The College Backgrounds of America's Leading Newspaper Opinion Columnists

Tom Wood

Two of my previous postings, “The College Backgrounds of America's Talking Heads” and “Educating the rich and the powerful,” covered the college backgrounds of America’s leading TV commentators, CEOs, and wealthiest entrepreneurs.

In this, the third posting of the series, I provide the information I could find on the educational backgrounds of the oped columnists for the following newspapers: USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, and the Washington Post. To make this selection, I used the BurrellesLuce list of the largest circulation papers for 2007.:


  Rank  Newspaper                                       Daily                          Sunday 

1. USA Today                                      2,278,022                            N/A

2. The Wall Street Journal                     2,062,312                            N/A

3. The New York Times                         1,120,420                    1,627,062

4. Los Angeles Times                              815,723                    1,173,096

5. The New York Post                              724,748                       439,202

6. The Daily News - New York, NY            718,174                       775,543

7. Washington Post                                 699,130                       929,921

Most of the information was obtained from the websites for these papers. Whenever information on college backgrounds was lacking on those sites, I also looked for that information on Wikipedia. I occasionally did this also for writers for whom I felt the information on the paper’s own site was likely incomplete and could benefit by being supplemented with information from Wikipedia. In a small number of cases, I failed to find the information I wanted from any online source.

One of the concerns of the National Association of Scholars is the important, mutually interacting roles of higher education and other institutions in American life. The college backgrounds of public intellectuals and other leading figures in American life are relevant to these concerns. The following information is offered in the hopes that an acquaintance with it will remind the reader of the crucial role that higher education does play in the wider society.


[NOTE: I almost never read USA Today myself, and I had a hard time making sense of its "columnists' opinion" page. Allen Neuharth and DeWayne Wickham appear to be the only two individuals who are regularly featured columnists in USA Today. I have provided the information I have found on the college backgrounds of these two individuals. TW]

Allen Neuharth: After the war, Neuharth went to the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he edited the school newspaper, The Volante. He maintains an affiliation with the university and has an office in the Contemporary Media and Journalism building, The Al Neuharth Media Center. He offers a scholarship called "The Al Neuharth Free Spirit Scholarship" honoring graduating high school students who exemplify the qualities of a 'free spirit' and aim to pursue a career in journalism.

DeWayne Wickham: Holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Baltimore. Wickham also earned a certificate in Afro-American Studies from the University of Maryland. A former adjunct faculty member in the University of Maryland’s college of journalism, Wickham has been an occasional presenter at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.



L. Gordon Crovitz: Is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Chicago. He received a law degree from Yale Law School, previously earning a law degree as a Rhodes Scholar from Wadham College of Oxford University.

Peggy Noonan: Is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from Miami University, St. John Fisher College, her alma mater Fairleigh Dickinson University, Adelphi College, and Saint Francis College.

Thomas Frank: Attended the University of Kansas. He also attended the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago, where he received a Ph.D. in history in 1994.

Mary Anastasia O'Grady: Has a bachelor's degree in English from Assumption College and an M.B.A. in financial management from Pace University.

Daniel Henninger: Is a graduate of Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Emily Parker: Graduated with honors from Brown University with a double major in international relations and comparative literature. She has a master's in East Asian Studies from Harvard.

Bret Stephens: Went to the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.: Has a bachelor's degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

William McGurn: Is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Boston University.

Kimberley A. Strassel: Graduated from Princeton University in 1994 with a B.A. in Public Policy and International Affairs. 


Charles M. Blow: Graduated magna cum laude from Grambling State University in Louisiana, where he received a B.A. in mass communications.

David Brooks: Graduated from the University of Chicago in 1983.

He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1983 with a degree in history.

Roger Cohen: Received an M.A. degree in History and French from Oxford University in 1977. He has been awarded the Joe Alex Morris lectureship for distinguished foreign correspondence by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, and served as Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University.

Gail Collins: Nothing

Collins has a degree in journalism from Marquette University and an M.A. in government from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She was also a journalism instructor at Southern Connecticut State University.

Maureen Dowd: Received a B.A. degree in English literature from Catholic University (Washington, D.C.) in 1973.

Thomas L. Friedman: Received a B.A. degree in Mediterranean studies from Brandeis University in 1975. In 1978 he received a Master of Philosophy degree in Modern Middle East studies from Oxford.

Bob Herbert: Received a B.S. degree in journalism from the State University of New York (Empire State College) in 1988. He has taught journalism at Brooklyn College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Nicholas D. Kristof: Graduated from Harvard College and then studied law at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He later studied Arabic in Cairo and Chinese in Taipei.

William Kristol: Nothing

Received a B.A. from Harvard, graduating magna cum laude in three years. Kristol received a Ph.D. in government, also from Harvard. Taught political philosophy and American politics at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He is currently a visiting professor at Harvard University, where he is teaching a course in the school's Government Department with Professor Harvey Mansfield entitled "The Mirror of Princes" on Xenophon, a Greek philosopher and soldier known for his writings on the history of his own times, the sayings of Socrates, and the life of Greece. Kristol also taught a course entitled "Can America Be Governed?" at the Kennedy School of Government.

Paul Krugman: Is professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University. Received his B.A. from Yale University in 1974 and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1977. He has taught at Yale, MIT and Stanford. At MIT he became the Ford International Professor of Economics. On October 13, 2008, it was announced that Mr. Krugman would receive the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Frank Rich: Earned a B.A. degree in American History and Literature, graduating magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1971 and serving as Editorial Chairman of The Harvard Crimson.

LOS ANGELES TIMES,0,3677134.blurb

Rosa Brooks: Is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. Prior to joining the Georgetown faculty, Brooks taught at the University of Virginia and at Yale. She has also served as a fellow of the Kennedy School of Government's Carr Center. Brooks received her A.B. from Harvard in 1991, followed by a master's degree from Oxford in 1993 and a law degree from Yale in 1996.,0,366880.blurb

Meghan Daum: Has taught nonfiction writing at New York University and at the California Institute for the Arts, where she was a visiting artist in 2004.

She received her bachelor's degree from Vassar College and her Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University.,0,2657347.blurb

Jonah Goldberg: Nothing

Graduated from Goucher College in 1991. Goldberg also served for three years on the Board of Trustees of Goucher College.,0,3072276.blurb

Patt Morrison: Served for eight years as adjunct professor at the University of Southern California's School of Journalism. She is a graduate of Occidental College, which named her alumnus of the year in 1995. She was elected to its Board of Trustees in 1998.,0,6620625.blurb

Gregory Rodriguez: Nothing,0,7772463.blurb

Joel Stein: Has taught a class in humor writing at Princeton.

He majored in English at Stanford and wrote a weekly column for The Stanford Daily. He graduated in 1993 with a BA and an MA and moved to New York.,0,73868.blurb

Tim Rutten: Majored in political science while attending California State University, Los Angeles.

[NOTE: I found background information hard to come by for The New York Post. I have included the information on college backgrounds I was able find for columnists I knew as writers on national and international affairs. TW]
Dick Morris: attended Columbia University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, graduating a year early, in 1967.
Ralph Peters: Educated at St. Mary's University, M.A. (international relations), 1988. Alma mater Pennsylvania State University. Peters attended Officer Candidate School and received a commission, eventually attending the Command and General Staff College, and still later graduated from the U.S. Army War College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Kirsten Powers: Graduated from the University of Maryland and attended Georgetown University Law School for a year and half.,2061,806,00.html?null
Amir Taheri: Was a member of the board of trustees of the Iranian Institute for International Political and Economic Studies in Tehran from 1973 to 1979. [No other information on Taheri’s college background was available. TW]

George Will: See below under the Washington Post.


[NOTE: I also had a hard time finding the information I wanted for the columnists at The New York Daily News. I have included the information on college backgrounds I was able find for columnists I knew as writers on national and international affairs. TW]

Michael Daly: nothing
Juan González: enrolled in Columbia University, where he began a career of political activism that would include occupying Boylan Hall—at Brooklyn College—in a public demonstration. He eventually graduated from Columbia in the 90s after completing one law and one physical education requirement. He enrolled in a journalism course at Temple University during the 1970s. For two years, González was the Belle Zeller Visiting Professor in Public Policy and Administration at Brooklyn College/CUNY, with an appointment in both the Department of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, as well as the Political Science Department.

Michael Goodwin: nothing
Errol Louis: Holds a B.A. in Government from Harvard, an M.A. in Political Science from Yale, and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.

Charles Krauthammer: Attended McGill University and obtained an honors degree in political science and economics in 1970. From 1970 to 1971, he was a Commonwealth Scholar in politics at Balliol College, Oxford. He later moved to the United States, where he attended Harvard Medical School. In his first year there in 1972, Krauthammer was paralyzed in a serious diving accident. Continuing medical studies during his year-long hospitalization, he graduated with his class, earning an M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1975, and then began working as a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. In October 1984, he became board certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
David Broder: Received his bachelor's degree and an M.A. in political science from the University of Chicago. He has been a Fellow of the Institute of Politics of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a Fellow of the Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs at Duke University.
Marie Cocco: Graduated summa cum laude from Tufts University, were she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and won the Peter S. Belfer prize in political science. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, where she won the Robert E. Sherwood prize for studying and reporting on American issues.
Richard Cohen: Earned his undergraduate degree from New York University.
E.J. Dionne Jr: Graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from Harvard University in 1973 and received his doctorate from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He began teaching at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute as University Professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture in the fall of 2003.
Michael Gerson: Studied theology at Wheaton College in Illinois.
Ellen Goodman: A 1963 cum laude graduate of Radcliffe College, Goodman returned to Harvard in 1973-74 as a Nieman Fellow, where she studied the dynamics of social change. As the first Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor in Professional Journalism at Stanford University, she taught opinion writing for the winter semester in 1996.
Jim Hoagland: Graduated cum laude from the University of South Carolina and later did graduate work at the University of Aix-en-Provence in France and at Columbia University in New York.
David Ignatius: Graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1973. He received a Frank Knox Fellowship from Harvard and studied at King's College, Cambridge University, where he received a diploma in economics.
Ruth Marcus: Studied history at Yale. Graduated from Harvard Law School, where her writing ability somehow survived the footnote-intensive process of serving on the Harvard Law Review.
Ruben Navarrette Jr: Graduated from Harvard in 1990. Earned a master's in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Kathleen Parker: As an undergraduate, Parker studied in both the United States and abroad, including the University of Valencia in Spain. She holds a master's degree in Spanish from Florida State University.
Attended Converse College before transferring to the University of San Francisco for a year of study in Spain, majoring in Spanish Literature. She holds a Master's degree in the subject.
Neal Peirce: Is a graduate of Princeton University.
Eugene Robinson: Was educated at the University of Michigan, where during his senior year he was the first black student to be named co-editor-in-chief of the award-winning student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. During the 1987-88 academic year, on leave from The Post, Robinson was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University.
Robert Samuelson: Is a 1967 graduate of Harvard with a B.A. in government.
Alvaro Vargas Llosa: Is a graduate of the London School of Economics.
George Will: Was educated at Trinity College in Hartford, and Oxford and Princeton universities. Prior to entering journalism, Will taught political philosophy at Michigan State University and the University of Toronto.
Attended Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut (B.A.). He subsequently read PPE at Magdalen College, University of Oxford (B.A., M.A.), and received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in politics from Princeton University. Will then taught political philosophy at the James Madison College of Michigan State University, and at the University of Toronto. He taught at Harvard University in 1995 and again in 1998.




Image: Newspapers B&W (4) by Jon S / CC by 2.0 

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