A few years before co-founding Intel, one of the largest and most revered semiconductor chip makers in the world, Moore wrote that the amount of transistors on integrated circuits — essentially, the complexity of computers — doubles every two years. Now called “Moore’s Law,” that estimate is gospel in the computer industry, and Moore a prophet of Silicon Valley. In the early years, as electronics were being installed into almost every consumer item, “we had the feeling that this was the basic technology of some kind of a revolution,” he said in a 2012 NPR interview with himself and fellow Intel icon Andy Grove Ph.D. ’63. Still wanting to do more, Moore and his wife began the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in 2000 to support their combined passions: environmental conservation, patient care, science, and Bay Area-focused projects. The foundation emphasizes planning, partnership, and — when necessary — learning from mistakes. “Failures are not something to be avoided. You want to have them happen as quickly as you can so you can make progress rapidly,” Moore once said. He received the Berkeley Medal in 1996, the university’s highest honor.
In 1972, as a newbie at the young game-maker Atari, Alcorn was asked by company cofounder Nolan Bushnell to make a simple ping pong game under a contract with General Electric. Although the contract didn’t really exist, Alcorn worked hard nonetheless to make something good. Three months later, the first coin-operated Pong machine was installed at Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, CA — and became an instant hit. As Bushnell would later say, it was “so simple that any drunk in any bar could play.” Alcorn designed both the arcade and home versions, and Pong’s popularity sparked the globally ubiquitous, multi-billion-dollar game industry we know today. “It wasn’t my intention. I’m just as surprised as the next guy,” he told the Computer History Museum in 2011. After Atari, his crucial involvement with many Silicon Valley startups earned him an Apple Fellowship; his own company, Zowie Intertainment, was acquired by LEGO in 2000. Alcorn continues to remain involved in tech’s fun side through Hack the Future, which offers daylong “hackfests” to school-age kids that teach them programming and connect them to mentors. Follow Alcorn on Twitter at @alalcorn.
In 2002, as a young analyst at J.P. Morgan in New York, the arts-loving Ringelmann excitedly attended an event expecting to rub elbows with movie stars. Instead, she found herself surrounded by starving artists, “all hoping they’d meet their angel that night, someone who’d give them the money to finally go make their big project,” she explained in a 2011 Tedx Talk in Dubai. Fueled by the desire to democratize finance, she entered Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, where she met her future partners. “I wanted to be in an environment that would allow me to really think big,” she said in a video. In 2008, they launched Indiegogo, an online platform that makes it easy for ideas to go viral and gain multiple donors, who receive fun perks over profit shares. The first and now largest crowdfunding site, Indiegogo distributes millions of dollars every week to people worldwide for everything from solar roadways to graphic novels, high-fashion wetsuits to the world’s first crowdfunded baby. “Friends, family and even complete strangers wanted to help make our dream come true,” said Jessica Haley in a Sydney, Australia, newspaper on her successfully funded infertility treatments. Follow Ringelmann on Twitter @gogoDanae.
In 1956, as Grove fled Communist-occupied Hungary and a Holocaust-haunted past, little did he foresee becoming a legend of the high-tech industry. A few years after finishing his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Berkeley, he was the first hire at Intel — co-founded by Gordon Moore ’50 to push the edges of the fledgling microchip — and later led Intel to great acclaim. “Every pestilence that could kill a microchip hit it,” Grove said in an NPR interview, recalling its bumpy start. But they finally struck gold — and continued uncovering gems over the decades with the microprocessor and personal computer. In 1997, Time magazine named Grove its Man of the Year. Driven by personal frustrations with treating his own illnesses, Grove has recently turned his attention toward speeding up the delivery of new medical therapies. In 2010, he made a gift to UCSF and Berkeley’s bioengineering department to jointly launch the first-ever master’s degree in translational medicine, which graduated its first class in 2014. “What we have learned from decades of rapid development of information technology is that the key is relentless focus on ‘better, faster, cheaper’ – in everything,” Grove said, including curing life-threatening diseases.
The economic battle that rolled across America started in Michigan, and Granholm was one person who took the blows. But as the state’s first female governor from 2003–11, she worked tirelessly to salvage the state’s auto and manufacturing industries and add emerging sectors. After leaving office, she hosted Current TV’s political news analysis show ”The War Room” and co-wrote the Washington Post bestseller A Governor’s Story. In a review, President Bill Clinton wrote that Granholm “faced extraordinary challenges with grace, intelligence, and tenacity. … She embraced the challenge of rebuilding Michigan’s economy … with new ideas, new jobs, and new businesses.” Concerned that the United States is lagging behind in energy policy, Granholm is now zeroing in on creating jobs in the clean energy sector. She is back at Berkeley as a professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy and is being awarded by the Cal Alumni Association in 2014 for Excellence in Achievement. Watch her TED2013 talk on clean energy, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @JenGranholm.
Every April, Dang celebrates what she calls “Freedom Day” — the anniversary of breaking away from a life of being sexually abused and trafficked. Since MSNBC aired the documentary Sex Slaves in America: Minh’s Story in 2010, Dang has become an unbending force in the fight to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children — helping many heal the pain and shame associated with it. She has courageously addressed tens of thousands of survivors, advocates, and other concerned citizens, as well as directed Don’t Sell Bodies, founded by actress Jada Pinkett Smith. Recognized by the White House in 2013 as a Champion of Change, Dang said, ”There was a time that I could only imagine breathing beyond the next day, let alone being at the White House.” She credits her Berkeley undergraduate experience for teaching her how to “stand up for justice” and looks forward to April 16, 2026, when her “days in freedom will finally match my days in slavery.” The Cal Alumni Association honored Dang with the 2014 Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement by a Young Alumna. Read her blog Minh Speaks Truth, or follow her on Twitter @minhspeakstruth or Facebook.
Powers has a favorite story that goes like this: A professor fills a vat with rocks and asks his students if it’s full. Yes, they say. He repeats this process with pebbles, sand, and finally water. When asked what the moral is, the students say there’s always room for more. But the professor disagrees. If you want the big rocks to fit, you have to put them in first. As the University of Texas at Austin’s president since 2006, former dean of its law school, and one of the country’s foremost scholars in personal injury and product liability, Powers knows how to keep his eyes on the big rocks. As an administrator, he gets high marks for his efforts to reform the undergraduate curriculum, diversify the faculty and student body, and save public higher education in a state that is eagerly trying to cut it to the bone. As a legal consultant, he chaired the 2001 committee that wrote the now-definitive Powers Report on the ethical and fiscal demise of Enron Corp. The Cal Alumni Association named Powers its 2014 Alumnus of the Year. Reflecting on his time at Berkeley and his UT leadership, Powers said in a California magazine article, “That’s what these great universities do for people. Kids still show up and think they’re the ones who don’t belong. But they do belong. They show up and it changes their lives.”
Keith, a National Public Radio (NPR) reporter, was so enthralled with the 1984 Summer Olympics as a four-year-old that she had an Olympics-themed birthday party later that year. When an NPR editor asked if she’d be interested in covering Sochi, she didn’t skip a beat. “I think I was chosen specifically because I’m not a sports reporter,” she said in a Q&A with Berkeley’s NewsCenter. “We (the reporters) like to have fun … and try to bring a sense of wonder to our stories.” Keith, who recently joined the White House beat after covering Congress for two years, admits that there is little in common between politics and sports. But whether it’s a fiscal battle or figure skating, one overarching narrative is “the fight for supremacy, the competition.” A self-proclaimed “radio nerd,” Keith launched her career as a student at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism covering agriculture, the environment, and other topics for KQED’s California Report. She worked for several member stations before joining NPR in 2009. She also founded and created B-Side Radio, a long-running podcast that told stories you couldn’t hear elsewhere. When she’s not lobbing questions at Congresswomen, she’s fielding their fly balls for the Bad News Babes, a journalist softball team that plays Congresswomen to benefit breast cancer. Follow Keith on Twitter @tamarakeithNPR or her blog.
As the tune “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music concludes, “When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything.” That was certainly true for Brownson, a demonstrably kind man nicknamed “Howdy.” Once he learned his do-re-mis as a child, he didn’t stop singing in barbershop quartets, choruses, or church choirs until his death in 2013. A founder of the University of California Men’s Octet, Howdy was a treasured guest at every Octet reunion, where he enchanted younger alums with colorful tales of the old days and led them in Cal fight songs. In this rare video clip of Howdy singing with the Barbary Coasters, one of about 10 quartets he joined throughout his life, he said he wasn’t interested in serious competitions. “This is just for the hell of it. It’s good stuff.” That same motivation drove a passion for volunteering and traveling as well. He and his wife, Mary ’48, were generous lifelong supporters of Cal music and the Cal Alumni Association, and had a huge world map covered with pins marking where they had been. His advice to other travelers: “Just have fun. We go places for the going, not the getting there.”