Jeff Pitman's Survivor 44 recaps
The Ivy Lead - S44 edition
By Jeff Pitman | Published: March 21, 2023
Survivor 44 Multi-season analysis

The Ivy lead - S44 edition

Editor's note: This same article last appeared, pretty much intact, way back before S35 started airing. We're now almost 10 seasons later, and the Ivy streak continues unabated (except for Winners at War ... which, well, that's Cochran's fault). Anyway, here is a New Era update to the world's favoritest weird Survivor casting crutch: The Ivy League student. Now at 35 alumni and counting.

This article, right here, is obviously the most important one, because it asks the crucial question: Which Ivy League school now wields the title of the most (undergrad) alumni in Survivor history? If you're reading this article, you can probably read a graph, so the answer is, clearly: Brown University. The Berkeley of the East. The one the late JFK Jr. was wealthy enough to get into. Heckuva job, Brownies!

We should probably point out that this prestigious title is not without controversy. You see, Brown has held the overall title since Worlds Apart, when the Shirin/Max alumni duo put them squarely in the lead. But had So Kim not been pulled from San Juan del Sur due to her sister's pre-game medevac, Penn might have briefly held the lead. Instead, Penn is left with their traditional asterisk status, honed through years of "No, we really are an Ivy, not a state school."

Why is this important?

We know, we know, you're probably skeptical. But let's be honest: This *is* important because Survivor casts are a true cross-section of American society, and clearly, Ivy representation is a demonstration of that. As the 35 Ivy alumni/alumnae out of 662 total contestants prove, one in every 18 Americans is a former student of an elite, highly selective Ivy League university. Just like how one in every 40 or so American men is a former NFL player!

But it wasn't always this way. Historically, Ivy alums showed up only sporadically, with a mere three in the first nine seasons. But around Palau, casting sent out a directive to find a male "Ivy League type," and ended up with the relentlessly entertaining strategic mastermind, Gregg Carey (Penn).

So delighted were audiences with that result, Survivor casting kept at it for a full one additional year, resulting in Guatemala including both Brian Corridan (Columbia), whose chyron even identified him as an "Ivy League student", and Rafe Judkins, who (being from Brown) had to settle for being a "wilderness guide." (He's now a successful TV showrunner. Watch Wheel of Time.) Since Brian and Rafe were both interesting, game-altering characters, Survivor promptly forgot all about the Ivies for several recruit-heavy seasons. (Technically, astronaut Dan Barry is also an Ivy alum, but that's not why he was cast.) Five seasons later, by some freak accident, two ended up on Gabon.

Since nobody watched that season, the drought really extended all the way through to South Pacific, when Survivor realized it could combine general nerdery with Survivor superfandom, and cast John Cochran, who was quickly followed by the more triple threat-ish Malcolm Freberg. Since Worlds Apart, Survivor has been on an unbroken Ivy streak, with casts now containing up to three ex-Ivy contestants: Three in S30, two in S31, three in S32, one in S33, two in S34, and another three in S35. Hooray, progress!

S44 update: Time has been kind to this trend, with a whopping (lucky) 13 more Ivy alums in the post-35 casts, including two in this very season, both from Dartmouth (Helen and Claire). Since they've both been voted out now, we have clean stats to compare placement, longevity, and other such things among the schools. Most importantly: While we've now had 35 total Ivy alums on Survivor, there have still been exactly zero Princetonians. Someone must really hate tigers.

So before we get into the school-by-school breakdown, let's update just how many Ivy alums have been on the show. Really, it's an unbroken streak since Worlds Apart, because you can't fault the Winners at War casting process when they asked the one eligible winner (John Cochran), and he (wisely) declined.

Ivy alums

So before we get into the school-by-school breakdown, let's update just how many Ivy alums have been on the show, per season (above). Really, it's been an unbroken streak since Worlds Apart, because you can't fault the Winners at War casting process when they asked the one eligible winner (John Cochran) to appear, and he (wisely) declined. But just look at all those 2- and 3-Ivy player seasons in the last 10!

Total Ivy alums, appearances

In order to pad this out into even more words, let's break down the battle by school:

First place: Brown University

Seven contestants | Ten appearances

Jamal Shipman, Brown

Contestants: 1. Greg Buis - S1: Borneo; 2. Rafe Judkins - S11: Guatemala; 3. Max Dawson - S30: Worlds Apart; 4. Shirin Oskooi - S30: Worlds Apart, S31: Cambodia; 5. Aubry Bracco - S32: Kaoh Rong, S34: Game Changers, S38: Edge of Extinction; 6. Mike Zahalsky - S35: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers; 7. Jamal Shipman - S39: Island of the Idols.

What else can we say about Brown? Its reputation for quirky students is supported by the likes of memorable characters like Greg, Shirin, and Aubry. And, obviously, S35's urologist, Dr. Mike. ("Knock, knock!") Brown is also the only Ivy to have more than one player return. Not to mention that after a stately two appearances in the first 29 seasons, Brown alumni made eight appearances in the 10 seasons that followed. But since Jamal (above) in IotI, the Brown well has run a bit dry, and there have been no further Brownies in the New Era. Probably all swapped out for Canadians, or something.

Second place: Columbia University

Seven contestants | Eight appearances

Evvie Jagoda, Columbia

Contestants: 1. Brian Corridan - S11: Guatemala; 2. John Cochran - S23: South Pacific, S26: Caramoan; 3. Simone Nguyen - S35: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers; 4. Alison Raybould, S37: David vs. Goliath; 5. Dean Kowalksi, S39: Island of the Idols; 6. Sydney Segal, Survivor 41; 7. Evvie Jagoda, Survivor 41.

The biggest mover in the New Era, this NYC-based (and thus obviously Wine-and-Cheese aligned) institution was tied with Cornell for third place, but has more than doubled its roster since S35, moving it into a tie for first place (in unique players, but second in total appearances). We always knew Columbia would rise, though, because (1) Brian was officially an "Ivy League student," and has written for this site, and (2) Cochran actually won (and is the only ex-Ivy winner), and (3) Evvie (above) has a biology PhD, which all good people should. Sorry for you, other New York Ivy (Cornell).

Third place: Harvard University

Six contestants | Six appearances

Jeanine Zheng, Harvard

Contestants: 1. Marcus Lehman - S17: Gabon; 2. Zeke Smith - S33: Millennials vs. Gen X, S34: Game Changers; 3. James Lim - S36: Ghost Island; 4. Kellee Kim - S39: Island of the Idols; 5. Swati Goel - Survivor 42; 6. Jeanine Zheng - Survivor 43.

For a long time, Harvard and Yale, bitter rivals, and the two most famous Ivies, were exactly tied (and near the bottom) with two total contestants and a mere three total appearances each. But since Zeke appeared in S33, Harvard has racked up four more contestants and five total appearances (as Zeke played in back-to-back seasons). None of the recent players have made it much past the merge, but there's been a lot of untapped potential in that group.

Fourth place: University of Pennsylvania

Five contestants | Five appearances

Chrissy Hofbeck, Penn

Contestants: 1. Gregg Carey - S10: Palau; 2. Charlie Herschel - S17: Gabon; 3. So Kim - S30: Worlds Apart; 4. Cydney Gillon - S32: Kaoh Rong; 5. Chrissy Hofbeck - S35: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.

While Penn has produced a first boot, its mostly fielded late jurors, and a screwed-by-a-twist finalist. Chrissy was the first Penn alum to reach the finals, and she stands a good chance of eventually becoming a returning player, but she's also their last player, going back now almost 10 seasons. Tick, tock.

Fifth place: Dartmouth College

Four contestants | Six appearances

Claire Rafson, Dartmouth

Contestants: 1. Linda Spencer - S3: Africa; 2. Malcolm Freberg - S25: Philippines, S26: Caramoan, S34: Game Changers; 4. Helen Li - Survivor 44; 5. Claire Rafson - Survivor 44.

The New Hampshire Ivy had produced but two contestants, but that total doubled in 44, with Helen Li and Claire Rafson joining the ranks. And three weeks into the season, they're both done. If there's a theme here, it's players done in by ridiculous production decisions: Malcolm losing in a fluke combined Tribal vote in Game Changers, and Helen and Claire both being boxed in by alliance-mates who were forced to risk their vote and lost.

Sixth place: Yale University

Three contestants | Four appearances

Laurel Johnson, Yale

Contestants: 1. Anthony Robinson - S14: Fiji; 2. Stephen Fishbach - S18: Tocantins, S31: Cambodia; 3. Laurel Johnson - S36: Ghost Island.

Ah, Yale. The only noteworthy thing in Connecticut, except maybe the Mystic Aquarium and the 100 or so miles of exits you wish you were done driving past on the 95. Yale! The school, forever in Harvard's shadow, that George W. Bush was wealthy enough to attend. While Harvard has produced a bunch of recent contestants (mostly out early), Yale did give us two finalists. Although both received zero jury votes. But still, Yale has the Knowingest Know-It-All (Stephen Fishbach), AND the only combination finalist/juror in Survivor history (Laurel Johnson). This can't be overlooked.

Seventh place: Cornell University

Three contestants | Three appearances

Neal Gottlieb, Cornell

Contestants: 1. Matthew von Ertfelda - S6: The Amazon; 2. Dan Barry - S12: Panama-Exile Island; 3. Neal Gottlieb - S32: Kaoh Rong.

While Brown's quirky reputation precedes it, Cornell has itself churned out some unique characters, from an aloof, Mandarin-conversing, machete-sharpening global adventurer, to a Space Shuttle-riding astronaut, to an ice cream pants-wearing entrepreneur who found an idol, was medevacced before he could play it, then was removed from the jury in one of Survivor's lamest twists ever. Apparently casting is leaning away from quirky now, though, because Neal was the last alum, way back in Kaoh Rong. Oh well, at least they're not Princeton.

Last place: Princeton University

Zero contestants | Zero appearances

Definitely not a Princeton alumnus

Contestants: None.

We have no idea why Princeton has, at least through the first 44 seasons, never produced a Survivor contestant. Maybe Brandon Hantz's pre-Caramoan tiger stripe tattoos have so scarred casting that they now have a tiger phobia that extends to collegiate mascots. Maybe Princeton grads are just really, really boring. But you would think that, what with New Jersey recently becoming the new epicenter of Survivor casting, and producing three winners (one of them a two-time winner, no less) in the past 10 years, maybe at least *one* Jersey resident would have attended their resident Ivy. But alas, no. Not so far. Who knows what the future may hold, though? Five years later, we're still asking: Could Brandon Hantz attend Princeton before Princeton produces a Survivor contestant? Who knows?! Maybe!

Jeff Pitman's recapsJeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes