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March 9, 2013

5 U.S. colleges with notable IT alumni

By college

Thinking of a career in IT? There’s an ongoing debate about whether or not getting a computer-related degree is even needed in the profession, although data has shown people with computer science degrees land among the highest-paying professionals. There are  many great undergrad programs and non-traditional avenues toward getting the knowledge you need to work in the field.  If you do opt for the college route, the following universities have earned bragging rights when it comes to having notable alumni in the industry.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Logo

Virginia Tech may be known for its engineering programs, but its IT program is not far behind.  A bachelor of science in business information technology under the Pamplin College of Business prepares students for real-world problems.  The IT program is a mixture of business, computer science and industrial engineering courses.

Virginia Tech IT graduates get cutting-edge training in technology, with classes on design, information security, modeling and supply chain management, among others.  It’s one of the  most affordable schools on our list.

Notable graduates include:

  • Thomas L. Phillips, Raytheon Corp. CEO;
  • Denis G. Clem, chief information officer at the Office of the Secretary of Defense
  • George Nolen, Siemens Corp. president and CEO;
  • Jim Buckmaster, CEO;
  • Jess Cliffe, Co-creator of Counter-Strike; and
  • Paul Laughton, author of Atari DOS, Atari Basic, Apple DOS 3.1, and BASIC! for Android.

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, is one of the leading technology universities in the world.  Until 1967, it was known as Carnegie Technical Schools.  Facebook’s director of engineering, Aditya Agarwal; Sun Microsystems co-founder, Andy Bechtolsheim; Google’s chief Java architect, Joshua Bloch; Microsoft’s corporate vice presidents, Anoop Gupta and Harry Shum; and Boeing CTO Robert J. Krieger all have roots at CMU.

You might also know the following distinguished alumni:

  • Nathaniel Borenstein, the co-creator of the MIME e-mail format;
  • Robert Dennard, inventor of the DRAM or dynamic random access memory;
  • James Gosling, creator of Java; and
  • Drew Perkins, author of PPP or point-to-point protocol.

IT-related programs at Carnegie Mellon include a bachelor’s degree in computer programming and technology, which combines course work and practical experience.  The school also offers a bachelor of science in business administration with a computing and information technology track.  Nevertheless, all freshmen and sophomores, no matter what their majors, are expected to take up programming and computing courses as part of the curriculum.

Harvard University

Harvard SEAS

Harvard University’s computer science program is among the best in the world.  The program has close ties with chemistry, physics, biology, electrical engineering and even medicine and business courses, on top of programming and computing.

Harvard’s faculty and alumni have won 46 Nobel Prizes put together, but it really stands out for producing illustrious alumni that have made a difference in the world of technology.  Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates were Harvard dropouts, who then proceeded to found two of the world’s most iconic brands: Facebook and Microsoft.  Other notable Harvard graduates in the tech world include:

  • Stephen Cook, computer scientist;
  • Don Coppersmith, cryptographer;
  • Paul Graham, co-founder of ViaWeb, which would later on be known as Yahoo! Store.
  • Tony Hsieh, CEO of;
  • Ivan Krstić, computer security expert currently working with Apple, Inc.;
  • Robert Tappan Morris, creator of the Morris Worm, which is the Internet’s first computer worm;
  • Richard Matthew Stallman, software freedom activist and founder of the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation; and
  • William Hawkins III, founder of Electronic Arts.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Maybe it should not be surprising that Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the top tech schools in the United States today.  MIT is known for being highly cross-disciplinary, so students can, for instance, mix information technology and business.

MIT boasts a lot of distinguished graduates who became luminaries in the field of technology, including:

  • Ray Tomlinson, the inventor of e-mail;
  • Helen Greiner and Colin Angle, whose company, iRobot Corp., is behind the Roomba vacuum cleaner;
  • Joseph Jacobson, who founded e-Ink Corp. with LexisNexis founder Jerome Rubin and Russel Wilcox and two former students.  Don’t know what e-Ink did?  They manufactured electrophoretic displays, the technology used in Amazon Kindles;
  • Robert Metcalfe, who co-invented the Ethernet and founded 3Com;
  • William Reddington Hewlett, who co-founded the Hewlett Packard Company;
  • Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman, developers of the RSA encryption, the same technology that makes it possible for e-commerce to exist now;
  • Robert Noyce, co-founder of Intel, Corp. and was regarded as the “Mayor of Silicon Valley;”
  • Nicholas Negroponte, who is the man behind the One Laptop Per Child project that has provided more than 2 million stripped down PCs to children in more than 30 countries; and
  • Cynthia Breazeal, creator of Kismet, a robot that interacted with humans.

Brigham Young University

BYU seal

BYU probably has the best information systems curriculum in the country outside of the Ivy League. All of its faculty hires in recent years have earned their doctorates at top Ph.D. programs. Students are trained to deal with real-world problems and in best practices.

The SCO Group CEO Darl McBride and former Dell CEO Kevin Rollins both attended BYU.  Other notable graduates include:

  • Bruce Webster, former BYTE and Macworld writer
  • Bruce Wayne Bastian, co-founder of WordPerfect Software Company
  • Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of TV

Again, while these may be some of the top technology schools in the country with some of the most famous alumni, that doesn’t mean other colleges and universities do not provide top-notch training.  The trick is always to check course outlines and compare programs at different schools to see if they offer the classes and programs that fit your career path.  And remember, too, that training doesn’t stop in school.  Real training and real experience comes when you have left the walls of your college or university.

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About the Author

Michael Gabriel Sumastre is a skilled technical blogger and writer with more than seven years of professional experience in Web content creation, SEO and research paper writing. He has written more than a thousand articles related to tech and gadgets, cloud computing, IT management, SEO, SEM and software solutions. He ghostwrites books / e-books and has a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. Michael is also an expert in webmastering and loves to ride his sportsbike. He maintains his portfolio and personal blog at

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