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The Ivy League 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.
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 than twenty percent.)
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 Versus Snobs plot. Essentially, it is the American equivalent of Oxbridge.
(Of course, this hasn't been true of the Ivy schools for decades, but 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 or University of California-Berkeley instead, while Southerners have their sights set on Vanderbilt or Duke. Even people in the relatively close Upper Midwest often aim for Northwestern 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 NESCAC 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 Sixties of forming a "Magnolia Conference" of elite Southern universities that wanted to maintain big-ticket sports programs without cutting corners on academics, as they felt that their rivals were doing.
The eight Ivy League colleges, in the order they were founded:
- Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts: established in 1636 (oldest American university). Motto: Veritas ("Truth")
- Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut: established in 1701.Motto:האורים והתומים,Lux et veritas ("Light and truth").
- University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: established in 1740. Motto:Leges sine moribus vanae ("Laws without morals are useless").
- Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey: established in 1746. Motto:Dei sub numine viget ("Under God's power she flourishes").
- Columbia University in New York City, New York: 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. Motto:I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.
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.
See also Ivy League for Everyone.
Ivy League in the Media:
- Harvard is the setting for the book and film Love Story.
- Harvard Law school is the setting for the film The Paper Chase.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Sideshow Bob of The Simpsons went to Yale.
- Troy the Janitor from Scrubs went to Yale.
University of Pennsylvania
- Dennis and Dee Reynolds of Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia both studied psychology at UPenn, but Dee didn't graduate, and Dennis is...well...Dennis.
- 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 Princestone" of The Flintstones, Fred briefly attends "Princestone 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The fictional version of himself portrayed by Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report attended Dartmouth. (The real Colbert did not.)
- Sideshow Mel of The Simpsons attended Cornell.
- The eponymous Citizen Kane was expelled from Cornell.
- In The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft, George Gammell Angell is an emeritus professor at Brown.
- Miskatonic University, frequently seen or mentioned in the Cthulhu Mythos, is modeled on Brown University.
- Harvard's Widener Library houses a copy of the Necronomicon.
- In Decades of Darkness, Word of God holds that the Alternate History Ivy League covers nine schools in New England 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).
Ivy League in Real Life:
- John Adams was the first Harvard grad to become president.
- Other Harvard alums 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 alum. 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 went to Harvard at the same time, and admitted years later to modelling its protagonist Oliver on a fusion of the two.
- 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.
- Jodie Foster, Yale 1984.
- George H. W. Bush attended Yale
- George W. Bush attended Yale
- Legendary OSS/CIA spymaster James Jesus Angleton was a Yale man.
University of Pennsylvania
- Benjamin Franklin was one of the university's founders
- Ezra Pound attended the University of Pennylvania.
- William Carlos Williams was a Penn graduate.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald attended Princeton.
- As did Jimmy Stewart, Joshua Logan, Jose Ferrer, Wayne Rogers, Brooke Shields, 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 Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, and James Madison went to Princeton. Wilson was also the President of Princeton from 1902 to 1910.
- Ralph Nader, Princeton 1955.
- Queen Noor of Jordan, born Lisa Hallaby, Princeton 1974.
- Former pro basketball player and former US Senator Bill Bradley is Princeton Class of 1965.
- Syngman Rhee, first president of South Korea, Princeton 1910.
- Alexander Hamilton attended Columbia when it was still called King's College.
- OSS founder William Joseph "Wild Bill" Donovan was a Columbia graduate.
- Rider Strong (Shawn Hunter on Boy Meets World) went to 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.
- 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.
- 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 2001-2006.
- Bill Maher of Politically Incorrect, Cornell 1978.
- Christopher Reeve, Cornell 1974.
- Carl Sagan worked in Cornell from 1968 to 1996.
- 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.
- Kurt Vonnegut was a undergrad in Cornell until he joined the US army in 1943.
- 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 Delano Roosevelt attended both Harvard University and Columbia Law School.
Harvardiani et Yaliani delenda sunt.