• Submarine sailor

  • Class of '50

    Steven A. White

  • Represents “Peanuts” and popcorn and Cracker Jack

  • Class of '86

    Shawn Lawson-Cummings

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

  • Class of '74

    Patt Morrison

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Steven A. White '50

Steven A. White '50 is a man of many firsts.

He was aboard the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, when it became the first craft to reach the North Pole in 1958. For this achievement, he, the crew, and the ship were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, the first award ever given for peacetime operations. He was also aboard the USS Ethan Allen when it conducted the first and only complete test of a submarine launching a strategic missile with a warhead. In his later career, he was promoted to admiral in 1983 and worked as the chief of Navy material, where he was in charge of the Navy’s $30-billion annual procurement budget. After retirement from the military, White went to work for the Tennessee Valley Authority, where he reformed and restructured the federal government’s largest regional planning agency with the intention of reopening its closed power plants, a goal he eventually accomplished before his retirement.

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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.

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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.

  • Taught generations of aspiring journalists

  • Class of '46

    Ted Tajima

  • Outspoken policymaker

  • Class of '59

    Velma Montoya Thompson

  • Two-time Pulitzer winner

  • Class of '80

    Steve Coll

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Ted Tajima '46

Ted Tajima ’46’s enthusiasm for teaching belied the difficulties in his past.

Because they were of Japanese descent, Tajima’s sister and parents were interned during WWII, and Tajima’s hopes of becoming a journalist were dashed by racism. Still, “Mr. T” taught journalism to others without a trace of bitterness. During his tenure at Alhambra High School, which began in 1946, the school’s weekly student newspaper earned 26 All-American awards from the National Scholastic Press Assn., and Tajima was named Outstanding Journalism Teacher of the Year by the California Newspaper Publishers Assn. in 1969. Despite his success, the early days of racism haunted Tajima. “Our experience has been to prove we’re American, and I’m still trying to prove it,” he said of himself and his sister 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.

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Steve Coll '80

After graduating from Oxy with a double major in history and English, one of Steve Coll ’80’s first jobs was writing marketing materials for power tools.

It was an unlikely beginning for the newspaper reporter, foreign correspondent, Washington Post managing editor, and New Yorker staff writer who has won two Pulitzer Prizes. In 1990 he shared the Pulitzer for explanatory reporting for a Post account of the regulatory activities of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He won the 2005 Pulitzer in general nonfiction for his book Ghost Wars, a detailed account of the rise of Osama bin Laden. He is currently president and CEO of the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy organization. His new book, Private Empire: Exxon Mobil and American Power, scheduled for publication on May 1, prompted Newsweek to say, "In truth we haven’t seen it yet, so we can’t tell you much more than that we want to read anything Coll writes..."

  • Received an Oscar for lifetime achievement

  • Class of '53

    George Stevens Jr.

  • Runs a Nobel Prize factory

  • Class of '53

    Edward Schlag

  • Mean Girls expert

  • Class of '91

    Rosalind Wiseman

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George Stevens Jr. '53

George Stevens Jr. began working in the family business as a teenager, on his father's iconic film Shane.

After Oxy, he joined the crews of some of his director father George Stevens' other famous films, such as Giant and The Diary of Anne Frank. By his mid-20s, he was directing episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock" and "Peter Gunn." But he left Hollywood behind after meeting newscaster Edward R. Murrow, heading for Washington, D.C. to work for the U.S. Information Agency. After relocating to D.C., Stevens founded the American Film Institute and the Kennedy Center Honors, wrote acclaimed miniseries and a Broadway play, directed documentaries, penned books and executive produced films. Stevens has earned 15 Emmys, two Peabody Awards, the Humanitas Prize and eight Writers Guild of America awards--and now an honorary Oscar. "It's awfully nice when good surprises come along," he told the Los Angeles Times

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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.

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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.”

  • The Triple Threat

  • Class of '64

    Bill Redell

  • Olympic photo finish

  • Class of '53

    Bob McMillen

  • The first woman to win an Oxy “O”

  • Class of '38

    Patricia Henry Yeomans

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Bill Redell '64

One of college football’s last great “triple threats,” Bill Redell could do it all: pass, run, kick, and play defense.

As a player, Redell was attending USC on a scholarship when Vic Schwenk, his high school coach, convinced him to transfer to Oxy in 1962. He ended up an All-American, starring on both sides of the ball as a quarterback (1,567 yards passing, 1,583 rushing), as a defensive back (seven career interceptions), and kicker (36 of 43 extra-point attempts). Drafted by the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and the AFL’s Denver Broncos, Redell spent six years in the Canadian Football League, leading the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to a Grey Cup title in 1967. After years as a college assistant, he became a head coach at the high school level. In 1991, he built the football program at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village from scratch to national prominence. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Redell, 71, was named Oxy’s football coach in May. Redell is an inaugural member of the Occidental College Athletic Hall of Fame, inducted with the first class of 2012.
 

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Bob McMillen '53

With less than 200 meters to go, it looked as if Bob McMillen ’53 had no hope of winning an Olympic medal. Then he started his kick.

Trailing at the back of the pack in the 1,500 meter final at the 1952 Games in Helsinki, McMillen put on a sudden burst of speed on the final turn, surging past leader Werner Lueg of Germany and almost catching Joseph Barthel of Luxembourg. McMillen took the silver in one of the most dramatic finishes in Olympic history, missing the gold by one-tenth of a second.

As an Oxy athlete, McMillen won an NCAA championship in the 1,500 and was a member of a distance relay team that set a new world record. “Bob was probably one of the most fun-loving guys who ever existed,” remembers teammate Phil Schlegel ’53. “But he had a switch in him when he was going to work out or run … and be the most concentrated, focused person.” McMillen is an inaugural member of the Occidental College Athletic Hall of Fame, inducted with the first class of 2012.

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Patricia Henry Yeomans '38

In her first year at Oxy, Patricia Henry Yeomans ’38 worked her way to No. 1 on the men’s freshman tennis team before being banned from competition.

Undaunted, she won the national juniors title for women in 1935 and the College Girls’ Invitational in 1936 and 1937. She became the first woman in Oxy history to win a block “O.” After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in history and government, she helped organize the first sanctioned women’s collegiate championship and pioneered tournament play for 50-and-over players. With former champion Jack Kramer and tennis official Joseph Bixler, she successfully lobbied to bring tennis back as an Olympic sport at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

  • Supervises San Francisco

  • Class of '00

    Carmen Chu

  • Poet honored with a postage stamp

  • Class of 1905

    Robinson Jeffers

  • Knows how to juggle more than work and social life.

  • Class of '09

    Stephen Bent

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Carmen Chu '00

Carmen Chu ’00’s career as an elected official began with a tap on the shoulder in 2007.

She was crunching numbers in her cubicle in San Francisco City Hall, where she worked as deputy budget director, when Mayor Gavin Newsom stopped by. “Have you ever considered serving in public office?” he asked. Newsom offered Chu the District 4 supervisor position, and in February 2013 Chu completed her second full term on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She is fully engaged in the responsibilities and rewards of elected office. “You work on a whole host of issues all year round, and you meet so many interesting people along the way,” the public policy major says. She is currently the elected Chair of the Budget & Finance Committee for the city of San Francisco.

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Robinson Jeffers 1905

One of America’s best-selling poets, Robinson Jeffers 1905 was featured on the cover of Time, turned the Greek tragedy Medea into a Broadway hit in 1947, and was honored with a stamp in 1973--11 years after his death.

First published in 1938, The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers was reprinted so many times that Random House lost track of sales. His critical reputation has subsequently declined--a result of his vocal anti-war views and a shrinking audience for narrative poetry in the classical style. Still, “It is hard to see how anyone can read Jeffers’ best poetry and not perceive greatness,” David Rains Wallace wrote in praise of the Stanford University Press’ 2000 edition of his collected poems. “His narrative verse rivals Wordsworth’s or Byron’s. It is electrifying; the skin prickles.”

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Stephen Bent '09

What began as a childhood hobby and morphed into a teenage obsession has become a dream come true.

Bent first began toying with juggling as a child, and, after seeing a performance by the neo-vaudevillian juggling troupe the Flying Karamazov Brothers at 13, his interest became a passion. He wrote a letter to founding Karamazov member Howard Jay Patterson, asking how he could become a member of the group. Patterson replied with a list that included continuing to study the trombone, and, in later correspondence, to learn how to sing. Bent went on to major in music with an emphasis in trombone, joined the Oxy Glee Club and created his own a cappella group. He delved into the juggling world, practicing three to four hours a day as well as performing at school and other events. When Patterson retired, he let Bent know there was an opening in the Karamazovs. Even though he was a senior at Oxy, Bent joined the juggling troupe, which lead to “the craziest year of my life (so far).” According to Patterson, “he’s the future of the group.” Patterson may have been onto something: Bent is now the musical director of the group and has also served as an arranger, composer, and vocal coach.

  • From 1600 Campus Road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

  • Class of '83

    Barack Obama

  • Transforming the streets of Manhattan

  • Class of '82

    Janette Sadik-Khan

  • Colombian conservationist and educator

  • Class of '70

    Jorge Orejuela

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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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Janette Sadik-Khan '82

Thanks to Janette Sadik-Khan ’82, in 2009 New Yorkers were able to do what few had ever done: walk down the middle of Broadway in the middle of the day.

As New York City’s transportation commissioner, Sadik-Khan is credited with transforming the car-clogged streets of Manhattan. Hundreds of miles of new bike lanes, strategic street closures, fewer traffic fatalities, and the surreal sight of lawn chairs in Times Square are all the products of her leadership. A political science major at Oxy, she worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation and was a senior vice president of engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff before her appointment by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007. The scope and speed of her achievements have led many to hail her as a brilliant innovator and visionary.

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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.

  • Remaking public radio in Los Angeles

  • Class of '80

    Bill Davis

  • Created a national model for special education

  • Class of '47

    Alfonso Perez

  • From “Clear Skies Ahead” to “It’s All Inside”

  • Class of '84

    Janet Dhillon

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Bill Davis '80

Bill Davis '80 was burned in effigy during his first job.

Not a promising beginning for the young manager of KALX radio, the chaotic Berkeley public radio station where a DJ once overdosed while on the air. But the Oxy English major attracted the attention of National Public Radio executives during his 10-year stint at WUNC in Chapel Hill, N.C., which he turned into one of NPR’s most popular member stations. Davis has spent the last decade as president of Southern California Public Radio, the parent company of KPCC, the public radio station once based at Pasadena City College. KPCC’s audience has tripled in size during his tenure, and once again he heads one of the country’s most-listened-to public radio outlets--one that has won more than 230 regional and national journalism awards.

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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.

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Janet Dhillon '84

Corporate legal whiz Janet Dhillon ’84 is the executive vice president, general counsel, and secretary for J.C. Penney, one of the country’s oldest department store chains.

Dhillon came to the company after serving as the top lawyer and chief compliance officer for Phoenix-based US Airways. In 2008, while at the airline, Dhillon was named one of the 10 most influential lawyers in Arizona by AZ Business magazine. After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in history from Oxy, Dhillon stormed UCLA Law School, graduating first in her class. She honed her legal chops at New York City-based Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, one of the country’s most powerful law firms.

  • First female mayor of Bloomington, Ind.

  • Class of '55

    Tomilea Radosevich Allison

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

  • Class of '17

    William Warde Fowler

  • Popularized the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement

  • Class of '49

    Guy Carawan

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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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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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Guy Carawan '49

The year was 1960, and the song was “We Shall Overcome.” Guy Carawan ’49 sang, and the rest of the country united under its message.

At the time, singing at a conference held by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the mathematics major would have no idea that his organization’s favorite folk song would become the song that the American Civil Rights Movement would rally around. Then working at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, Carawan and his colleagues arranged the lyrics and music of “We Shall Overcome,” which has its roots in gospel and slavery and was already a popular protest song. When he took over as musical director at Highlander, he was invited to North Carolina for the meeting that would launch “We Shall Overcome” into popularity. The students attending the conference took the lyrics and message of “We Shall Overcome” back to their communities, where it spread until it was heard all over the world. A lifetime lover of folk music, Carawan would spend the rest of his time at Highlander performing for and inspiring civil rights activists around the country.

  • America’s first lady of gastronomy

  • Class of '31

    M.F.K. Fisher

  • Went Into the Woods with Sondheim

  • Class of '72

    Joanna Gleason

  • Reported from the heart of red Russia

  • Class of 1907

    Bessie Beatty

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M.F.K. Fisher '31

A self-described “insatiable reader and scribbler,” M.F.K. Fisher ’31’s desire for the written word was eclipsed only by her hunger for food--all of it, whether animal or vegetable, cooked or raw.

The confluence of these two appetites helped make Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher America’s best-known and prolific food writer, and an icon to gastronomes everywhere. Her writing on the slow, sensual pleasures of the table seemed revolutionary to a buttoned-down, mid-century America. In a career spanning 60 years, Fisher’s prolific output included 15 books of essays, such as How to Cook a Wolf and The Gastronomical Me, novels, hundreds of stories for the New Yorker, as well as an English translation of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s classic book, The Physiology of Taste. Poet W.H. Auden called her “America’s greatest writer.”

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Joanna Gleason '72

Joanna Gleason ’72 was bitten by the acting bug when she saw her first Broadway show as a 12-year-old.

The musical comedy How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying knocked her socks off, and she thought, “This is the thing that will save me from the nightmare of the teenage girl peer-pressure thing. If I can be good at this, it’s something they can’t all do.” The speech and drama major has been more than just good: She won a Tony Award for best actress in a musical (Steven Sondheim’s Into the Woods), several Drama Desk awards for outstanding featured actress, and a Theatre World Award for her 1977 Broadway debut in the musical I Love My Wife. Her films include Mr. Holland’s Opus and Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. She has also appeared on such TV shows as “The West Wing” and “The Practice.”

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Bessie Beatty 1907

When her classmates were preparing for graduation, Bessie Beatty 1907 was covering a Nevada miner’s strike for the Los Angeles Herald.

Early training on the Aurora and the Occidental, predecessors of the modern Weekly, lured her into daily journalism. In 1917, she traveled to Russia to cover the Russian Revolution for the San Francisco Bulletin. Based in St. Petersburg, she witnessed many of the most significant moments of the revolution, which she described in her book, The Red Heart of Russia. She subsequently became a foreign correspondent in Europe, a writer for MGM Studios, and director of the National Label Council to promote union-made goods. She finished her career as the host of the most popular women’s radio show in the country.

  • The first prince of Bel-Air

  • Class of 1895

    Alphonzo Bell

  • Saved 8 million acres of desert

  • Class of '35

    Harriett Allen

  • Bringing about lasting change through philanthropy

  • Class of '75

    Christopher G. Oechsli

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Alphonzo Bell 1895

The son of an early Southern California real estate developer, Alphonzo Bell 1895 originally intended to become a minister but went into the family business when he inherited some land.

With the proceeds from his new subdivision, he built a 200-acre estate in Santa Fe Springs, complete with tennis courts (Bell won a silver medal in men’s doubles at the 1904 Olympics). A 1921 oil strike on the property made Bell a millionaire and an inspiration for Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel, Oil! He then invested heavily in Westside real estate and developed Bel-Air Estates. Although his 1925 proposal to move Occidental to Bel-Air came to naught, Bell served as chairman of the College’s board from 1938 to 1946.

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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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Christopher G. Oechsli '75

Christopher G. Oechsli ’75 has $4 billion he needs to spend by 2020.

As president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies, whose mission is to bring about “lasting changes in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people,” Oechsli is responsible for spending the foundation’s endowment and ultimately closing its doors. Earlier in his career, he worked in private law firms in the United States, China, and Taiwan, and in 1985, Oechsli became the first resident visiting law professor from the United States in China, where he taught constitutional and commercial law at the East China Institute of Politics and Law in Shanghai. He graduated from Occidental with bachelor’s degrees in English and Comparative Literature and Asian studies.