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

  • Class of '17

    William Warde Fowler

  • At ground zero of homeland security

  • Class of '91

    Richard Falkenrath

  • Created a national model for special education

  • Class of '47

    Alfonso Perez

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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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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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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.

  • Two-time Pulitzer winner

  • Class of '80

    Steve Coll

  • Protected Earth from rogue asteroids

  • Class of '54

    Eleanor Helin

  • Trustworthy, loyal, and helpful

  • Class of '27

    Matthew Norton Clapp

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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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Eleanor Helin '54

For more than 30 years, Eleanor Helin ’54 protected Earth from rogue asteroids.

Helin credited Professor Joe Birman with inspiring her to take up the study of geology, which eventually led to her pioneering career as an astronomer searching for near-Earth asteroids. At a time when few women entered the sciences, Helin landed a job at Caltech as custodian for its meteorite collection, which in turn led to her work at the country’s first lunar laboratory. By 1970, she was a participant in the Palomar Observatory’s Planet-Crossing Asteroid Survey, and in 1995 she helped launch JPL’s Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking group. A 1998 inductee into the Women in Science and Technology Hall of Fame, Helin is credited with discovering or co-discovering 872 asteroids and several comets.

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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.

  • Barrio Boy turned Chicano studies icon

  • Class of '27

    Ernesto Galarza

  • Captained the USA national rugby team

  • Class of '90

    Dave Hodges

  • Popularized the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement

  • Class of '49

    Guy Carawan

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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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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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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.

  • Outspoken policymaker

  • Class of '59

    Velma Montoya Thompson

  • The first prince of Bel-Air

  • Class of 1895

    Alphonzo Bell

  • Maker of Champions

  • Class of 1902

    Dean Cromwell

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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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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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Dean Cromwell 1902

For almost four decades The Dean, as he was affectionately known, inspired hyperbole among American sports writers.

“Sculptor of one of the greatest dynasties in sports history,” Dean Cromwell led USC’s track and field teams to 12 NCAA titles and 34 individual titles from 1909 to 1948. A multi-sport athlete at Oxy  – he competed in track and cycling and played baseball and football – Cromwell’s prowess led the Helms Athletic Foundation to name him Southern California Athlete of the Year in 1901.

Later nicknamed “Maker of Champions,” Cromwell ‘s Trojans teams dominated intercollegiate track and field during his four decades at the helm. He was an assistant coach with Team USA at the 1928, 1932, and 1936 Olympics, and head track coach at the 1948 Games. “He was one of the turn-of-the-century men who made Los Angeles a symbol of growth and accomplishment,” the Los Angeles Times wrote of Cromwell, who died in 1962. “Cromwell caught the imagination by fashioning championship teams at an obscure school….Cromwell made his indelible contribution to the Los Angeles-that-grew with the national acclaim accorded his champions.” Cromwell is an inaugural member of the Occidental College Athletic Hall of Fame, inducted with the first class of 2012.

  • The Triple Threat

  • Class of '64

    Bill Redell

  • The LAPD’s best homicide detective

  • Class of '49

    Pierce Brooks

  • Colombian conservationist and educator

  • Class of '70

    Jorge Orejuela

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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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Pierce Brooks '49

When asked what his hobbies were, Pierce Brooks ‘49’s answer was short and to the point: “Catching felons.”

At age 41, Brooks already was reputed to be the LAPD’s best homicide detective when he headed the investigation of the kidnapping and killing of a fellow officer in 1963. It became his most famous case, immortalized in Joseph Wambaugh’s best-selling account, The Onion Field (1973), and in the 1979 movie of the same name. Today, though, the Occidental political science major is perhaps best known as the man who pioneered the profiling and tracking of serial killers. Brooks is regarded as the father of the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, a national database for tracking serial killers that he first proposed in 1957. According to true-crime writer Anne Rule, Brooks “was one of the greatest homicide detectives of them all.”

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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.

  • Earned her wings as a WASP

  • Class of '33

    Lauretta (Beaty) Foy

  • First female mayor of Bloomington, Ind.

  • Class of '55

    Tomilea Radosevich Allison

  • Gives voice to the unheard

  • Class of '93

    Angelica Salas

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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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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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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.

  • Japanese folktale expert

  • Class of '23

    Fanny Hagin Mayer

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

  • Class of '74

    Patt Morrison

  • Lauded contemporary poet

  • Class of '58

    Kathleen Fraser

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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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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.

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Kathleen Fraser '58

Kathleen Fraser '58 originally wanted to be a journalist. Instead, she found that poetry was a better medium for exposing the truth.

Encouraged to pursue poetry by a professor at Oxy, the English literature major went on to write for Mademoiselle magazine straight out of college. In 1964, she won the Frank O’Hara Poetry Prize from The New School, and the American Academy’s Discover Award; by 1973, she had published her first book of poetry, What I Want. She has since published over 15 books of poetry. In 1981, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Creative Arts. She taught at San Francisco State University from 1972 to 1992, and during her time there she was the director of the Poetry Center. Her work, which has been described as “brutally honest,” “detail-oriented and bursting with images,” and “emotionally accurate,” has been featured in Mademoiselle, The New Yorker, and The Nation.

  • The James Dean of disability studies

  • Class of '68

    Paul Longmore

  • From 1600 Campus Road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

  • Class of '83

    Barack Obama

  • Went Into the Woods with Sondheim

  • Class of '72

    Joanna Gleason

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Paul Longmore '68

Punching a keyboard with a pen he held in his mouth, it took historian Paul Longmore ’68 M’71 10 years to write his first book.

Then he burned it--a protest against federal policies that discouraged disabled professionals from working. With his arms paralyzed and spine curved by a childhood bout with polio, “In every school and every job, I’ve been the first with a major disability,” he said. A specialist in early American history and the history of people with disabilities, the Oxy history major was a pioneer in the field of disability studies at San Francisco State, winning major prizes for his advocacy and teaching. “I once heard Paul introduced as the James Dean of disability studies,” one colleague said. “That captures the combination of intellectual, rebel, and down-to-earth man he was.”

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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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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.”

  • Lead keyboardist for Miles Davis

  • Class of '81

    Adam Holzman

  • Runs a Nobel Prize factory

  • Class of '53

    Edward Schlag

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

  • Class of '53

    James “John” Gruber

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Adam Holzman '81

Named by Keyboard magazine as one of the Top 10 Best Keyboardists in the World, Adam Holzman ’81 has been praised by the New York Times and the Washington Post for his “killer grooves.”

But the highlight of the philosophy major’s long musical career are the years he spent touring with Miles Davis, the legendary jazz musician. Davis, known for his high turnover rate for band members, kept Holzman on for five years and eventually promoted him to musical director of the band in 1988. Holzman and his keyboard performed on Davis’ Grammy award-winning album, “Tutu,” and he performed with Davis in over 200 live concerts. On working with Davis, he says “all of a sudden I had a better idea of how to squeeze a lot more out of a melody.” He currently performs all over the world with his critically acclaimed jazz-rock band, Brave New World.

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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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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.

  • Changed the face of American theater

  • Class of '53

    Ming Cho Lee

  • Pro quarterback and distinguished statesman

  • Class of '57

    Jack Kemp

  • Reported from the heart of red Russia

  • Class of 1907

    Bessie Beatty

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Ming Cho Lee '53

If Ming Cho Lee ’53’s father had his way, Lee would have become an accountant.

Instead, Lee majored in speech and became one of America’s greatest set designers, winner of the National Medal of Arts and mentor to a new generation of scenic artists (including Tony winner Heidi Ettinger ’73). Since 1962, when Joe Papp hired him as New York City's Public Theater’s resident set designer, Lee--a teacher at the Yale School of Drama for more than 40 years--has literally changed the face of American theater and opera. Under the influence of his award-winning work in theaters across the country, stage design has moved from poetic realism to a more abstract, presentational approach. “I find teaching as invigorating as doing Shakespeare,” he told Occidental magazine in 2003. “I would not want to live without Shakespeare.”

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Jack Kemp '57

At 5’10”, Jack Kemp ’57 was supposed to be too small to be a pro quarterback.

But the pugnacious physical education major refused to listen. By the time he retired in 1969, he had led the Buffalo Bills to four division titles and two AFL championships. His second career began on the long flights between games, reading works by major economists and philosophers. Kemp went on to serve nine terms in Congress, ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and was Bob Dole's vice presidential running mate in the 1996 presidential race. But his greatest legacy was his pioneering advocacy of tax cuts to stimulate the economy--an issue that has become a central tenet of Republican philosophy.

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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.