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University of Michigan Produces More CEOs at Fortune 1000 Companies Than Any Other Public University

An aerial shot of the Michigan Ross building at sunset.

The University of Michigan is the alma mater of more than 30 alums serving as CEOs at large, publicly traded companies — a sum higher than any other public university, according to data sourced from S&P Global.

Nearly half of these alums have a degree from the Ross School of Business, and almost all lead companies ranked on the Fortune 1000 list, which tracks the largest companies in the United States by revenue. Just the top 10 companies on the list reported $3.7 trillion in revenue in 2023, according to Fortune.

The largest companies led by Michigan Ross alums include Albertsons Companies Inc., American Airlines, PNC Financial Services Group Inc., and more.

Matt Ganderson, managing director of the Michigan Ross Full-Time and Global MBA Programs, notes that the success of these Ross alums in upper leadership positions is a great reflection of what the school works to prepare its students to achieve.

“At Ross, we train students not just to become better businesspersons but emphasize — through the curriculum and co-curricular activities — growing one’s leadership capabilities so graduates can leverage these skills throughout their career,” Ganderson said.

We focus on developing the whole person, including emotional intelligence and cultural competencies, all required to be an effective global business leader

Matt Ganderson, managing director of the Michigan Ross Full-Time and Global MBA Programs

U-M, as a whole, currently ranks No. 1 for the biggest producer of CEO graduates among public universities and No. 5 overall, trailing only private research schools like Harvard University and Stanford University. Among public business schools specifically, Michigan Ross also ranks No. 1 for producing the most CEOs in the Fortune 1000.

“Our mission at Michigan Ross is building a better world through business. People here want to do big things; they want to make an impact,” said Sharon F. Matusik, Edward J. Frey Dean of Business. “The action-based learning orientation in our program provides students with the skills and experiences to excel at decision-making under conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity, to connect different areas of knowledge, to communicate effectively, and to collaborate to problem-solve.”

“Our alumni tell me time and time again how critical these skills and experiences have been to set them up for long-term career success,” said Dean Matusik. “This differentiates us as a business school."

 If you want to get that foundation to take on big opportunities in your career, you come to Ross.

Sharon F. Matusik, Edward J. Frey Dean of Business

On her new podcast, Down to Business, Dean Matusik spoke to Michigan Ross alum Robert Isom, MBA ’91, CEO of American Airlines. As he reflected on his journey to the C-suite, Isom gave his perspective on what differentiates Michigan Ross as a top producer of CEO-level graduates.

“What Michigan did for me is it brought everything together into all these different functions. How do they come together in a business? It seemed like every class was another piece of the puzzle being put together so that you could really have an understanding of how — especially in large companies that have a lot of people doing various functions — things had to be put together in a fashion that would allow an enterprise to make money and fulfill its purpose to the communities that it resides in and the people that it serves.”

A few of the world’s biggest companies led by Michigan Ross alums include:

Albertsons Companies logoAlbertsons Companies Inc. has been led by Vivek Sankaran, MBA ’93, since 2019. Prior to leading Albertsons, Sankaran was CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America Foodservice.

Allstate logoAllstate Corp. is led by Thomas J. Wilson, BBA ’79. Wilson became Allstate’s CEO in 2007 and became chair of the board of directors in 2008. 

American Airlines logo

American Airlines has been led by Robert Isom, MBA ’91, since 2022. Prior to leading American Airlines, Isom served as the company’s president from 2016-2022 and as vice president and chief operating officer before that.

Bloomin' Brands logoBloomin’ Brands Inc. has been led by David Deno, MBA ’82, since 2019. Before leading the company, Deno was responsible for Bloomin’ Brands’ business analytics and global strategy and also led financial planning and reporting. Bloomin’ Brands is the parent company of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, and other brands.