On CEOs and the Ivy League
April 7, 2005

USA Today published an interesting story today about companies intentionally seeking out CEOs without college degrees from Ivy League Schools. And before you start thinking that I am still riding my bitterness about Harvard, let me just remind you that the Crimsonites are responsible for accepting the same students that accused Jada Pinkett Smith of being "Heteronormative."

I rest my case.

The article features Brenda Barnes, CEO of Sara Lee foods (nobody does it like Sara Lee), who didn't graduate from one of the top business schools, but managed to snag a Chief Executive Officer position that makes Sara Lee the largest corporation with a woman at the helm. She did it all with a Bachelors degree from little ole Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. Apparently, this is a rising trend.

In the USA Today article, they've linked to a chart that shows colleges attended by CEOs hired at Fortune 1000 firms in 2004 and 2005. The number of CEOs that graduated from places like the University of Arizona and the University of Nebraska is pretty astounding. What's most shocking to me however is how few CEOs actually have graduate degrees.

I am seriously beginning to question the relevancy of the graduate degree. I suppose it depends on the field. But I will say this: Working in recruiting, you see a LOT of MBAs applying for entry-level sales positions. It's a bit disturbing.

And now on a completely unrelated note, I must interject a bit of Cosby show context. Anyone who knows me must get used to my propensity to recite entire paragraphs of Cosby Show dialogue in the midst of conversations. After all, the Cosby Show is the sum of all wisdom.

Anyone remember the time when Denise (Lisa Bonet AKA the space cadet who became even more eccentric and strange after she procreated with that Lenny Kravitz guy) was trying to choose a college and was deciding between NYU, "Hillman," Berkley, and the University of North Dakota at Bismarck? Classic. Maybe she should have gone there; she could perhaps be a CEO by now. In TV-land that is. Because the Cosby Show characters are not real. They are not. They are not. Eventually this will sink in for me.

Posted by Ambra at April 7, 2005 1:11 AM in Education
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Of course there IS NO University of North Dakota at Bismarck, which is part of the joke I guess.
Do you know of Peter Shickele? He's the composer ("discoverer") of the PDQ Bach pieces. He was given an honorary doctorate at North Dakota State University (Fargo) when I got my Masters there. He claims to have graduated from the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople (a VERY small town).

And all this time I thought it was "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee." See, this is why I love reading your blog.

Lori Lori Lori. I feel for ya. I can't tell you how many slogans I hear wrongly.

Dr. Galster: "University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople" OHMYGOODNESS that's funny.

the bigger story is not the diversity of schools but the lack thereof in the ceo's hired

WOW! Lori took the words right out of my mouth!

I did realize a few years ago that "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee" sounded quite awkward (isn't it a double negative?). I'm glad to finally solve the mystery. ;)

(nobody does it like Sara Lee)
I agree with Lori, I always thought it was "nobody doesn't like Sara Lee". LOL

So much for getting a serious discussion going on your topic :-)

Quite alright.

the Cosby Show is the sum of all wisdom.

Well, except for Theo. I'm saving the episode where he was going to rent an apartment to show my daughter when she gets her first part time minimum wage job and decides she is grown.
Hee, hee.

I LOVED the Cosby show, too. The only thing that BUGGED THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of me were Sandra and Elvin. Arrrgh, they were so snooty; Sandra just didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the family. I don't know.

Well, for all those who were wondering (and even those that weren't), this is taken from the Sara Lee official website.

"Q: What is the slogan for Sara Lee Bakery?
A: A. Nobody Doesn't Like Sara Lee!
B. Nobody Does It Like Sara Lee!
The correct answer is 'A'."

I have too much time on my hands.

Shut. up. Are you serious? What a horrible and grammatically incorrect tagline!!!

Mr Jack. C.....can you further expound on what you mean?

Um, don't you all think it was a rather shrewd marketing device of Sara Lee to come up with a phrase that could actually mean two different things, both of which are positive? Not only will people have positive thoughts when they hear the slogan (whatever they think it says), but then people will also spend useless hours on things like blogs discussing what the slogan actually says, which of course gets people thinking about Sara Lee and before you know it somebody is on their way to the store to get a pastry.

That slogan was no accident.

Ambra, I choose to agree to disagree with you on the value of an undergrad degree, but I couldn't agree more in regards to graduate degrees. If you're going to get an advanced degree, you need to have a really good reason for it.

Still, I have to say that in business, few things open doors like a sheepskin from a top-5 MBA program. I've had a number of friends go to Cornell, Stanford, and Hahvahd, and none of them are applying for entry-level jobs. But it is also true that they are, for the most part, going into I-banking.

David Brooks has written about this, saying that while the Ivy-League doctors and lawyers are pretty much guaranteed to live well, they are never going to make truly enormous money, while the guy who starts a chain of topless car washes might make tens of millions. Harvard can preen all it wants, but the fact remains that Bill Gates dropped out.

I remain skeptical of colleges that attempt to "professionalize" their programs too much. My alma mater for instance offers a program in "entrepreneurship" and it is by any measure a decent effort, with many of the instructors being businessmen and not academics. But in the end, you simply cannot learn these skills in a classroom. Better that schools stick to intellectucal development, which is well within their power to do, if they so choose. That they often do not is not an indictment of university per se...

Ramblingly yours,

The story of the Sara Lee CEO- degree from institution without Ivy pedigree- could be repeated again and again. Case in point- Dennis Alter, CEO of Advanta, major financial institution and supplier of credit cards. Got his degrees from my very own alma mater, Temple University. Frankly would be more inclined to hire alums from these institutions than Ivy brats. Would likely have more spunk and get-up-and-go-ness. Again the irony that in an economy when the two Stanford lads who started Google are now conservatively worth $30 bil, the piece of paper appears to be less essential than ever. Ask the CEOs of Sara Lee or Advanta.

Of course it does not matter where the CEO went to college.What matters is the ability to lie cheat,steal and find pleasure in the destruction of human life over money.

Dear Blogster... you should get the jingle tag line right if you're going to write about Sara Lee. The jingle initially began, “Everybody Doesn’t Like Something, But Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee” as a tune with words and music by Mitch Lee.

Just as an aside; I believe the Sara Lee jingle was developed about the same time as "My Baloney Has A First Name..." for Oscar Mayer (SP?) Brands. I believe both were an attempt at child-like cutesiness that was prevalent in the food products advertising industry, during that era. This also tied into the practise of putting child-appeal foods at the kid's eye-level on grocery store shelves.

I used to believe that "Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids" was the sum of all wisdom, but then The Simpsons came along. I guess it's just the community college/associate's degree in me, showing! Go Roadrunners!

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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