• Four-time Olympic fencer

  • Class of '45

    Maxine McMasters Mitchell

  • The-Knight-Who-Hits-People-With-a-Chicken

  • Class of '62

    Terry Gilliam

  • Supervises San Francisco

  • Class of '00

    Carmen Chu

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Maxine McMasters Mitchell '45

“If you’re winning, don’t change your tactics,” Maxine McMasters Mitchell ’45 used to say.

She knew what she was talking about: The physical education major represented the United States in four Olympics (’52, ’56, ’60, ’68)–the longest Olympic career of any Oxy athlete. Although her highest Olympic finish was fourth, Mitchell won four titles in fencing at major championships, including an individual first in the 1955 Pan American Games and a foil-team first at the 1967 Pan Am Games. Besides her athletic prowess, she was known for her sense of humor. After her first gender-verification test at the 1968 Olympics, Mitchell quipped to Sports Illustrated: “I have four children and eight grandchildren. I wondered what I was going to tell them. ‘Call me grandpa?’”

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Terry Gilliam '62

Head yell leader, fraternity member, political science major: It’s not the background you’d expect for an acclaimed animator, screenwriter, film director, and member of the Monty Python comedy troupe.

Terry Gilliam '62’s real training ground was as editor of and prolific cartoonist for Fang, Oxy’s now-defunct humor magazine. In its pages--and in the stories his fellow Fang staffers and Swan Hall inmates tell--one can see the origins of such visionary films as Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, and The Cabinet of Doctor Parnassus. “But I don’t encourage anyone to go into filmmaking,” Gilliam told Occidental magazine in 2009. “Spot welding would be better.”

 

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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.

  • Popularized the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement

  • Class of '49

    Guy Carawan

  • Takes lunch with Hollywood A-listers

  • Class of '81

    Lorrie Bartlett

  • Received an Oscar for lifetime achievement

  • Class of '53

    George Stevens Jr.

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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.

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Lorrie Bartlett '81

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

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

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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

  • World record pole vaulter

  • Class of '58

    Bob Gutowski

  • Where she leads, others will follow

  • Class of '68

    Marsha Evans

  • Social media en español

  • Class of '05

    Zaryn Dentzel

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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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Marsha Evans '68

Just before Commencement, amid anti-war protests, Marsha Evans ’68 announced her post-graduation plan: She was joining the U.S. Navy.

“There was this collective gasp” at the senior women’s lunch, she remembers. “I created an amazing stir.” Evans has created an amazing stir ever since, becoming only the fifth woman to attain the rank of rear admiral. After a 29-year Navy career that included stints as a presidential aide, a White House Fellow, and as commanding officer of the Treasure Island Naval Station in San Francisco, the diplomacy and world affairs major went on to head the Girl Scouts of the USA and serve as president and CEO of the American Red Cross and acting commissioner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

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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.”

  • Transforming the streets of Manhattan

  • Class of '82

    Janette Sadik-Khan

  • Trailblazer in the federal courts

  • Class of '87

    Jacqueline Nguyen

  • Loyola Marymount’s first lay president

  • Class of '73

    David W. Burcham

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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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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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David W. Burcham '73

David W. Burcham ’73 broke a century of Jesuit tradition in 2010 when he became Loyola Marymount University’s first lay president.

A political science major at Oxy, Burcham graduated first in his class from Loyola Law School and clerked for the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White. He joined the Loyola Law School faculty in 1991 and was appointed dean in 2000. He has no qualms about his groundbreaking role: “The Jesuits have expressed willingness to partner and work with me to preserve and enhance our Catholic and Ignatian identity, as well as to advance our mission. I am committed to that.”

  • Reclaiming the American Dream

  • Class of '48

    Richard Cornuelle

  • Documentarian, television and film director

  • Class of '68

    Jesus Salvador Treviño

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

  • Class of '53

    James “John” Gruber

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Richard Cornuelle '48

Though often remembered as an early libertarian, Richard Cornuelle '48 defied conventional political definitions.

Frustrated by conservative indifference to social problems and liberal reliance on the federal government for solutions, Cornuelle published a series of books on his belief in social action, starting with Reclaiming the American Dream in 1965. Pollster George Gallup later called the influence of the book “the most dramatic shift in American thinking since the New Deal.” Cornuelle also formed several nonprofit organizations, including United Student Aid Funds to help send impoverished students to college. Six years after the program’s inception, USAF was helping 48,000 students attend 674 colleges. He also founded the Center for Independent Action, which trained previously unemployable workers and helped them find jobs. After graduation from Oxy, Cornuelle studied with the prominent free-market economist Ludwig von Mises at New York University, whose students later founded the modern libertarian movement.

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Jesus Salvador Treviño '68

Jesus Salvador Treviño ’68 documented the historic East L.A. high school walkouts by 15,000 Chicano students in the spring of 1968 with a Super 8 camera.

That was the opening act in a career that has spanned documentaries (Chicano! History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement), features (Raices de Sangre) and scores of TV directing credits (from “Star Trek: Voyager” and “ER” to “Resurrection Blvd.” and “Bones”)–-not to mention two collections of short stories and a memoir. While the Oxy philosophy major has never forgotten his roots, his approach to storytelling is universal: “Resurrection Blvd.,” he says, is “a story that involves Latinos, but fundamentally it’s good drama, a good story, and good television.”

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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.

  • Barrio Boy turned Chicano studies icon

  • Class of '27

    Ernesto Galarza

  • Saved 8 million acres of desert

  • Class of '35

    Harriett Allen

  • Translator of indigenous languages

  • Class of '18

    William Cameron Townsend

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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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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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William Cameron Townsend '18

As a missionary hoping to empower the indigenous peoples of Latin and Central America, William Cameron Townsend ’18 traveled, and where he traveled he translated.

Townsend believed that if an indigenous population was given the ability to organize themselves through study of the Bible, it would help them to achieve self-esteem and dignity. He eventually was able to establish schools to train translators to become teachers, promoting literacy and enabling a self-sustaining system of education in these small populations. During a brief period of living in the United States, he founded the Summer Institute of Linguistics, a training school where young people learned necessary linguistic skills in order to eventually work with him in Latin and Central America. Over the last 60 years, the SIL has analyzed 1,724 languages and is currently working on 1,053 more. During his lifetime, he lived in Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Colombia and translated the New Testament into over 150 languages.

  • From 1600 Campus Road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

  • Class of '83

    Barack Obama

  • Helped shape the theory of plate tectonics

  • Class of '59

    G. Brent Dalrymple

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

  • Class of '17

    William Warde Fowler

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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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G. Brent Dalrymple '59

G. Brent Dalrymple ’59’s geochronology research in a tarpaper shack led to the formulation of the modern theory of plate tectonics.

In 1963, after the geology major was hired by the U.S. Geological Survey, he and two colleagues built a mass spectrometer-dating lab in a shack outside of their office to test the idea that rocks might show when Earth’s magnetic pole switched from north to south. Two years later, they presented evidence of magnetic polarity reversal for the last 3.5 million years. Princeton geophysicist Fred Vine used that data to show that the record of ocean-floor reversals matched the pattern of magnetic reversals–the basis for the modern theory of plate tectonics. In his long career--first at the USGS and later as a professor and dean of Oregon State University--Dalrymple also studied the evolution of volcanoes and lunar geology. In 2003, he was awarded the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor for science and engineering researchers.

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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.

  • Lauded contemporary poet

  • Class of '58

    Kathleen Fraser

  • Remaking public radio in Los Angeles

  • Class of '80

    Bill Davis

  • Good friend of Oscar's

  • Class of '95

    Ben Affleck

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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.

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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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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.
 
 

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

  • Class of '09

    Ramona Gonzales

  • Earned her wings as a WASP

  • Class of '33

    Lauretta (Beaty) Foy

  • Lead keyboardist for Miles Davis

  • Class of '81

    Adam Holzman

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Ramona Gonzales '09

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

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

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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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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.

  • Brought Presbyterian values to Hollywood

  • Class of '18

    Louis Hadley Evans

  • Helped shape the Aloha State

  • Class of '41

    Herbert Cornuelle

  • Pioneered the field of financial planning

  • Class of '59

    Ben Coombs

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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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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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Ben Coombs '59

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

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