The Ivy League (Wikipedia) is a group of eight old and well-regarded universities in the northeastern United States. Officially, the Ivy League is an athletic conference. Its members have a long history of participation in collegiate sports, and some of America's first sports rivalries were established at these eight schools. The Ivy League was officially established in 1954, although it had existed informally for decades prior.note Even though the Ivy League is officially a NCAA Division I conference (FCS for football), it operates much closer to a Division III conference as none of the member schools allow athletic scholarships. In football, the league's champion technically receives an automatic invitation to the FCS playoffs; however, the league abstains from the playoffs, citing academic concerns. Also, for basketball, it was the last league that did not conduct a conference tournament; through the 2015–16 season, it instead awarded the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament to the regular season champion.note Since the 2016–17 season, the Ivies have held conference tournaments in men's and women's basketball. Unlike most conference tournaments, the Ivy tournaments do not feature all of the league's teams; only the top four teams of each sex qualify.
However, the name has much broader connotations. The Ivy League is associated with academic excellence, with many people in fiction and real life dreaming of gaining admission to an Ivy League school, as it is seen as a sign that one is truly the best of the best. (Admissions are highly selective, with admission rates being less—usually much less—than twenty percent.) Indeed, this was the real reason why the Ivy League was created—they felt that collegiate athletics were growing too dominated by big money and sponsorship deals, and that continuing to compete with other schools would force them to lower their academic standards.
On the flip side, the Ivy League is also associated with social elitism. It is often subjected to a unique form of Strawman U, one in which most of the students are snobbish, preppy, old-money WASPs who are already set for life, and are only going to college to acquire a veneer of respectability (for when they become executives and investment bankers) and to get into their fathers' "old boys" networks and secret societies. Any student who isn't a member of this elite gets spit on and bossed around by them, partly because of the aforementioned elitism, and partly because most of the people who are academically gifted enough to get into an Ivy League school (without resorting to nepotism) are nerds who had already been encountering this for twelve years. Such a school will typically be the setting of a Slobs vs. Snobs plot. Essentially, it is the American equivalent of Oxbridge.
Of course, this hasn't been true of the Ivy schools for decades, but because so few people will ever see the inside of them, the stereotypes linger. Nonetheless, it makes for good drama and comedy both.
It's also worth noting that the mystique of the Ivy League holds less sway in parts of the country that aren't the northeast. While people on the East Coast dream of going to Princeton or Harvard, Californians often dream of getting into Stanford, USC, UCLA, Caltech, or the University of California, Berkeley instead, while Southerners have their sights set on Vanderbilt, William and Mary, University of Virginia, Duke, Emory, Tulane, or Rice. Even people in the relatively close Midwest often aim for Northwestern, Washington University in St. Louis, Rose-Hulman, University of Michigan, The Ohio State University, Case Western, Notre Dame, or the University of Chicago instead.
The renown of the Ivy League is such that the name "Ivy" is also used to describe other colleges with strong academic reputations. "Little Ivies" may refer to the "Little Three" of Amherst, Wesleyan and Williams, or to a set of small and selective liberal arts colleges (mostly in the NESCACnote sporting conference). "Public Ivies" are public universities that are said to provide an Ivy League-quality education at an affordable price, while "Southern Ivies" are exactly what they sound like—in fact, there was talk in The '60s of forming a "Magnolia Conference" of elite Southern universitiesnote that wanted to maintain big-ticket sports programs without cutting corners on academics, as they felt that their rivals were doing. There are even hypothetical "Black Ivies", for the historically black colleges set on serving African-Americans after the Civil War. Unlike the normal Ivy League, Black Ivies are more focused on undergraduate study.
- Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts: established in 1636 (oldest university in the US). Motto: Veritas ("Truth")
- Stereotype: Hyper-competitive and nerdy, with terrible sports programsnote and a world-renowned law school. You don't need to ask someone whether they went to Harvard; they'll tell you.
- Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut: established in 1701. Motto: האורים והתומים HaUrim v'HaTummim/Lux et veritas ("Light and truth").
- Stereotype: Preppy, elitist, and crawling with secret societies. Possibly card-carrying villains.
- University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: established in 1740. Motto: Leges sine moribus vanae ("Laws without morals are useless").
- Stereotype: Business nerds, future insider traders. Too proud of having been founded by Benjamin Franklin. Never to be confused with Penn State.
- Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey: established in 1746. Motto: Dei sub numine viget ("Under God's power she flourishes"—though wags will tell you it means "God went to Princeton").
- Stereotype: Snobbish, conservative, and sports-obsessed, with more singing groups than a Bollywood film. Also takes great pains to forget that it is in New Jersey; New Jerseyans take devilish glee in reminding Princeton of where it is.
- Columbia University (originally King's College) in New York City, New York (more specifically, Upper Manhattan): established in 1754. Motto: In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen ("In thy light shall we see the light").
- Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island: established in 1764. Motto: In Deo Speramus ("In God we hope").
- Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire: established in 1769. Motto: Vox clamantis in deserto ("The voice of one crying in the wilderness").
- Cornell University in Ithaca, New York: established in 1865. The only one that gets support from a state government (it's not exactly public, but the State of New York provides some of its budget). Motto: I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.
- Stereotype: The other Butt-Monkey of the Ivy League. The fallback school for those who couldn't get into the others. Has a really hard engineering school, though. The safety nets under the bridges on campus may or may not have something to do with that.
Princeton, Harvard and Yale have traditionally been ranked as the top three schools in the United States for well over a century, although the precise ordering of the three varies from year to year. They are also considered among the top schools in the world, as well.
Important note: Neither Princeton nor Brown have law schools, nor does Princeton have a medical school.note In real life, someone claiming to have gone to "Princeton Law" is lying;note in fiction, "Princeton Law" and "Brown Law" are useful ways to establish a prestigious lineage for a lawyer/judge/legal scholar without tying him/her down to a real school, its records, and traditions.
Humorously, American Football would not exist if not for Harvard and the Ivy League. The game was nearly banned by Harvard's president due to all of the fatalities, until a Harvard alumnus stepped in, and mediated a new set of rules with representatives from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton designed to make the game safer. Incidentally, the first game of American football—which resembled a cross of soccer and rugby more than the modern sport—was a New Jersey affair played between Princeton and non-Ivy Rutgers in 1869. Rutgers won.
Ivy League in the Media
- Multiple presidents and relatives of presidents have gone to Harvard, either for undergrad or for an advanced degree.
- Harvard is the setting for the book and film Love Story. Due to the damage filming for both Love Story and the 1980 film A Small Circle of Friends caused the campus, Harvard generally does not allow filming on its campus.
- An exception to this rule was With Honors (1994), made by a Harvard alumnus who knew the right buttons to push, and convinced the school that the film's plot would put Harvard in a good light. That movie went off without a hitch or damage.
- Harvard Law School is the setting for the film The Paper Chase.
- The Law School is also the setting of Legally Blonde. Yes.
- Quentin Compson, in William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, attends Harvard.
- The early parts of The Social Network, true to life, were set at Harvard. (Less true to life, these scenes were mostly filmed at Johns Hopkins University or on sets.)
- The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension: Buckaroo Banzai got his medical degree from Harvard.
- The title character of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., despite his Steampunk/Western adventures, was a Harvard-educated lawyer.
- Sara Sidle on CSI is a Harvard grad.
- "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (the original story) has the titular character go to Harvard after Yale, his father's alma mater kicks him out over disbelief over his age.
- In the video game Plants vs. Zombies, the upgrade plant Cob Cannon attended Harvard.
- In one episode of Gilligan's Island, after an enraged outburst of gibberish from an apeman, Harvard grad Thurston Howell III comments that the fellow "must be a Yale man!"
- Mr. Peabody of Peabody's Improbable History is a graduate of Harvard.
- In After the End: A Crusader Kings II Mod, Harvard's libraries still exist in some capacity over 600 years after the end of civilisation, and are known to the Occultists of New England as "the Crimson Library".
- In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, both Nick Carraway and Tom Buchanan are Yale men.
- Flash Gordon is a Yale graduate.
- Classic Dime Novel character Frank Merriwell is a Yale man.
- The later seasons of Gilmore Girls feature Rory applying to and then attending Yale. Additionally, Rory's best friend Paris and grandfather Richard both go/went to Yale.
- Jamie (Helen Hunt) in Mad About You is a Yale graduate.
- As is Mr. Burns in The Simpsons.
- Niles on Frasier is an alumnus of Yale, as is David Hyde Pierce, who plays him. As part of the rivalry between him and his brother, Frasier attended Harvard.
- Sideshow Bob of The Simpsons went to Yale.
- Troy the Janitor from Scrubs went to Yale.
- In The Flintstones, Yale's prehistoric counterpart is "Shale University," archrival of "Prinstone University."
- A cartoon in The New Yorker once depicted two chic young women conversing at a party, one of them cheerfully commenting "I'm a Yale man, myself."
University of Pennsylvania
- Dennis and Dee Reynolds of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia both studied psychology at UPenn, but Dee didn't graduate, and Dennis is... well... Dennis.
- The college scenes of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen were filmed in the Quad, probably the most recognizable part of Penn's campus... which the movie passes off as Princeton. Even in pop-culture, the Penn-Princeton rivalry is pretty one-sided.
- Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia is a Penn Law graduate.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air:
- Will and Carton meet with an admissions counselor. Will impresses him by instantly solving a Rubik's Cube and is admitted.
- Carlton's conflicts are resolved when he successfully transfers into Princeton in the series finale.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side Of Paradise, centers around a Princeton student (based on Fitzgerald himself), and spends a fair amount of time on the campus.
- The setup of Across the Universe involves Jude traveling from Liverpool to find his father at Princeton—where he meets and befriends Max.
- The title character of Doogie Howser, M.D. graduated from Princeton at age 10.
- In the episode "Flintstone of Prinstone" of The Flintstones, Fred briefly attends "Prinstone University".
- President Charles Logan of 24 is a Princeton grad.
- According to Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne went to Princeton but dropped out.
- Although Charles in Charge took place in New Brunswick, NJ, home of Rutgers University, Charles ended up a graduate student at Princeton (which is 20 minutes away down Route 27).
- Joel in Risky Business (Tom Cruise) is trying to get into Princeton over the course of the film.
- From the first episode of The Cosby Show, daughter Sondra was attending Princeton; she eventually graduated. She also met her husband Elvin Tibideaux there.
- The title character of Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen by H. Beam Piper, Calvin Morrison, had been a theology student at Princeton, but dropped out to enlist in the Army during the Korean War.
- Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen, in his pre-superpowered identity as John Osterman, attended Princeton for ten years, finally leaving with a Ph.D. in Physics in 1958.
- The character "Princeton" from Avenue Q.
- A Beautiful Mind is in large part set and filmed at Princeton, which is where the real John Nash studied and worked until he was killed in a 2015 auto accident.
- This exchange in The Simpsons episode "Brother From Another Series":
Sideshow Bob: Oh, come now! You wanted to be Krusty's sidekick since you were five! What about the buffoon lessons? The four years at clown college?
Cecil: I'll thank you not to refer to Princeton that way.
- Sam Seaborn went to Princeton. It was his Secret Service code name for a while.
- In the Sam Raimi Spider-Man Trilogy, Peter Parker attends Columbia.
- Daredevil went to Columbia Law school.
- As did Marshall Eriksen.
- Upper-Class Twit Nate Archibald from Gossip Girl goes there.
- In The Sopranos, Tony's daughter Meadow goes to Columbia.
- Brian from Family Guy attended to Brown, but dropped out one class short of graduating. In the episode "Brian Goes Back to College", he returns to complete his education (unsuccessfully).
- The much-loathed Microsoft Office Assistant "Clippy" has a biography that claims he has a degree in art-semiotics from Brown.
- Elliot from Scrubs attended Brown.
- Several characters from 24 attended Brown, including Audrey Raines and Bill Buchanan.
- In The Simpsons, Lisa has an Imagine Spot where, having been caught cheating on a test, Brown remains the only Ivy League university open to her.
- In Iron Man, when an interviewer's line of questioning makes it clear she fancies herself an anti-war activist, Tony Stark guesses her alma mater as Berkeley, and she corrects him to Brown.
- Michael Corleone of The Godfather and its sequels is a Dartmouth graduate.
- "Trapper John" MacIntyre of Mash and Trapper John MD attended Dartmouth.
- Meredith Grey of Grey's Anatomy is a Dartmouth graduate. Shonda Rhimes, the show's creator, is a Dartmouth alumna herself, and David Rosen, a character on her show Scandal, also seems to be a Dartmouth grad—he and Mer have the same t-shirt.
- The fictional version of himself portrayed by Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report attended Dartmouth. (The real Colbert went to Northwestern.)
- Animal House, while set at the fictional Faber College, was largely based on writer Chris Miller's experiences at Dartmouth and its fraternity culture.
- Sideshow Mel of The Simpsons attended Cornell.
- The eponymous Citizen Kane was expelled from Cornell.
- In The Office (US), the terminally preppy Andy constantly brings up the fact that he went to Cornell.
- President Kirkman is shown wearing a Cornell hoodie throughout the pilot of Designated Survivor.
- H.P. Lovecraft:
- In Decades of Darkness, Word of God holds that the alternate Ivy League covers nine schools in New Englandnote instead of eight in the US. Missing from the list are UPenn (Pennsylvania is part of the *US), Princeton (which didn't survive the North American War), and Cornell (which was founded half a century after the Point of Divergence , and so doesn't exist in the DoD 'verse); added to the list are Union College in Schenectady, King's College in Nova Scotia, and the fictional Brunswick College in New Brunswick and Clinton University in Rochester.
- In The Flintstones, both Prinstone and Shale are members of the esteemed "Poison Ivy League."
- In Kevin & Kell the Ivy League was mentioned, and it was once apparently quite literal: they only accepted species that ate ivy until diversity became an issue.
- Josh Lyman went to Harvard and Yale.
Ivy League in Real Life:
- John Adams was the first Harvard grad to become president.
- Other Harvard alumni who became President of the United States: John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, George W. Bush (Harvard MBA), Barack Obama (Harvard Law School) and Presidential badass Theodore Roosevelt.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson attended Harvard.
- Natalie Portman is a Harvard alumna. She parodied this in a famous Saturday Night Live Digital Short.
- Tommy Lee Jones went to Harvard; his roommate was Al Gore.
- Erich Segal, author of Love Story, also attended and later taught at Harvard. He admitted years later to modelling its protagonist Oliver on a fusion of Jones and Gore.
- Author William S. Burroughs, Harvard 1936.
- Civil Rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois was Harvard 1890.
- Horatio Alger, Harvard 1852.
- Al Franken, Harvard 1973.
- Professional wrestler and real-life lawyer David Otunga.
- Former professional wrestler Christopher Nowinski, now an activist on concussions in sports.note
- Current Atlanta Hawks guard Jeremy Lin.
- Rashida Jones graduated in 1997. She initially intended to be a lawyer, but after the OJ Simpson trial, decided to become an actor.
- Jackie Fox, former bass guitarist for The Runaways, graduated from Harvard Law in 1991—making her a classmate of Barack Obama. By then, she had long since reverted to using her birth name of Jacqueline Fuchs.
- Jodie Foster, Yale 1984.
- George H.W. Bush
- Both Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary attended Yale Law School
- George W. Bush attended Yale and was a member of Skull and Bones.
- John Kerry attended Yale and was a member of Skull and Bones. In 2004, he ran against fellow Bonesman George W. Bush for President.
- Legendary OSS/CIA spymaster James Jesus Angleton was a Yale man.
- Vincent Price held a degree in art history from Yale (class of 1933).
University of Pennsylvania
- Benjamin Franklin was one of the university's founders.
- Ezra Pound, revolutionary poet turned pro-Mussolini propagandist, attended the University of Pennsylvania.
- Donald Trump (class of 1968), along with many members of his family, went to Penn.
- William Carlos Williams was a Penn graduate.
- Philip Roth was a professor of comparative literature at Penn until 1991.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald attended Princeton.
- As did Jimmy Stewart, Joshua Logan, Jose Ferrer, Wayne Rogers (M*A*S*H), Brooke Shields (Suddenly Susan), David Duchovny, Jeff Bezos, Dean Cain, and First Lady Michelle Obama. In fact, the last five were all at Princeton during the same four-year span between 1982 and 1985.
- The Battle of Princeton (January 3, 1777) was an important rebel victory in The American Revolution. Damage from cannon balls can still be seen in Nassau Hall (Princeton's administration building).
- Princeton's Blair Hall and its famous arch appear at the beginning of the Saturday Night Live short film "Prose and Cons" ("Kill my lan'lord, kill my lan'lord") from the 1980-81 season.
- Author/adventurer/lecturer Richard Halliburton was Princeton Class of 1922.
- Bestselling author Jodi Picoult is Princeton '87.
- Playwright and Nobel Laureate Eugene O'Neill, Princeton Class of 1910.
- Musician/playwright Gene Lewin of the band Groovelily attended Princeton.
- Presidents Woodrow Wilson and James Madison went to Princeton. Wilson was also a professor there several times (he's the only President with a Ph.D.), and he served as the President of Princeton from 1902 to 1910, when he used the post to springboard himself to Governor of New Jersey.
- Grover Cleveland hoped to attend Princeton, but he had to enter the workforce when his father died. He became a trustee of the university after his second presidential term, serving at the same time as (and butting heads with) Wilson. Such was his influence that the tower of the Graduate College was named for him, and both his son and grandson graduated from the university.
- Ralph Nader, Princeton 1955.
- Queen Noor of Jordan, born Lisa Halaby, Princeton 1974.
- Hall of Fame basketball player and former US Senator Bill Bradley is Princeton Class of 1965.
- Syngman Rhee, first president of South Korea, Princeton 1910.
- Nobel laureate John Nash did his graduate work at and continued to do mathematics at Princeton until his death in a 2015 auto accident.
- President Obama is a fan of Princeton ladies. Besides marrying one (as noted above), he's put two alumnae—Sonia Sotomayor '76 and Elena Kagan '81—on the Supreme Court.
- Sotomayor is a particularly prominent alumna because the University looks to her as an authority on diversity matters. She supplied the school with a new informal motto—Princeton in the Nation's Service and the Service of Humanity—which was adopted when the University reexamined Woodrow Wilson's legacy in 2015.
- Alexander Hamilton attended Columbia when it was still called King's College.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower served as president of the university before becoming President of the United States.
- OSS founder William Joseph "Wild Bill" Donovan was a Columbia graduate.
- Rider Strong (Shawn Hunter on Boy Meets World) went to Columbia.
- Erica Jong holds an M.A. from Columbia (with a BA from Barnard—which for complicated historical reasons both is and is not a unit of Columbia).
- The personal papers of H.P. Lovecraft are in the John Hay Library at Brown University.
- S. J. Perelman attended Brown.
- Composer/musician Wendy Carlos, Brown 1962.
- Mary Chapin Carpenter, Brown 1981.
- Actress Laura Linney is Brown 1986.
- Actress Leelee Sobieski attended Brown but never graduated.
- Actress Emma Watson graduated from Brown in 2014, with a degree in English Literature. She took time off here and there for personal and professional reasons.
- Theodore Giesel, aka Dr. Seuss, went to Dartmouth, and in fact his book Green Eggs and Ham was inspired by an all-green breakfast served to freshmen during his time there.
- Thorne Smith, author of Topper and numerous other books, as well as the grandfather of actress Courtney Thorne Smith, attended Dartmouth but dropped out in 1912.
- Anthropologist Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, is considered class of 1926 at Dartmouth although he never graduated.
- Mindy Kaling graduated in 2001.
- Frank Morgan, better known as The Wizard of Oz, attended Cornell from 1908-1909, but dropped out.
- Bill Nye the Science Guy has both a Bachelor's and a Master's in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell, and was a professor there from 2001 to 2006.
- Bill Maher of Politically Incorrect, Cornell 1978.
- Christopher Reeve, Cornell 1974.
- Carl Sagan was a professor at Cornell from 1968 to 1996.
- John Cleese has been a visiting professor at Cornell since 1998.
- Toni Morrison received an MA there in 1955.
- Vladimir Nabokov also taught in Cornell in the fifties, whose students there includes Thomas Pynchon and Joanna Russ. He would later satirize his experiences there in Pnin.
- Kurt Vonnegut was a undergrad in Cornell until he joined the US Army in 1943.
- Keith Olbermann is a Cornell grad, with a BA in 1979. In order to graduate, he had to take 28 credits his last semester, which the University had never thought to ban. In his own words:
Olbermann: Did you know you can sweat from your eyelids?
- John F. Kennedy enrolled at Princeton, but was forced to leave due to illness; despite resuming and completing his education at Harvard, he is still regarded as a member of his original Princeton class by the University and alumni.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt attended both Harvard University and Columbia Law School.
- Barack Obama, Columbia 1983note and Harvard Law 1991.
- David Duchovny's B.A. was from Princeton, his M.A. from Yale.
- Jonathan Taylor Thomas, after he quit acting, studied philosophy and history at Harvard, and graduated from Columbia's School of General Studies in 2010.
Harvardiani et Yaliani delenda sunt.