John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago in 1890. It’s widely revered as one of the most respected research universities in the world. There are currently 169K alumni. Many of these alumni have gone on to do some amazing things. In fact, University of Chicago boasts many famous alumni. Here are fifteen of them.
1. Anna Chlumsky
Anna Chlumsky began her acting career in the early nineties. She starred alongside Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, and Macauley Culkin in the movie ‘My Girl’. When she reached the point where she was too old for child roles yet too young to take on adult roles, she decided it was time to continue her education. She enrolled at the University of Chicago, earning a BA in international studies in 2002.
Since then she has returned to acting. She currently stars in Veep on HBO, and has received several Emmy nominations for her work.
2. Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders graduated from University of Chicago in 1964. Needless to say it was a tumultuous time. His experiences while attending the university are widely credited with forming his political ideologies. Sanders even attended the rally where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Since he graduated, Sanders has been engaged in politics and activism in Vermont as well as at a national level. Currently a senator from Vermont, many believe his 2016 presidential candidacy was a real game changer.
3. Harvey Levin
Harvey Levin graduated from University of Chicago in 1975 with a JD. He was a practicing lawyer and legal professor from the time he graduated until 1996. However, it was his work as a legal analyst covering the OJ Simpson trial for KNBC that fueled his transition to the entertainment industry. A role on People’s court offering post ‘trial’ analysis sealed the deal.
Today, Harvey Levin heads TMZ, an entertainment news outlet. TMZ has been responsible for breaking many major stories about celebrities. This includes the death of Michael Jackson.
4. Katherine Dunham
Katherine Dunham was a social activist, author, dancer, choreographer, and editor. While attending the University of Chicago, she took a leave of absence to travel to the Caribbean. While she was there she studied dance along with ethnography. Although she submitted her Master’s thesis in Anthropology, she never officially completed the requirements to graduate.
Dunham spent her life pursuing many talents. She danced and choreographed for a number of famous dance companies. She also pursued social activism. Late in life she famously went on a hunger strike in protest of the treatment of Haitian boat people. She eventually became the artist in residence at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, living in nearby East St. Louis.
5. James Comey
James Comey served as the FBI director for four years, until his recent firing by the 45th president of the United States. Prior to that he was the Deputy Chief of the United States Attorney’s office for the southern district of New York. His most famous case was assisting in the prosecution of the Gambino crime family.
Today, he is most known for his role in the 2016 presidential election. He was criticized by many for his seemingly conveniently timed announcements regarding the Clinton email scandal. On the other hand, after the election he also received praise from many of the same critics when it became clear that he would not shutter the investigation into Russian interference in the same election.
6. Nate Silver
Nate Silver is a statistician and a journalist. After graduating from University of Chicago, he also studied at the London School of Economics. He is a contributor to ESPN, as editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight. He applies his talents as a statistician to provide analysis on the future potential and marketability of professional athletes.
His PECOTA algorithm has been widely used among two very different groups of people. The first are professionals in the world of sports who are interested in projecting the career trajectory of MLB players. The second are fantasy baseball players who use the algorithm in an effort to improve their results.
7. Marilu Henner
Exciting things had already begun to happen for Marilu Henner when she was a college student in the early seventies. She originated the role of Marty in Grease, and later played the same part when the show opened on Broadway. Not long after, she earned her most famous role as Elaine on the critically acclaimed sitcom, Taxi.
Henner has penned multiple books on health and fitness. She’s also been active as a reality show star, radio host, and producer. She has a condition that allows her to remember nearly every detail of her life from early childhood on.
8. Mary Anne Mohanraj
Mary Anne Mohanraj is a Sri Lankan-American author and academic. She studied English Literature at the University of Chicago. She has authored several books, both fiction and nonfiction. In 2016, USA Today named her book ‘Bodies in Motion’ a notable book in 2007. She also helmed Clean Sheets an online literary website dedicated to erotica.
In addition to her writing, Mohanraj is also a professor. She has taught school at Salt Lake City Community College, and Northwestern University. She’s also elected to the Oak Park Library Board in 2017.
9. Susan Sontag
Susan Sontag was a writer and essayist from the 1950s until her passing in 2004. She received her AB from University of Chicago. One of her instructors was Leo Strauss. After graduating she taught philosophy at Sarah Lawrence College. When she was thirty, she published her first work of fiction.
It was Sontag’s nonfiction work that really helped her to make her mark. Some of her most famous works threw a monkey wrench into established attitudes about low art and high art. While other writers dismissed camp, and burlesque as being lesser art forms, Sontag elevated them.
Her writings also drew deep criticism. Her often harsh statements on western culture were poorly received by many and often misrepresented. In fact, were she alive today it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine her heading a top writing websites page providing instruction and advice on the often impassioned world of academic writing. She also came under fire for her remarks after the Sept. 11 attacks. In 2014, she was the subject of a documentary that aired at the Tribeca Film Festival.
10. Andrea James
Andrea James received her Master’s in English Language and Literature. She is a political activist, a writer, and producer. She began her career in advertising, an experience that led her to focus her activism on issues of academic and medical fraud. However, her activism now focuses on transgender issues.
As a writer, James has contributed to several online publications including the Huffington post. She also produced and performed the first all transgender production of The Vagina Monologues. Creator Even Ensler even wrote a new piece for the play to commemorate the occasion.
11. Carl Sagan
The emergence of Neil Degrasse Tyson as both acclaimed scientist and celebrity has rekindled an interest in Carl Sagan. This is largely because Tyson describes Sagan as a mentor who was crucial in his emergence as a scientist. This has directed renewed interest in Sagan’s work as a scientist and television personality. His series, ‘Cosmos’ remains one of the most critically acclaimed scientific presentations, and was recently rebooted by Tyson.
In addition to hosting Cosmos, Sagan also published a book by the same name as a companion to the show. Many praise him for his advocacy of critical thinking.
12. Ana Marie Cox
As founding editor of Wonkette, Cox has established herself as an influential contributor to modern cultural and political journalism. Cox has and does contribute to the New York Times, Mother Jones, MTV News, Air America, GQ, and the Daily Beast.
Post graduation, Cox initially continued her education at UC Berkeley. She did not complete her studies, opting to start her journalism career instead.
13. Ed Asner
Older readers will remember Asner as the grumpy editor, Lou Grant who alternately mentored and tormented Mary Tyler Moore’s character Mary Anderson on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Younger Audiences are much more familiar with Asner as the voice if Mr. Fredrickson from Disney’s Up, and the movie Elf.
In addition to his acting roles, Asner has long been a political activist. He also served as president of the Screen Actors Guild in the eighties until Patty Duke took helm. His charitable initiatives include providing aid to impoverished Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe.
14. Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert is known most of all for his passion for film, filmmaking, and cinematography. He and co-host Gene Siskel created the ‘Thumbs up/Thumbs down’ system of rating movies that has now become ingrained in pop culture. In fact, it was famously celebrated and skewered on the show ‘In Living Color’ in a series of skits where two flamboyant critics reinvent two thumbs up as ‘Two Snaps Up!’/
In spite of contracting cancer in 2002, Ebert remained passionate about movies. Even when the disease robbed him of his ability to speak, Ebert continued to write reviews and host film festivals.
15. Joi Ito
Ito was born in Kyoto, but his family moved to Canada soon after, then settled near Detroit Michigan. A child protegee he was working alongside scientists at the age of thirteen. Ito’s childhood was spent divided between the States and Japan.
Ito has several interests. He has been involved strongly in the Japanese pop music scene, for example. As a venture capitalist, ITO was an initial investor in Kickstarter, Formlabs, and Flickr among others.
As compelling as these stories are, this is just a sampling of the impressive list of University of Chicago Alumni. The school has clearly created a curriculum and culture that encourages greatness and diversity.