• Oxy’s youngest Pulitzer Prize winner

  • Class of '96

    Andrea Elliott

  • Wrote U.S. Military Code of Conduct

  • Class of '40

    F. Brooke Nihart

  • Runs a Nobel Prize factory

  • Class of '53

    Edward Schlag

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Andrea Elliott '96

In high school, Andrea Elliott ’96 knew what she wanted to be: a newspaper reporter.

“I was a disastrous athlete,” she says. “I never made the lead in the school play. But writing came easily to me.” In 2007, she won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, for a series of articles in the New York Times about the life of a Brooklyn imam in post-9/11 America. Raised bilingual, the daughter of an American lawyer and a Chilean clinical therapist, the ECLS major and former Occidental Weekly staffer finished first in her class at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and worked at the Miami Herald before joining the Times in 2003. Says Oxy friend and fellow Times staffer Kareem Fahim ’93, “She becomes so involved in her stories that it’s fun to get caught up in that, to watch her develop her thinking.”

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F. Brooke Nihart '40

“I am an American, fighting in the armed forces which guard my country and our way of life.” So begins Article I of the Code of Conduct, written by F. Brooke Nihart ’40 in 1955.

During  the Korean War, concern over brainwashed POWs revealing military secrets led the Marine Corps to devise a formal code of honor for all uniformed personnel. The man chosen to write the new code of conduct was Nihart, the decorated war veteran of World War II and Korea. His words remain largely intact today, with just a few minor revisions. After his graduation from Oxy, he joined the Marine Corps and was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on the battlefield during the Battle of the Punchbowl in North Korea in 1951. In 1972, Nihart became the deputy director of the Marine Corps museums, writing extensively on military history for journals and books. At Oxy, he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta and competed in baseball, football, swimming, and water polo for the Tigers.

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Edward Schlag '53

Some of the brightest minds in science have worked under Oxy chemistry major Edward Schlag ’53.

They include three Nobel laureates and more than two dozen recipients of prestigious Alexander von Humboldt research fellowships. A physical chemistry professor at Munich Technical University, Schlag is a research pioneer in chemical spectroscopy via tunable lasers. Many of his students honored Schlag at a symposium at the Germany Embassy in Washington, D.C. in 2001, and he was recognized again at the 2009 national meeting of the American Chemical Society for his research in ZEKE spectroscopy. Much sought after as a lecturer, Schlag has taught in universities around the world, including Caltech, Yale, and Cambridge.

  • Developed the talking baby for E*Trade

  • Class of '94

    Tor Myhren

  • Flew with Eddie Rickenbacker’s “Hat in the Ring” squadron

  • Class of '17

    William Warde Fowler

  • She does it all: newspapers, television, and radio

  • Class of '74

    Patt Morrison

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Tor Myhren '94

Tor Myhren ’94 does not own a television.

That’s kind of odd, considering he is president and chief creative officer of Grey New York, the North American flagship of the world’s fifth-largest ad agency. But Myrhen, an English major and kinesiology minor, has transformed the old-school, conservative firm with such creations as the E*Trade talking baby. In 2010, Grey New York won 16 of 18 account pitches. “His creative judgment is outstanding,” says Mark Waller, chief marketing officer for the NFL, a Grey client. Ironically, Myhren got his first agency job with no advertising experience at all. “I really got my first advertising job from the short stories and poetry I had written at Oxy,” he says. “I guess that proved to my boss at the time that I could at least write.” Myhren successfully flexes his creativity in other domains as well: he just completed his first feature-length documentary, City Lax, which won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Sonoma International Film Festival.

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William Warde Fowler '17

Plunging toward the Argonne Forest from 7,000 feet, Lt. William Warde Fowler ’17 thought he was a goner.

Somehow, the English and history major managed to walk away from the September 1918 crash of his Spad fighter without a scratch. He walked in on his fellow pilots just as he was reported missing and presumed dead. “I was sorry to disappoint the boys, but it had to be done,” he wrote home. It was one of several narrow escapes for Fowler, a pilot in Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker’s elite 94th Aero Squadron. After the war, Fowler returned to the family business, Fowler Brothers, the landmark Los Angeles bookstore that served the likes of John Philip Sousa, author Zane Grey, fellow aviator Charles Lindbergh, and actors Tom Mix and Douglas Fairbanks. It was at Fowler Brothers that science-fiction author Ray Bradbury met his wife Maggie.

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Patt Morrison '74

If Los Angeles had an official scribe, it would be Patt Morrison ’74.

For more than 25 years, she has chronicled the city and the world as a Los Angeles Times reporter and columnist, public radio and television host, and author. The diplomacy and world affairs major has a share of two Pulitzer Prizes to her credit as part of the Times teams that covered the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and her individual awards include six Emmys as founding host and commentator of KCET-TV’s “Life & Times” nightly news program. She now splits her time between the Times and Los Angeles NPR affiliate KPCC. One of her books, Rio LA: Tales from the Los Angeles River, was a best seller. Pink’s, the famous L.A. hot-dog stand, even named a wiener in her honor: the Patt Morrison Baja Veggie Dog comes with chopped tomatoes and onions and guacamole.

  • First president of Hampshire College

  • Class of '39

    Franklin Patterson

  • Mean Girls expert

  • Class of '91

    Rosalind Wiseman

  • Earned her wings as a WASP

  • Class of '33

    Lauretta (Beaty) Foy

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Franklin Patterson '39

Franklin Patterson ’39 was a writer, an innovator and even a Captain in the U.S. Air Force, but above all else he was an educator.

Patterson, a firm believer in enabling students to educate themselves and developing their independence in order to help them become responsible citizens, was once quoted as saying, “education is not equal to time spent at college.” But he would make sure that time spent at college would be educational. He helped write the New College Plan, resulting in the formation of the experimental, alternative education college Hampshire College. The history and government major began his teaching career as a professor at Tufts University, teaching political science; he went on to become the first president of Hampshire College, was the first director of the Lincoln Filene Center for Citizenship and Public Affairs, and also taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. While at Oxy he was a member of the debate team and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

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Rosalind Wiseman '91

Tina Fey’s 2004 film Mean Girls is a comedy, but no one takes teen bullying more seriously than Rosalind Wiseman '91, who wrote the book that inspired the movie.

“I get really mad about people being bullied – boys or girls. And I felt like I could do something about it.” In that regard, Wiseman has succeeded. In the 10 years since the first publication of her New York Times bestseller, Queen Bees and Wannabees has sold more than 400,000 copies, and Wiseman has become the nation’s leading expert on bullying prevention and school violence. In 2011, she was invited to the White House as a principal speaker at the White House Summit on Bullying, and she has developed anti-bullying curriculums at schools all over the nation. The political science major began by teaching girls martial arts, and what started as a way to help victims fight back turned into a lifelong mission of helping girls take responsibility and preventing bullying at its core. Of her life’s work, she says, “I knew no matter what I did, I wanted to do something to make the world a more socially just place.”

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Lauretta (Beaty) Foy '33

Although she was a stand-in for movie stars such as Loretta Young, English major Lauretta (Beaty) Foy ’33 wasn’t just another pretty face.

When World War II broke out, she became a test pilot for the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs), flying fighter planes and bombers destined for combat. She didn’t give up her wings after the war ended. In 1947, Foy won the Powder Puff Derby, an annual coast-to-coast air race. She cut back on flying only after her husband, Bob Foy, died in a plane crash in 1950. But in the early 1960s she became a certified helicopter pilot and instructor. Her teaching paid an unexpected dividend: In 1993, when raging fires threatened her hilltop home in the Santa Monica Mountains, a former student swooped in via helicopter and rescued Foy.

  • Helped found one of the world’s first gay rights organizations

  • Class of '53

    James “John” Gruber

  • Darling of L.A.’s indie music scene

  • Class of '09

    Ramona Gonzales

  • Created a national model for special education

  • Class of '47

    Alfonso Perez

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James “John” Gruber '53

James “John” Gruber ’53 was an Oxy sophomore when he and boyfriend Konrad Stevens joined the 6-month-old Society of Fools.

At Gruber’s suggestion, the group changed its name to the Mattachine Society--known today as the first modern gay-rights organization. “All of us had known a whole lifetime of not talking, or repression. Just the freedom to open up … really, that’s what it was all about,” said Gruber, an ex-Marine studying English on the G.I. Bill. After working in radio and founding a motorcycle club, Gruber fell in love with teaching and enjoyed a long career as a high school and college teacher. At his death in 2011, he was the last surviving original member of the Mattachine Society.

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Ramona Gonzales '09

By the time she graduated, Ramona Gonzales '09 had recorded her debut album, started touring, and had her song chosen for a movie soundtrack.

The movie, Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, starring Ben Stiller, was a critical success and helped to launch Nite Jewel’s first tour, where they played shows in dance clubs and rock joints all over Europe. That year, the L.A. Times named Gonzales one of five “Queens of L.A.’s lo-fi scene,” signaling her firm arrival into the often-transient world of indie music. Nite Jewel (Ramona Gonzales’ nickname and project) has since been profiled in Rolling Stone, Elle and on Pitchfork.com for her debut album Good Evening, which was acclaimed by culture critics and indie music connoisseurs, and in 2012 she released her follow-up album One Second of Love to favorable reviews. The philosophy major attributes her music’s unique depth to the interdisciplinary approach to learning she took from her Oxy education. Nite Jewel was an official showcase selection at 2012’s SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas.

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Alfonso Perez '47

The son of Mexican immigrants, Alfonso Perez ’47 won the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal as an Air Force bombardier in World War II.

What he was proudest of, however, was his 33 years of service to special education students in public schools. As the first Mexican-American to be appointed a high school principal in Los Angeles, Perez, who majored in physical education at Oxy, turned Widney High School into a national model of public education for the handicapped. By the end of his tenure, Widney had been transformed from what Perez called “a holding place” for the disabled to a school that mainstreamed up to a third of its students. The Alfonso B. Perez School for special education students was named in his honor after his 1980 retirement from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

  • One of the country’s leading turnaround experts

  • Class of '68

    Stephen Cooper

  • From 1600 Campus Road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

  • Class of '83

    Barack Obama

  • No man left behind

  • Class of '45

    Thomas H. Tackaberry

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Stephen Cooper '68

Stephen Cooper ’68 describes his job this way: “I manage and organize trouble.”

For more than 30 years, the Oxy economics major and Wharton School graduate has worked as one of the country’s top turnaround experts. His list of troubled clients is an impressive one: Federated Department Stores, Polaroid Corp., Enron, Krispy Kreme, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. Today the crisis management guru is CEO of Warner Brothers Music Group and managing partner of Cooper Investment Partners, a private equity firm. “What I do for a living is different every day of the week,” he once said. “It’s very easy to get stressed out and very easy to get worn out, but almost impossible to get bored.”

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Barack Obama '83

President Barack Obama ’83 still complains about the “B” politics professor Roger Boesche gave him--but is quick to add that it was his favorite college class.

Although Obama transferred to Columbia at the end of his sophomore year, Occidental is, in his own words, where he grew up and where he began to notice a world beyond himself. “Barack was funny, smart, thoughtful, and well-liked,” remembers classmate Phil Boerner. It was at Occidental that Obama made his first political speech, during a campus protest against South Africa’s apartheid regime. “Oxy nurtured his transformation,” the Boston Globe said. “By the end of his sophomore year, he was on his way to becoming a self-assured, purpose-driven scholar plotting a career in public service.”

 

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Thomas H. Tackaberry '45

Thomas H. Tackaberry '45 never backed down when servicemen were under fire.

It was Sept. 9, 1952, and in the Chorwon province in North Korea, Captain Tackaberry had spotted a United Nations patrol that had become disorganized after its commander was killed in action. Despite the barrage of heavy automatic weapon fire, Tackaberry oversaw the withdrawal of the patrol and remained behind until he was sure that the men were safe. His heroic actions earned him his first Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military award granted for “extreme gallantry and risk of life.” Tackaberry went on to receive two more Distinguished Service Crosses for leading defensive operations and extracting soldiers while under heavy assault in Vietnam, where he served as commanding officer of the 2nd Airborne Battalion and later the commanding officer of the 196th Infantry Brigade. After his active duty abroad, Tackaberry served as commander of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg from 1974 to 1976 and then as commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg from 1979 until his retirement in 1981. The Los Angeles native is among the top 50 most decorated U.S military personnel and is remembered for his bravery on the ground and in the air.

  • Brought Presbyterian values to Hollywood

  • Class of '18

    Louis Hadley Evans

  • Laid the groundwork for viral videos

  • Class of '73

    Stephen L. Casner

  • Represents “Peanuts” and popcorn and Cracker Jack

  • Class of '86

    Shawn Lawson-Cummings

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Louis Hadley Evans '18

Louis Hadley Evans ’18 originally turned down the job that made his career.

A star athlete and Glee Club president at Oxy, he served in the Navy during World War I. Ordained after the war, Evans led congregations in North Dakota, California, and Pennsylvania before being called to the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood in 1941--a call he initially rejected. Over the next 12 years, he transformed Hollywood into the country’s largest Presbyterian church, inspiring hundreds of young people including Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. Author, co-founder of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and summer pastor to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Evans was profiled by Time magazine and named one of “America’s Twelve Outstanding Religious Leaders” by Life.

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Stephen L. Casner '73

Next time you watch a YouTube video or use Skype to call someone, thank Stephen L. Casner ’73.

He helped create Real-time Transport Protocol, an Internet format that makes possible real-time streaming audio and video data between devices. The International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium awarded the Oxy mathematics major its 2011 leadership award for his role in the creation of the RTP and his contributions to the multimedia industry. At USC’s Information Sciences Institute, he co-designed and implemented protocols and software for some of the earliest experiments with “packet voice” using the ARPAnet. Now at Santa Clara-based Packet Design, Casner is applying some of the same techniques to network performance measurement and routing analysis.

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Shawn Lawson-Cummings '86

From baseball to Charlie Brown, Shawn Lawson-Cummings ’86 has worked with a number of iconic American institutions.

A two-time NCAA heptathlon champion and nine-time All American, Lawson-Cummings designed her own major at Oxy—psychophysiology--and earned an MBA at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. From there she negotiated contracts with major sports clients for General Mills, which led to her “dream job” handling international corporate sponsorships and licensing for Major League Baseball. Most recently, she has served as the Head of Innovation and Market Strategy for Timex Group, working with IRONMAN, the New York City Marathon, and the New York Giants to secure sponsorships and create successful campaign strategies.

  • Japanese folktale expert

  • Class of '23

    Fanny Hagin Mayer

  • First female mayor of Bloomington, Ind.

  • Class of '55

    Tomilea Radosevich Allison

  • Advisor to Nixon, he outpolled Reagan

  • Class of '47

    Robert Finch

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Fanny Hagin Mayer '23

The daughter of missionary parents, Fanny Hagin Mayer ’23 spent her formative years in Japan. She returned to the states for high school, but she never forgot Japan and the culture she grew up in.

So when the English major found herself bored in the States after completing her degree at Occidental, she enlisted in the occupation forces as a civilian and returned to Japan in 1947. There, she taught at various universities and was named professor of English literature at Sophia University in Tokyo. All the while, she translated stories. She eventually translated and collaborated on over 40 collections of Japanese folktales. Her magnum opus, entitled Ancient Tales in Modern Japan: An Anthology of Japanese Folk Tales, contains nearly 350 folktales. Of the 350 stories, more than half were translated into English for the first time. Published in 1985, the anthology has become the foundation of Japanese folktale scholarship and remains a cornerstone of the field.

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Tomilea Radosevich Allison '55

Tomilea Radosevich Allison '55 is remembered as the mayor who brought Bloomington into the 21st century as a thriving city.

The sociology major emphasized the importance of private and public partnerships for economic health, and she took initiatives to bring in investors and businesses. During her three terms, she procured $57 million in investments for the city, creating thousands of jobs and revitalizing Bloomington’s downtown. She also emphasized the role of the city in environmental activism, taking initiatives to improve city-wide recycling services and encouraging responsible hazardous waste disposal. In 2006, she was inducted into the Monroe County Hall of Fame, and she was named “Sagamore of the Wabash” by then-Gov. Evan Bayh, a title given for distinguished service to the state. She is currently a peace activist.

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Robert Finch '47

When Robert Finch ’47 was elected California’s 38th lieutenant governor in 1966, he received 300,000 more votes than Ronald Reagan, who was elected governor.

It all began at Oxy, where Finch, a political science major, served as student body president and organized Young Republican clubs on a dozen local college campuses. As a congressional aide in Washington, he befriended freshman Rep. Richard Nixon; he went on to manage Nixon’s 1960 and 1968 presidential campaigns. Finch turned down Nixon’s 1968 offer to be his vice presidential running mate, but accepted an appointment as U.S. secretary for Health, Education and Welfare. He later served the president as a senior adviser. In 1973, Finch returned to California to practice law, but remained involved in Republican politics until his death in 1995.

  • Takes lunch with Hollywood A-listers

  • Class of '81

    Lorrie Bartlett

  • White House advisor and Stanford economist

  • Class of '76

    Kathryn Shaw

  • Gives voice to the unheard

  • Class of '93

    Angelica Salas

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Lorrie Bartlett '81

Lorrie Bartlett ’81 learned long ago not to take no for an answer.

The first black agent--male or female--to head the talent department of a talent and literary agency, Bartlett was just a kid when her father--then mayor of the L.A. suburb of Monrovia--convinced Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca not to pull the company’s dealerships out of the small Los Angeles suburb. As senior talent agent at Hollywood mega-agency International Creative Management, the diplomacy and world affairs major represents A-list actors such as Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Colombiana) and Josh Duhamel (Transformers). She began her career at the William Morris Agency (now WME), and was snapped up by the Gersh Agency, where she represented actors and musicians such as Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys.

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Kathryn Shaw '76

Kathryn Shaw ’76 had a first-row seat on the confluence of economics and politics as a member of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors.

From 1999 to 2001, the Oxy mathematics major advised the president not just on the economy, but also on proposed legislation and healthcare and job-creation policy. After her White House stint, Shaw returned to her first love—teaching. The Harvard-trained economist taught at Carnegie Mellon University for more than 20 years before becoming Stanford University’s Ernest C. Arbuckle Professor of Economics in 2003. Her research focuses on managing talent in high-performance organizations. Shaw co-developed the field of “insider econometrics,” in which internal company data is used to study performance gains from practices such as higher pay and teamwork.

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Angelica Salas '93

Angelica Salas ’93 gives voice to the millions of unheard, unrepresented illegal immigrants in the United States.

As executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the Oxy history major helped lead the fight for reform of immigration policies, such as winning in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students, many of whom arrived as infants, and establishing day-laborer job centers. She turned her nonprofit from a tiny operation to a 30-employee education and advocacy organization that serves immigrants from all over the world. Salas’ passion for her job is also personal: She was 5 years old when her family came to the United States out of economic desperation.

  • Saved 8 million acres of desert

  • Class of '35

    Harriett Allen

  • Pioneered the field of financial planning

  • Class of '59

    Ben Coombs

  • Outspoken policymaker

  • Class of '59

    Velma Montoya Thompson

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Harriett Allen '35

As a child, Harriet Allen ’35 and her family would often take trips into the desert. This early experience would lead to a lifelong love of the desert and to her extraordinary accomplishments in the field of desert conservation.

In 1954, the biology major was a founding member of the Desert Protective Council, created to protect expanses of land in California from mining. For eight years, she lobbied for the protection of several regional deserts, and her efforts were essential to the passage of the California Desert Protection Act. When then-President Clinton signed the bill in 1994, the Act protected more than 8 million acres of land from developers. Well-known parks including Joshua Tree National Monument, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Torrey Pines National State Reserve can all credit their preservation to Harriet Allen. She continued to take leadership positions in the Desert Protective Council and the Sierra Club and mentored generations of desert activists.

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Ben Coombs '59

Ben Coombs ’59 went broke the first time he ventured into financial planning.

“We knew how to spell financial planning, but nobody knew how to do it,” says Coombs, today a much-honored pioneer who helped define a field that has more than 55,000 certified practitioners. After following his father into insurance sales, the psychology major became a member of the first graduating class to receive certification from the College of Financial Planning in 1973. By 1987, he was advising high-level corporate executives and had founded Petra Financial, specializing in asset management. Petra Financial quickly became a household name for professionals in the field. Appointed president of the Institute of Certified Financial Planners (today’s Financial Planning Association) in 1985, Coombs created a residency program to encourage and support younger financial planners. He was honored with the FPA’s P. Kemp Fain Jr. Award for service to the profession in 2005.

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Velma Montoya Thompson '59

Velma Montoya Thompson ’59 is not afraid to speak her mind

As a member of the University of California Board of Regents in 1997, Thompson defied then-Gov. Pete Wilson by declining to vote against health benefits for partners of gay employees. The first to graduate from Occidental with a degree in diplomacy and world affairs, Montoya was a Marshall scholar who went on to receive a Ph.D. in economics from UCLA—one of the first Mexican-American women to do so. She worked at the RAND Corp. as an economist and served in the Reagan and Bush administrations as a member of the White House Coordinating Council on Women and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. She returned to her native California and taught at UCLA, Pepperdine University, and other colleges and universities.

  • At ground zero of homeland security

  • Class of '91

    Richard Falkenrath

  • San Francisco County Superior Court judge

  • Class of '64

    Lillian Sing

  • Colombian conservationist and educator

  • Class of '70

    Jorge Orejuela

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Richard Falkenrath '91

As a young Harvard professor with expertise in the then-esoteric field of domestic preparedness for terrorism, Richard Falkenrath ’91 opposed the idea of a federal homeland security agency.

But after 9/11, the economics and diplomacy and world affairs major found himself serving as deputy homeland security adviser in the White House, developing and coordinating homeland security policy for the Bush administration. “I never imagined I’d be doing what I’m doing today,” said Falkenrath, who also served as deputy commissioner for counterterrorism for the New York Police Department before going into private consulting. “But these guys are coming at us, and I suspect they’ll continue to do so for the rest of my life.”

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Lillian Sing '64

Lillian Sing '64 brought her passion for activism to the San Francisco County Superior Court bench.

The psychology major has always been committed to community service and social work. Five years out of undergraduate study, she and other leaders in the Asian-American community founded Chinese for Affirmative Action to provide equal employment opportunities for the Chinese-American community. She founded the first Chinese-American bilingual preschool in San Francisco over 30 years ago, and in 1981, she became the first Asian-American judge appointed to the San Francisco Superior Court. In 2001, she was commended by the city and county of San Francisco for her pioneering advocacy on behalf of Chinese-Americans. In her over 20 years on the bench of the San Francisco Superior Court, she developed a reputation for evenhandedness and integrity, innovation in the courtroom and encyclopedic knowledge of the law.

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Jorge Orejuela '70

Orejuela is Colombia’s leading conservation expert. Trained as an ornithologist, he has dedicated three decades to conservation education, protected-area management, and sustainable-development research in an effort to preserve Colombia’s biodiversity.

The biology major is currently a professor of environmental sciences at Colombia’s Universidad Autónoma de Occidente. Orejuela has established several national parks and nature reserves, and is the founder and director of the Cali Botanical Garden, which is a leading research center containing important flora ecosystems. He is the founder of Colombia’s leading private conservation agency, the Environmental Area of the Fundación para la Educación Superior. His own field research was sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund for 10 years. In 2007, he received the National Geographic Society Buffet Award for Leadership in Latin American Conservation for his outstanding leadership in the field and his role as a conservation advocate and educator.