• The first prince of Bel-Air

  • Class of 1895

    Alphonzo Bell

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

  • Class of '74

    Patt Morrison

  • Social media en español

  • Class of '05

    Zaryn Dentzel

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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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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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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.”

  • One of the country’s leading turnaround experts

  • Class of '68

    Stephen Cooper

  • First president of Hampshire College

  • Class of '39

    Franklin Patterson

  • Lauded contemporary poet

  • Class of '58

    Kathleen Fraser

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Stephen Cooper '68

Stephen Cooper ’68 describes his job this way: “I manage and organize trouble.”

For more than 30 years, the Oxy economics major and Wharton School graduate has worked as one of the country’s top turnaround experts. His list of troubled clients is an impressive one: Federated Department Stores, Polaroid Corp., Enron, Krispy Kreme, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. Today the crisis management guru is CEO of Warner Brothers Music Group and managing partner of Cooper Investment Partners, a private equity firm. “What I do for a living is different every day of the week,” he once said. “It’s very easy to get stressed out and very easy to get worn out, but almost impossible to get bored.”

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Franklin Patterson '39

Franklin Patterson ’39 was a writer, an innovator and even a Captain in the U.S. Air Force, but above all else he was an educator.

Patterson, a firm believer in enabling students to educate themselves and developing their independence in order to help them become responsible citizens, was once quoted as saying, “education is not equal to time spent at college.” But he would make sure that time spent at college would be educational. He helped write the New College Plan, resulting in the formation of the experimental, alternative education college Hampshire College. The history and government major began his teaching career as a professor at Tufts University, teaching political science; he went on to become the first president of Hampshire College, was the first director of the Lincoln Filene Center for Citizenship and Public Affairs, and also taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. While at Oxy he was a member of the debate team and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

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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.

  • Helped shape the Aloha State

  • Class of '41

    Herbert Cornuelle

  • 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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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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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

  • Good friend of Oscar's

  • Class of '95

    Ben Affleck

  • Olympic photo finish

  • Class of '53

    Bob McMillen

  • Loyola Marymount’s first lay president

  • Class of '73

    David W. Burcham

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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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Bob McMillen '53

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

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

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

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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.”

  • Developed the talking baby for E*Trade

  • Class of '94

    Tor Myhren

  • Gives voice to the unheard

  • Class of '93

    Angelica Salas

  • Transforming the streets of Manhattan

  • Class of '82

    Janette Sadik-Khan

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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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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.

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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.

  • Popularized the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement

  • Class of '49

    Guy Carawan

  • Created a national model for special education

  • Class of '47

    Alfonso Perez

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

  • Class of '84

    Janet Dhillon

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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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Alfonso Perez '47

The son of Mexican immigrants, Alfonso Perez ’47 won the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal as an Air Force bombardier in World War II.

What he was proudest of, however, was his 33 years of service to special education students in public schools. As the first Mexican-American to be appointed a high school principal in Los Angeles, Perez, who majored in physical education at Oxy, turned Widney High School into a national model of public education for the handicapped. By the end of his tenure, Widney had been transformed from what Perez called “a holding place” for the disabled to a school that mainstreamed up to a third of its students. The Alfonso B. Perez School for special education students was named in his honor after his 1980 retirement from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

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Janet Dhillon '84

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

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

  • Remaking public radio in Los Angeles

  • Class of '80

    Bill Davis

  • Helped shape the Aloha State

  • Class of '41

    Herbert Cornuelle

  • Supervises San Francisco

  • Class of '00

    Carmen Chu

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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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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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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.

  • Went Into the Woods with Sondheim

  • Class of '72

    Joanna Gleason

  • Outspoken policymaker

  • Class of '59

    Velma Montoya Thompson

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

  • Class of '62

    Terry Gilliam

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Joanna Gleason '72

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

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

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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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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.”

 

  • Lead keyboardist for Miles Davis

  • Class of '81

    Adam Holzman

  • Colombian conservationist and educator

  • Class of '70

    Jorge Orejuela

  • Barrio Boy turned Chicano studies icon

  • Class of '27

    Ernesto Galarza

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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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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.

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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.

  • Shaped Japan’s relation with the world

  • Class of '31

    Toshiro “Henry” Shimanouchi

  • Trailblazer in the federal courts

  • Class of '87

    Jacqueline Nguyen

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

  • Class of '17

    William Warde Fowler

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Toshiro “Henry” Shimanouchi '31

Cultural ambassador, translator, and diplomat Toshiro “Henry” Shimanouchi ’31 played an important role in shaping Japan’s relations with the world after World War II.

A debater, football player, and political science major at Occidental, Shimanouchi–brought to the United States at age 3–returned to Japan to work as a newspaper reporter and staff member of the Society for International Cultural Relations, which led to a position with the Japan Institute in New York. Interned after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he was repatriated to Japan in 1942. After the war, he had a long career with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as director of overseas public relations, as official translator for the Japanese prime minister, as counsel general in Los Angeles, and finally as the Japanese ambassador to Norway.

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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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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.