses.

53. Spike Lee

Spike Lee’s films are all incredibly intelligent and focus on a lot of important political and social issues, so it’s no surprise that he learned all of those things through some schooling.

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After graduating from his high school, Spike Lee enrolled in Morehouse College where he made his first film, Last Hustle in Brooklyn. He also took some classes in film-making from Clark Atlanta University, and graduated with his B.A. in communication from Morehouse. He went on to get a Masters in film and television from New York University!

54. Milo Aukerman

Another punk rocker on this list, Milo Aukerman is best known for being the lead singer of the band The Descendants!

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After graduating from Mira Costa High School, Aukerman immediately continued his impressive studies, which culminated with a doctorate in biology from the University of California at San Diego. After graduating, he continued his research studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison!

55. Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington is an amazing actor who is just about as smart as he is handsome. You might know him from films such as Malcolm X and Fences!


After high school, Washington was interested in attending Texas Tech University but ended up going to Fordham University, where he earned a B.A. in Theater and Journalism! After that, he attended graduate school at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

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