Ten famous alumni you didn’t realize went to Northwestern


Graphic by Joanne Haner

Northwestern has produced plenty of successful and well-known alumni throughout the years.

Charlotte Ehrlich, Reporter

After combing through alumni archives, The Daily found notable alumni who, just like you, ran to class through The Arch, ate at Sargent Hall and studied in Main Library. NU might have plenty of well-known names, but here are 10 standouts who fly a bit under the radar.

Barbara Sizemore (Weinberg ’47, SESP M.S. ’54)

Sizemore, a landmark educator, began her career at Northwestern when she received her bachelor of arts in classics and master of science in education and social policy. She started off as an English teacher in Chicago public schools before becoming the first Black female superintendent to serve a major public school system.

Wande Abimbola (Weinberg M.A. ’66)

Abimbola’s titles are endless: academic, chief, professor of Yoruba language and literature, former vice-chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University and senate majority leader of Nigeria. In 1966, though, Abimbola’s title was Wildcat, when he earned a master of arts in linguistics from NU.

Judi Sheppard-Missett (Communication ’66)

Sheppard-Missett founded Jazzercise — an exercise method fusing cardio, strength, hip-hop and pilates — at an Evanston dance studio in 1969 while studying speech at NU. Today, she’s franchised the company to 8,500 locations in more than 30 countries and received awards like the Presidential Commendation for Top Women Entrepreneur.

Sherry Lansing (Communication ’66)

Lansing is a woman of firsts — the first woman to head a Hollywood production company and the first female studio head to place hands and footprints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Lansing’s landmark achievements accompany titles like CEO of Paramount Pictures and president of production at 20th Century Studios, though she needed a bachelor of science in speech from NU to accomplish it all.

John Musker (Weinberg ’75)

You know him from his role as writer and director of famous Disney films like “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin” and “Moana,” but before he struck stardom, Musker majored in English at the University and drew cartoons for The Daily. After graduating, he worked as a character animator for “The Fox and the Hound,” and the rest is history.

Gary Kremen (McCormick ’85)

You can thank Kremen for the partner you met on Match, as he basically invented online dating. But to boast this title, he had to get his bachelor of science in both electrical & computer engineering and computer science. He’s also the founder of various startups, like Clean Power Finance, which has raised more than a billion dollars going toward residential solar power.

David Barstow (Medill ’86)

Known as the first reporter ever to win four Pulitzer Prizes for his work, Barstow has worked for the New York Times Investigative unit for two decades. Before that, he worked his way up at local papers like the Tampa Bay Times and the Green Bay Press-Gazette. But he got his start at Medill, where he holds a place in the Hall of Achievement.

Gwynne Shotwell (McCormick ’86, ’88)

The University’s contributions to the STEM field extend beyond our planet, for Shotwell is president and chief operating officer of SpaceX. Before building the Falcon vehicle family, which has generated more than $5 billion in revenue, and handling the day-to-day operations of SpaceX, she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics, respectively.

Jason Wright (Weinberg ’04)

If you’re an NFL fan, you’ll recognize Wright’s name from his role as president of the Washington Commanders. What you may not have known about this psychology major and fraternity president, though, is that he’s serving as the first Black team president in the history of the NFL, and currently the youngest team president in the league.

Claudia López Hernández (Weinberg Ph.D. ’19)

Hernández, who received her Ph.D. in political science from Weinberg in 2019, has served as the first female and first LGBTQ+ mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, since the year she graduated. She’s also worked as a consultant for the U.N., participated in a Washington, D.C.-based think tank and uncovered a government scandal.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charlottehrlich

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