• Four-time Olympic fencer

  • Class of '45

    Maxine McMasters Mitchell

  • Remaking public radio in Los Angeles

  • Class of '80

    Bill Davis

  • 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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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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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.

  • Where she leads, others will follow

  • Class of '68

    Marsha Evans

  • San Francisco County Superior Court judge

  • Class of '64

    Lillian Sing

  • Represents “Peanuts” and popcorn and Cracker Jack

  • Class of '86

    Shawn Lawson-Cummings

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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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Lillian Sing '64

Lillian Sing '64 brought her passion for activism to the San Francisco County Superior Court bench.

The psychology major has always been committed to community service and social work. Five years out of undergraduate study, she and other leaders in the Asian-American community founded Chinese for Affirmative Action to provide equal employment opportunities for the Chinese-American community. She founded the first Chinese-American bilingual preschool in San Francisco over 30 years ago, and in 1981, she became the first Asian-American judge appointed to the San Francisco Superior Court. In 2001, she was commended by the city and county of San Francisco for her pioneering advocacy on behalf of Chinese-Americans. In her over 20 years on the bench of the San Francisco Superior Court, she developed a reputation for evenhandedness and integrity, innovation in the courtroom and encyclopedic knowledge of the law.

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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.

  • Taught generations of aspiring journalists

  • Class of '46

    Ted Tajima

  • White House advisor and Stanford economist

  • Class of '76

    Kathryn Shaw

  • Laid the groundwork for viral videos

  • Class of '73

    Stephen L. Casner

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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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Kathryn Shaw '76

Kathryn Shaw ’76 had a first-row seat on the confluence of economics and politics as a member of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors.

From 1999 to 2001, the Oxy mathematics major advised the president not just on the economy, but also on proposed legislation and healthcare and job-creation policy. After her White House stint, Shaw returned to her first love—teaching. The Harvard-trained economist taught at Carnegie Mellon University for more than 20 years before becoming Stanford University’s Ernest C. Arbuckle Professor of Economics in 2003. Her research focuses on managing talent in high-performance organizations. Shaw co-developed the field of “insider econometrics,” in which internal company data is used to study performance gains from practices such as higher pay and teamwork.

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Stephen L. Casner '73

Next time you watch a YouTube video or use Skype to call someone, thank Stephen L. Casner ’73.

He helped create Real-time Transport Protocol, an Internet format that makes possible real-time streaming audio and video data between devices. The International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium awarded the Oxy mathematics major its 2011 leadership award for his role in the creation of the RTP and his contributions to the multimedia industry. At USC’s Information Sciences Institute, he co-designed and implemented protocols and software for some of the earliest experiments with “packet voice” using the ARPAnet. Now at Santa Clara-based Packet Design, Casner is applying some of the same techniques to network performance measurement and routing analysis.

  • No man left behind

  • Class of '45

    Thomas H. Tackaberry

  • Developed the talking baby for E*Trade

  • Class of '94

    Tor Myhren

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

  • Class of '09

    Ramona Gonzales

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Thomas H. Tackaberry '45

Thomas H. Tackaberry '45 never backed down when servicemen were under fire.

It was Sept. 9, 1952, and in the Chorwon province in North Korea, Captain Tackaberry had spotted a United Nations patrol that had become disorganized after its commander was killed in action. Despite the barrage of heavy automatic weapon fire, Tackaberry oversaw the withdrawal of the patrol and remained behind until he was sure that the men were safe. His heroic actions earned him his first Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military award granted for “extreme gallantry and risk of life.” Tackaberry went on to receive two more Distinguished Service Crosses for leading defensive operations and extracting soldiers while under heavy assault in Vietnam, where he served as commanding officer of the 2nd Airborne Battalion and later the commanding officer of the 196th Infantry Brigade. After his active duty abroad, Tackaberry served as commander of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg from 1974 to 1976 and then as commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg from 1979 until his retirement in 1981. The Los Angeles native is among the top 50 most decorated U.S military personnel and is remembered for his bravery on the ground and in the air.

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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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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.

  • The James Dean of disability studies

  • Class of '68

    Paul Longmore

  • First female military chaplain

  • Class of '64

    Dianna Pohlman Bell

  • Perfect on the mound

  • Class of '27

    Bud Teachout

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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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Dianna Pohlman Bell '64

When the Rev. Lt. Dianna Pohlman Bell ’64 was assigned to the Orlando Naval Training Center in 1973, she set a new precedent for women in the military’s religious services.

“But I had never been the housewife type,” she says. Shortly after her graduation from Occidental, the music major found that her love of God was quickly overshadowing her love of the French horn. She followed her sense of duty to the U.S. Navy, which had courted her for service even before her ordination. Her first assignment was counseling the newest recruits at the base, providing them with the crucial support and moral guidance they needed. Since 1973, more than150 women have been admitted to the Naval Chaplain Corps; they owe a debt of gratitude to Pohlman Bell, who blazed the trail.

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Bud Teachout '27

Bud Teachout ’27 stood 6’2”. From the mound, he looked even more intimidating. And he was.

Teachout was the Tigers’ pitching ace from 1924 to 1927, compiling a perfect 23-0 record in conference play – a record never since repeated. (He would have added a fourth year of dominance had freshmen not been barred from the varsity.) A versatile athlete who led his Franklin High School team to a California state championship, Teachout also played right field to take advantage of his powerful bat. Drafted by Detroit, he played two years for the Chicago Cubs and another for St. Louis, the only Oxy Tiger to win a game in the major leagues. As head baseball coach at Glendale High School, he produced several key players who went on to play for his alma mater. Teachout is an inaugural member of the Occidental College Athletic Hall of Fame, inducted with the first class of 2012.

  • Helped shape the Aloha State

  • Class of '41

    Herbert Cornuelle

  • Advisor to Nixon, he outpolled Reagan

  • Class of '47

    Robert Finch

  • Went Into the Woods with Sondheim

  • Class of '72

    Joanna Gleason

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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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Robert Finch '47

When Robert Finch ’47 was elected California’s 38th lieutenant governor in 1966, he received 300,000 more votes than Ronald Reagan, who was elected governor.

It all began at Oxy, where Finch, a political science major, served as student body president and organized Young Republican clubs on a dozen local college campuses. As a congressional aide in Washington, he befriended freshman Rep. Richard Nixon; he went on to manage Nixon’s 1960 and 1968 presidential campaigns. Finch turned down Nixon’s 1968 offer to be his vice presidential running mate, but accepted an appointment as U.S. secretary for Health, Education and Welfare. He later served the president as a senior adviser. In 1973, Finch returned to California to practice law, but remained involved in Republican politics until his death in 1995.

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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.”

  • Changed the face of American theater

  • Class of '53

    Ming Cho Lee

  • Takes lunch with Hollywood A-listers

  • Class of '81

    Lorrie Bartlett

  • NASA’s Inventor of the Year in 1984

  • Class of '62

    George E. Alcorn

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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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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 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.

  • Lauded contemporary poet

  • Class of '58

    Kathleen Fraser

  • Poet honored with a postage stamp

  • Class of 1905

    Robinson Jeffers

  • The first prince of Bel-Air

  • Class of 1895

    Alphonzo Bell

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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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Robinson Jeffers 1905

One of America’s best-selling poets, Robinson Jeffers 1905 was featured on the cover of Time, turned the Greek tragedy Medea into a Broadway hit in 1947, and was honored with a stamp in 1973--11 years after his death.

First published in 1938, The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers was reprinted so many times that Random House lost track of sales. His critical reputation has subsequently declined--a result of his vocal anti-war views and a shrinking audience for narrative poetry in the classical style. Still, “It is hard to see how anyone can read Jeffers’ best poetry and not perceive greatness,” David Rains Wallace wrote in praise of the Stanford University Press’ 2000 edition of his collected poems. “His narrative verse rivals Wordsworth’s or Byron’s. It is electrifying; the skin prickles.”

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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.

  • The LAPD’s best homicide detective

  • Class of '49

    Pierce Brooks

  • Submarine sailor

  • Class of '50

    Steven A. White

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

  • Class of '09

    Stephen Bent

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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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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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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.

  • America’s first lady of gastronomy

  • Class of '31

    M.F.K. Fisher

  • Captained the USA national rugby team

  • Class of '90

    Dave Hodges

  • Good friend of Oscar's

  • Class of '95

    Ben Affleck

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M.F.K. Fisher '31

A self-described “insatiable reader and scribbler,” M.F.K. Fisher ’31’s desire for the written word was eclipsed only by her hunger for food--all of it, whether animal or vegetable, cooked or raw.

The confluence of these two appetites helped make Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher America’s best-known and prolific food writer, and an icon to gastronomes everywhere. Her writing on the slow, sensual pleasures of the table seemed revolutionary to a buttoned-down, mid-century America. In a career spanning 60 years, Fisher’s prolific output included 15 books of essays, such as How to Cook a Wolf and The Gastronomical Me, novels, hundreds of stories for the New Yorker, as well as an English translation of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s classic book, The Physiology of Taste. Poet W.H. Auden called her “America’s greatest writer.”

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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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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.