• Represents “Peanuts” and popcorn and Cracker Jack

  • Class of '86

    Shawn Lawson-Cummings

  • Transforming the streets of Manhattan

  • Class of '82

    Janette Sadik-Khan

  • Oxy’s youngest Pulitzer Prize winner

  • Class of '96

    Andrea Elliott

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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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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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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.”

  • Outspoken policymaker

  • Class of '59

    Velma Montoya Thompson

  • Brought Presbyterian values to Hollywood

  • Class of '18

    Louis Hadley Evans

  • Supervises San Francisco

  • Class of '00

    Carmen Chu

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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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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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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.

  • Helped shape the Aloha State

  • Class of '41

    Herbert Cornuelle

  • Submarine sailor

  • Class of '50

    Steven A. White

  • The Triple Threat

  • Class of '64

    Bill Redell

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Herbert Cornuelle '41

Ohio native and Oxy commerce and finance major Herbert Cornuelle ’41 didn’t get his first glimpse of Hawaii until 1942, when he was a young U.S. Navy ensign.

Eleven years later, he took a position as vice president of the Hawaiian Pineapple Co.--and just five years later was named president of the company still known the world over as Dole. After a detour to the mainland in 1963 to become executive vice president and later president of United Fruit , Cornuelle found his way back to the Aloha State, where he worked in real estate development and related activities for the rest of his career.

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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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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.
 

  • Good friend of Oscar's

  • Class of '95

    Ben Affleck

  • The first woman to win an Oxy “O”

  • Class of '38

    Patricia Henry Yeomans

  • NASA’s Inventor of the Year in 1984

  • Class of '62

    George E. Alcorn

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Ben Affleck '95

In a house not far from the Oxy campus, Ben Affleck ’95 and longtime friend Matt Damon wrote the script for Good Will Hunting.

The film, directed by Gus Van Sant, made the pair the toast of Hollywood, garnering them the Oscar for best screenplay in 1998. Affleck’s classes in Middle Eastern studies at Oxy helped prepare him to play CIA agent Jack Ryan in the 2002 blockbuster The Sum of All Fears, and again as producer, director, and star of Argo, winner of the 2013 Oscar for best picture. He has headlined many other movies, from 2001’s Pearl Harbor (produced by Todd Garner ’88) to independent films including The Company Men (2010). His recent turns as writer-director of Gone Baby Gone (2007) and The Town (2009) helped set the stage for his latest success.
 
 

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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.

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George E. Alcorn '62

What’s on the surface of Mercury and other planets?

We’re able to find out, thanks to George E. Alcorn ’62. He created the imaging X-ray spectrometer, a device that helps scientists explore the chemical composition and geologic history of planets millions of miles away. For this achievement, the Oxy physics major and two-sport letterman was presented with NASA’s Inventor of the Year Award. The spectrometer is just one of more than 20 inventions and at least eight domestic and international patents that Alcorn created. Alcorn worked at companies such as IBM before coming to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 1978, where he has headed the office of commercial programs and served as deputy project manager for space station advanced development.

  • Two-time Pulitzer winner

  • Class of '80

    Steve Coll

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

  • Class of '09

    Stephen Bent

  • Social media en español

  • Class of '05

    Zaryn Dentzel

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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..."

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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.

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Zaryn Dentzel '05

Zaryn Dentzel ’05 combined his passions for organizing people and the Spanish language to create the largest social media network in Spain.

Dentzel double-majored in Spanish literature and diplomacy and world affairs after being drawn to Oxy after sitting in on a DWA class taught by Larry Caldwell. While at Oxy, he participated in the Occidental-at-the-United Nations semester, was involved with student government and created Student Event Services, which sent out notices for parties and campus events via a listserve. Though the service was disbanded by then-President Ted Mitchell, Dentzel credits his interest in networking technology to this experience. After graduation, he went to Spain and founded Tuenti, an invitation-only social network with 14 million users, responsible for 15% of all Spanish Internet traffic. Though Dentzel spends most of his time as CEO interviewing potential hires and networking with venture capitalists, he prefers working with Tuenti’s design teams, remarking, “Thank God I took Spanish at Oxy.”

  • Earned her wings as a WASP

  • Class of '33

    Lauretta (Beaty) Foy

  • Barrio Boy turned Chicano studies icon

  • Class of '27

    Ernesto Galarza

  • Popularized the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement

  • Class of '49

    Guy Carawan

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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.

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Ernesto Galarza '27

A native of the tiny mountain village of Jalcocotán, Nayarit, Mexico, Ernesto Galarza ’27 came to the United States at age 8, speaking no English.

He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in political science from Occidental, and earned a master’s degree from Stanford and a Ph.D. from Columbia–the first Chicano graduate student at both. A civil rights and labor activist, scholar, teacher, and influential author, Galarza was a pioneer during an era when Mexican-Americans had few public advocates. Based on his own bitter experiences as a teenage farm worker, he helped build the first multiracial farm workers union, setting the stage for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. Today he is regarded as one of the founders of the field of Chicano studies.

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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.

  • Two-time Olympic gold medalist

  • Class of '43

    Sammy Lee

  • Captained the USA national rugby team

  • Class of '90

    Dave Hodges

  • Japanese folktale expert

  • Class of '23

    Fanny Hagin Mayer

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Sammy Lee '43

As a boy, Sammy Lee ’43 was once confronted by neighbors who demanded that the Korean boy and his family move out.

He remembers a friend, a German immigrant, telling them, “One day, you’ll be proud the Lees were your neighbors.” Lee, a chemistry major and All-American diver at Oxy, went on to become the first Asian-American man to win an Olympic gold medal on the 10-meter platform, in London in 1948. At age 32, he became the oldest diver to win a gold medal, at the 1952 Olympics. A doctor and ear, nose, and throat specialist for 35 years, Lee also had a distinguished Olympic coaching career--his divers included gold medalist Bob Webster and silver medalist Greg Louganis.

 

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Dave Hodges '90

Dave Hodges ’90’s original plan was medical school, with football on the side.

Then he switched to political science, thinking about law school. Then he found rugby, or what he calls “the sports thing.” Hodges was capped 54 times playing for the USA Eagles men’s national rugby team, notched 27 games as team captain, and played professional rugby abroad from 1997 until 2005. At age 36, Hodges retired from the Lianelli Scarlets of Wales to pursue a coaching career stateside. In 2007, he was named head coach of the Denver Barbarians (one of America’s oldest rugby clubs) and is currently forwards coach of the Eagles. In 2009, he was named Player of the Decade by Rugby Magazine.

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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.

  • Taught generations of aspiring journalists

  • Class of '46

    Ted Tajima

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

  • Class of '84

    Janet Dhillon

  • Trustworthy, loyal, and helpful

  • Class of '27

    Matthew Norton Clapp

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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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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.

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Matthew Norton Clapp '27

Pasadena native Matthew Norton Clapp '27 was served well by living the Boy Scout Way.

After graduating from Oxy, Clapp received his J.D. and went on to practice law in Tacoma, Wash. He began his business career at Weyerhaeuser in 1938, but when war broke out the former Scout enlisted in the Navy and served during World War II. He returned to work at Weyerhaeuser after the war and succeeded his father as director just a year later. In 1961, he joined Bagley Wright, contractor Howard S. Wright, architect John Graham, and financier Ned Skinner as investors and created the Pentagram Corp., which built Seattle’s iconic Space Needle for the 1962 World’s Fair. He served as chairman of the University of Puget Sound board of trustees from 1967 and 1986. In 1963, he donated 10,098 acres of land to the Boy Scouts that later became Philmont Scout Ranch, and from 1971 to 1973 he served as the president of the Boy Scouts of America. Oxy’s Mary Clapp Library is named after his mother.

  • Developed the talking baby for E*Trade

  • Class of '94

    Tor Myhren

  • World record pole vaulter

  • Class of '58

    Bob Gutowski

  • Colombian conservationist and educator

  • Class of '70

    Jorge Orejuela

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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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Bob Gutowski '58

Bob Gutowski ’58 came to Oxy as a basketball player, but legendary track & field coach Payton Jordan had other ideas.

With Gutowski’s natural athleticism, Jordan reasoned, he could learn how to be a pole vaulter. Jordan’s hunch paid off, with Gutowski winning a silver medal at the 1956 Olympics, two consecutive NCAA titles in 1956 and 1957, and a new world record of 15’ 8¼” at an Oxy-Stanford track meet in 1957. Gutowski’s all-time best, a mark of 15’ 9¾” set later that year, remains the greatest height ever achieved on a steel pole, although it was never officially recognized as a record because of a technical violation – the pole passed underneath the crossbar. The North American Athlete of the Year in 1957, Gutowski was an all-rounder who placed in the Nationals in the long jump and triple jump, and was an NAIA champion in the triple jump. Gutowski is an inaugural member of the Occidental College Athletic Hall of Fame, inducted with the first class of 2012.

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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.

  • Trailblazer in the federal courts

  • Class of '87

    Jacqueline Nguyen

  • The first prince of Bel-Air

  • Class of 1895

    Alphonzo Bell

  • Created a national model for special education

  • Class of '47

    Alfonso Perez

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Jacqueline Nguyen '87

Even when she was a federal prosecutor known as the “Smiling Assassin,” Jacqueline Nguyen ’87 worked weekends in her family’s North Hollywood doughnut shop.

It’s the place she and her family rebuilt their lives after fleeing South Vietnam during the fall of Saigon in 1975, and a measure of how far she has come. The Occidental English major is the first Vietnamese-American woman to be appointed to the state judiciary, to serve as a federal judge, and to be appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals. “Judge Nguyen has been a trailblazer,” President Barack Obama ’83 said in announcing the nomination to the Ninth Circuit. “I’m confident she will serve the American people with fairness and integrity.”

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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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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.