Best Fraternities For Future CEOs

Forbes is going to be featuring an article called “Best Fraternities For Future CEOs” in its upcoming March issue. The article’s idea and research was influenced by a friend of mine, Jon Williamson. One of Jon’s hobbies is collecting fraternal alumni directories, and then reading them. He has a gifted memory, which helps him match names and ages to notable individuals, like Forbes‘s list of 500 CEOs. Way to go Jon.

Best Fraternities For Future CEOs
Davide Dukcevich, 01.31.03, 12:00 PM ET

NEW YORK – Don’t be surprised if you see your company directors exchanging secret handshakes at the next board meeting. After all, about a quarter of all chief executives on the Forbes Super 500 list of America’s largest corporations were members of college fraternities.

Despite what movies such as Animal House suggest, fraternities and sororities are more than just freshman rush and beer busts. The social skills that help students gain admittance into the Greek system are the same aptitudes that can later give them a leg-up in corporate climbing. Plus, once they’ve graduated, they can tap into the network of past fraternity brothers or sisters who litter all tiers of corporate America.

The numbers certainly seem to back this theory up. A mere 8.5% of full-time university undergraduates are members of either a fraternity or a sorority. Not only have fraternities been the breeding ground of those 120 Forbes 500s chief executive officers, they also have spawned 48% of all U.S. presidents, 42% of U.S. senators, 30% of U.S. congressmen, and 40% of U.S. Supreme Court justices, according to data from The North-American Interfraternity Conference.

Wachovia CEO G. Kennedy Thompson said that Beta Theta Pi, which he joined while an undergrad at the University of North Carolina, gave him “the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and places, and the connections have continued beyond my university years to my business life.”

He is also a member of the fraternity that produced the most CEOs among the biggest 500 companies in the country. Beta Theta Pi can boast of 11 such CEOs, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Chi are tied in second at nine, Lambda Chi Alpha has eight, and Alpha Tau Omega seven.