Folks You Didn’t Know (maybe) Had Classics Degrees

This list was formerly my Delicious bookmarks, but since Delicious seems to be on-again, off-again, it seems useful to collect these all here. I know there are many, many more and I’ll add them if I get a chance. If you know of any ‘obvious’ ones I’m missing, please drop me a line!

Daniel Levin (Author of The Last Ember; BA in Greek and Roman Civ from UMichigan)

C.S. Lewis

Thomas Cahill (Author of assorted history tomes)

Norman Clyde (mountaineer; studied Classics at Geneva College)

John Layfield (WWE wrestler; his degree from Abilene Christian University is in Ancient History)

Pat Meehan (US Congressman/former NHL official; majored in Classics at Bowdoin)

Susan Greenfield/Baroness Greenfield (read Classics at Oxford prior to her neurosurgery career)

Lynn Sherr (ABC Journalist; Degree in Greek from Wellesley)

Porter Goss (former head of the CIA; degree in Ancient Greek from Yale)

Martha Lane Fox (daughter of Robin Lane Fox; dotcom millionaire type; studied Ancient History)

P.G. Wodehouse (comic author; degree in Classics from Oxford) [degree not achieved; see comments]

Peter Weller (Robocop; MA in Roman and Renaissance Art from Syracuse)

J.K. Rowling (author of some famous series about a boy wizard; not sure if she completed a degree but did study Classics at Exeter)

Ruth Padel (British author/poet; studied Classics at Lady Margaret Hall Oxford)

Nick Owen (BBC Broadcaster; Classics degree from Leeds)

Chris Martin (Lead singer of Coldplay; degree in Greek and Latin from UCL)

Anthony James Leggett (Nobel Prize winner for Physics; initial degree was in Classics from Balliol/Oxford)

Martha Kearney (BBC Radio presenter; studied Classics at St Anne’s College, Oxford)

Charles Geschke (co-founder of Adobe systems; BA in Classics from Xavier)

William Cohen (former US Secretary of Defense; BA in Latin from Bowdoin)

Jerry Brown (Governor of California; BA in Classics from UCal Berkeley)

James Baker (former US Secretary of State: BA in Classics from Princeton)

John Buchan (Scottish Novelist; Canadian Governor General; studied Classics at UGlasgow and Oxford)

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London; degree in Classics from Balliol)

Gough Whitlam (former Prime Minister of Australia; degree in Classics from USydney)

William Weld (former governor of Massachusetts; AB in Classics from Harvard College)

Teller (Penn’s silent sidekick; not sure if he has a degree from Amherst College but he did teach Latin at the high school level)

Robert Greene (not sure about this one)

A.E. Stallings (author/poet; AB in Classics from UGeorgia)

Nathaniel Fick (director of the  Center for a New American Security; degree in Classics from Dartmouth)

Lian Dolan (American broadcaster; BA in Classics from Williamette)

Tim O’Reilly (computer manual (etc.) guru; BA in Classics from Harvard College)

Dale Kildee (soon to be former US Congressman from Michigan; not sure what his BA is in, but he went on to teach Latin)

*** folks wondering about the Power, Ambition, Glory references might want to check out the special feature that was in Forbes Magazine once upon a time:

Other such lists (which overlap and will possibly be assimilated one day when they’re checked):

23 thoughts on “Folks You Didn’t Know (maybe) Had Classics Degrees

  1. Just pointing out that P.G. Woodhouse did NOT study
    classics at Oxford, or elsewhere. From the wikipedia entry cited
    above: “Wodehouse’s elder brother, Armine, had won a classics
    scholarship to Oxford University (where he gained a first class
    degree) and Pelham was widely expected to follow in his brother’s
    footsteps, but a fall in the value of the Indian rupee (in which
    currency his father’s pension was expressed) forced him to abandon
    such plans.”

  2. It was an honorary Doctor of Letters (D Litt). Sadly, I don’t think that can count as Classics.
    “On June 21 1939, Oxford University granted P G Wodehouse an honorary
    Doctorate, a D Litt. The Public Orator, Dr Cyril Bailey, gave an address at
    the Encaenia in the Sheldonian Theatre in Latin, in which he successfully
    captured much of the spirit of Wodehouse’s world, managing amongst other
    references to speak of Augustus Fink-Nottle and the love life of his newts.
    It was the last time Plum was to visit England. ” – by Tony Ring, Editor, Wooster Sauce (the Journal of The PG Wodehouse Society), cited at

      1. He never attended Oxford as an undergraduate due to not obtaining a scholarship. His study of Classics was purely as a school boy.

  3. Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (USA) has a BA in Classics from Brown U.
    Right after Brown, he shod horses for a living.

  4. Tim Rice-Oxley, the songwriter and pianist of the band Keane, studied Greek & Latin at University College London at the same time as Chris Martin; although I think the latter studied Ancient History.

  5. Thanks for your impressively long list and for linking to the page on Lian Dolan that I created for a similar list on a Willamette University site. Unfortunately, she’s not one of our alumnae. Her Classics degree is from Pomona college.

  6. David Braxton “Dave” Flemming (born May 31, 1976) is an American sportscaster, currently working as a play-by-play announcer for the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball as well as broadcasting college football and college basketball on ESPN and NBA basketball on ESPN Radio.
    After graduating from St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School in 1994, Flemming received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Classics from Stanford University and a Master’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University.

    via Wikipedia


  7. Ben Bradlee, late editor of the Washington Post, studied Greek at Harvard and mentioned taking a special exam in the Bible, Shakespeare, and the Greek Classics in his autobiography.

  8. Ray Teller was my classmate at Amherst, and he does have a classics B.A. The end of our senior year he had his wall papered with rejection letters from trying to get a teaching job — not an easy thing to do in 1969.

    You might add the distinguished mathematician George Polya, author of How to Solve It, to your list — his degree in Hungary was Latin and Math.

  9. Well whoopee. I have a degree in Classics from Yale, which I’ve never done much with, unless you count my obsession with “classic” British motorcycles. Nor am I famous (although you might say I’m well known in small circles) I’m dipping back into Classics for the first time in fifty years. Have recently read ” The Mighty Dead”-aka “Why Homer Matters”, and am cruising at a leisurely pace through ” The Oxford handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean”. One thing leads to another, and here I am reading this blog which I didn’t know existed until a few days ago. Good stuff!

  10. Peter Weller is particularly of note because he went *back* to school after his Robocop days, getting the Master of Arts degree in Roman and Renaissance Art in 2004 and a PhD in Italian Renaissance Art History in 2014. (Real degrees, not honorary.)

    The only other celebrity type who went back to school like that who comes to mind is Brian May of Queen, returning to finish his doctorate in Astrophysics.

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