Meet some Orange Originals.
Did we mention that we’re proud of our alumni? All told, there are more than 245,000 Syracuse University grads in 162 countries and territories. Each one of them is an Orange Original. And each one is out there making his or her mark in a wide variety of professions, from acting to zoology. More than a few, like those featured here, have risen to the top of their professions.
Jim Brown ’57
One of the greatest running backs in football history, Jim Brown set the Syracuse University record for highest rush average in a season (6.2), most rushing touchdowns (6), and most points scored in a game (43). As a senior lacrosse player, he scored 64 points, including 43 goals, to lead Syracuse to an undefeated season, and was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1984.
After leaving Syracuse, Brown was the NFL’s top overall draft selection in 1957 and played for the Cleveland Browns, setting the NFL single-season and career rushing records. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
Bob Costas ’74
Perhaps the most decorated sportscaster in television, Bob Costas has been with NBC Sports since 1979 and has covered nearly every major sport, though he might be most identified with the Olympics and baseball. He’s won 22 Emmy awards—18 for outstanding sports host or play-by-play, 2 for writing, 1 for his late-night interview show on NBC, Later…with Bob Costas, and 1 for feature reporting.
Admiration for Costas among his broadcast peers is undeniable, since they named him “National Sportscaster of the Year” an unprecedented eight times. In 2001, Syracuse University honored him with the George Arents Award, SU’s highest alumni honor, for excellence in sports broadcasting.
Aaron Sorkin ’83
An award-winning screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin is renowned for his ability to create compelling characters and situations. He has been honored for such films as A Few Good Men, The American President, The Social Network, and Moneyball, as well as numerous TV shows, including Sports Night, The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and HBO’s drama The Newsroom.
Highly supportive of his alma mater, Sorkin established Sorkin Week, a Los Angeles-based immersion program in the entertainment industry for SU drama and film students, and delivered the University’s 2012 Commencement address.
Lou Reed ’64
Lou Reed earned a bachelor’s degree with honors from Syracuse University, honing his skill with words under the guidance of his friend and mentor, poet Delmore Schwartz. A professor in SU’s renowned Creative Writing Program, Schwartz recognized Reed’s brilliant use of language and encouraged him to pursue his lyric endeavors. The rest, as they say, is music history.
In turn, Reed served as an inspiration to singers and songwriters for more than 35 years, including such industry icons as David Bowie and U2’s lead singer, Bono, who, in 2007, attended SU’s Arents Award event honoring Reed.
Taye Diggs ’93
Well known for his roles in the Broadway musical Rent, the motion picture How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and the ABC series Private Practice, Taye Diggs now stars in the TNT series Murder in the First.
Shortly after graduating from SU, Diggs appeared in the Tony Award-winning revival of Carousel. In 1996, he originated the role of the landlord Benny in Jonathan Larson’s Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Rent. He became an author with the publication of the children’s book Chocolate Me!, which was illustrated by Syracuse classmate Shane W. Evans ’92. Diggs has been extremely active with his alma mater throughout his post-graduate years, most notably as a guest artist in the Department of Drama.
Paul Taylor ’53, H’86
Choreographer Paul Taylor is the last living member of the pantheon that created America’s indigenous art of modern dance. At an age when most artists’ best work is behind them, Paul Taylor continues to win public and critical acclaim for the vibrancy, relevance, and power of his creations.
As he has since his origins as a dance maker in 1954 through today, he offers brilliant observations on life’s complexities while tackling some of society’s thorniest issues. While he may propel his dancers through space for the sheer beauty of it, he more frequently uses them to illuminate such profound issues as war, piety, spirituality, sexuality, morality, and mortality.
Joyce Carol Oates ’60, H’00
The literary career of Joyce Carol Oates began in earnest while she was still a student at Syracuse University. A story she submitted to Mademoiselle magazine, “In the Old World,” won a fiction award and was published in the magazine’s August 1959 issue.
In the years that followed, Oates has written books that cover an astonishing range of content and genre, and regularly appear on The New York Times’ list of the 100 Notable Books of the Year. She’s won numerous writing awards, including the National Book Award, the Fisk Fiction Prize, the Bram Stoker Award, and four O. Henry awards.
Joseph Biden L’68
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden received his juris doctorate from the Syracuse University College of Law in 1968. The Biden legacy at SU continued two decades later, when his son Beau also attended the College of Law.
The vice president maintains a close relationship with Syracuse University, serving as Commencement speaker in 2006 and 2009. He returned to campus again in September 2009 to hold a task force hearing on middle-class families. Along with receiving his law degree from Syracuse, the vice president also worked with the University (along with 10 others) in creating a standardized form helping students and parents better understand student loans and financial aid.
Dick Clark ’51
The man whose show American Bandstand made television history, and who—as host of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve—was a welcome guest in millions of homes each year on December 31, also made his mark as a businessman.
He earned his Syracuse University degree at what is now the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. His company, Dick Clark Productions, produced a wide variety of programming, including teen dance shows, made-for-television movies, feature films, game shows, and award shows such as The Golden Globe Awards. For many of these shows, Clark served as executive producer. In September 2014, the Newhouse School named its renovated studio facilities Dick Clark Studios in honor of legendary entertainer and alumnus.
Sol LeWitt ’49
With a career spanning more than four decades and working in a variety of media, including sculpture, painting, drawing, books, and prints, Sol LeWitt was among the most prolific and influential figures in contemporary art. A key creator of minimalism, and later, conceptual art, LeWitt was called “the lodestar of modern American art” by The New York Times.
In the last decades of his life, LeWitt worked with structures, particularly blocks of concrete. Six Curved Walls, installed on the Syracuse University campus, spans 140 feet on the hillside of Crouse College. The sculpture was designed and constructed to mark the inauguration of Nancy Cantor as the 11th Chancellor of Syracuse University in 2004.
Betsey Johnson ’64
In an industry where fads come and go and careers can be short-lived, Betsey Johnson’s name has even more cachet in the fashion world today than it did when her star was on its meteoric rise in the 1960s. Her instantly recognizable design style, with its exuberant color, pattern, shape, and movement, is as popular as ever.
As living proof of her motto that fashion should be fun, Johnson, dressed in her signature prints and whimsical designs, is her label’s best advertisement. Even more fun—Johnson is also known for doing a cartwheel at the end of her fashion shows.
Thom Filicia ’93
Thom Filicia is the host and driving force behind the highly acclaimed Style Network’s Tacky House and Dress My Nest, and appears in a variety of shows on the HGTV network. Before he came into the public eye with his first television role as the design expert on the groundbreaking series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, he was an emerging superstar of interior design with a New York City practice, Thom Filicia Inc.
Among his many honors are an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Art Direction for Queer Eye, recognition by Barbara Walters in her Top 10 Most Fascinating People show, being named among OUT 100’s Most Influential People, and House & Garden’s coveted International Tastemaker designation.
Ernie Davis ’62
Ernie Davis, the first African American to win collegiate football’s highest honor, the Heisman Trophy, was only a sophomore when he led the Orange to an undefeated season and a national championship. Brown was chosen by the Cleveland Browns in 1962, but he never played one game professionally—his life cut tragically short by leukemia.
The story of Davis’ life was made into a motion picture, The Express, starring Rob Brown and Dennis Quaid. Syracuse University continues to honor Davis and his accomplishments, naming a residence hall in his honor, erecting a statue in his likeness on the Quad, and naming the Carrier Dome field Ernie Davis Legends Field.
Eileen Collins ’78
Among the things astronaut Eileen Collins carried aboard the space shuttle Discovery in February 1995 were items belonging to pioneer female aviators, including a scarf once worn by Amelia Earhart. As the first female astronaut to pilot a shuttle, bringing those items was her way to honor the women who shared her dream of soaring through space.
Two years later, Collins again piloted a flight to the Mir space station, this time aboard the shuttle Atlantis. In 1999, as the first female commander of a shuttle mission, she made history yet again. In all, she logged more than 872 hours in space before retiring from the Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
F. Story Musgrave ’58
Story Musgrave attended Syracuse University on the G.I. Bill and went on to become the physician-astronaut who logged the most shuttle time in space. He logged 25 million miles during his six space shuttle missions and developed the spacesuit that was used by shuttle astronauts for space walks.
Musgrave also performed the first shuttle spacewalk on Challenger’s first flight, was a pilot on an astronomy mission, conducted two classified DOD missions, was the lead spacewalker on the Hubble Telescope repair mission in 1993, and, on his last flight, operated an electronic chip manufacturing satellite on Columbia.
Ruth Johnson Colvin ’59
After reading a 1961 newspaper census report revealing that more than 11,000 Syracuse residents were functionally illiterate, Ruth Johnson Colvin was moved to act. Enlisting the aid of neighbors and working out of her home, she founded Literacy Volunteers of America.
Now merged, ProLiteracy Worldwide is a national nonprofit with hundreds of local affiliates training volunteer tutors to teach adults to read. In recognition of her spirit of volunteerism and leadership role in the fight against illiteracy, Colvin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006.
Frank Langella ’59
Frank Langella is considered among America’s greatest stage and film actors. Known for his powerful onstage presence and extreme versatility, he has performed in works ranging from Strindberg’s drama The Father to Noel Coward’s comedy Present Laughter.
During his long and distinguished career, Langella has won international acclaim with well over two dozen nominations and awards, including Tonys, Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, Cable ACE Awards, Obies, and various critics’ awards. In 2009, he was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame and, in 2009, was recognized by Syracuse University with a George Arents Award for excellence in the performing arts.
Floyd Little ’67
A three-time All-American running back and legend of the celebrated number 44 jersey, Little holds the Orange record for career touchdowns (46) and career punts returned for a touchdown (5). In 1966, he was named the ECAC Player of the Year.
As a member of the Denver Broncos, he was selected for five Pro Bowls. In 1983, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. Little returned to Syracuse University in July 2011 in the role of special assistant to the athletics director, assisting the program he represented so well as a student-athlete and alumnus.
Katherine V. Switzer ’68, G’72
Katherine Switzer’s work began accidentally in 1967, when she was the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon—at the time, considered a men-only race. Her entry revolutionized the sports world when she was physically attacked by the race director for wearing official bib numbers in the race. That day, Switzer became the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon.
Switzer went on to run 39 more marathons. Following her athletic career, she devoted her life to creating opportunities for female athletes, successfully lobbying to make the women’s marathon an official event in the Olympic Games. In 2011, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for creating positive global social change. Today, Switzer is an Emmy Award-winning TV commentator.
Donna Shalala ’60
Donna Shalala is a leading scholar on the political economy of state and local governments. In 1993, she was appointed U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services by President Clinton. The longest serving HHS Secretary in U.S. history, she spearheaded welfare reform, championed the State Children’s Health Insurance Programs, raised child immunization rates to the highest levels in history, revitalized the National Institutes of Health, and directed Federal Drug Administration and Medicare reforms.
Currently president of the University of Miami, Shalala received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 in recognition of her “efforts to help more Americans live lives of purpose and dignity.”
Steve Kroft ’71
Steve Kroft joined 60 Minutes, the long-running television news magazine, in May 1989. In his 23rd season on the broadcast, he reported one of the biggest news stories of 2011—getting the only interview of President Barack Obama on the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Kroft’s work on the program has earned numerous awards, including the industry’s highest honor, the 2010 Paul White Award from the Radio, Television, and Digital News Association. He also received the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for his joint investigation with The Washington Post on the forensic science of bullet lead analysis, the coveted Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University silver baton for his investigation into the disappearance of $500 million from the Iraq treasury, 5 Peabody Awards, and 11 Emmys. In 2003, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Emmy for his considerable body of work.
Susan Hilferty ’75
Tony Award-winning costume designer Susan Hilferty is best known for the eccentric designs she fashioned for the hit Broadway musical Wicked, which earned her a Tony Award for Best Costume Design in 2004.
In her 30-plus years as a designer, she has created costumes for more than 300 national and international productions spanning Broadway, opera, dance, film, experimental and regional theater, and the circus. Her recent credits include costumes for Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera and Athol Fugard’s Blood Knot and The Train Driver at New York City’s Signature Theatre. Hilferty is also the chair of the Department of Design for Stage and Film at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Vanessa Williams ’85
One of the most respected and multifaceted performers in entertainment today, Vanessa Williams has conquered the music charts, Broadway, music videos, television, and motion pictures.
She has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide, earning multiple Grammy Award nominations and countless other awards and honors. She has starred in numerous films and television and Broadway productions, and has won or been nominated for the Emmy, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image awards.
Arielle Tepper Madover ’94
Arielle Tepper Madover has produced theater on and off Broadway since 1998. Her Broadway credits include an impressive list of Tony Award-winning productions. Among them are Red, the six-time Tony winner and Best Play of 2010; Hair; Frost/Nixon; Monty Python’s Spamalot; A Raisin in the Sun; James Joyce’s The Dead; and Hollywood Arms.
In 2001, Madover created the Tepper Center for Careers in Theatre, a unique program of SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Based in the Department of Drama, the program connects undergraduate students in advanced levels of acting, musical theater, design, and stage management, while providing them the opportunity to learn from and network with industry professionals.
Dennis Crowley ’98
Dennis Crowley is co-founder and CEO of Foursquare, a service that blends social, locational, and gaming elements in a mobile application, allowing users to “check in” at various locations via their cell phones and let their friends know where they are.
Foursquare was launched in 2009, but it had its origins in another Crowley creation—Dodgeball—which he co-founded in 2000 and sold to Google in 2005. Crowley maintains close ties with his alma mater, partnering with Syracuse University to help develop its Foursquare presence after a student tweeted Crowley asking for assistance.
Pamela Chen ’05
An award-winning producer, photographer, and composer, Pamela Chen is editorial director for Instagram, and was previously a senior photo editor for National Geographic Magazine. As an undergraduate, Chen received a Fulbright Scholarship to study journalism in Taiwan.
After graduation, she was a producer with MediaStorm, where her work earned numerous industry accolades, including the News and Documentary Emmy Award, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, Webby Awards, and Pictures of the Year International Awards in photography and multimedia. As a commissioned musician, Chen’s sound design and compositions appear in such broadcast and online publications as The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times, Showtime, Hulu, and Wired.