Though his father helped lead Levi Strauss & Co. for decades, Koshland built his life around science, not jeans. A third-generation Cal grad, he was a longtime professor of molecular and cell biology at Berkeley and a brilliant scientist known for his work on proteins and enzymes. In the 1980s, he spearheaded a massive reorganization of 11 biology departments that included a new curriculum to reflect advances in genetics and protein interactions. A subsequent campaign renovated one campus building and funded two others, one of which is named in Koshland’s honor. As his colleague Robert Tjian said, “People thought the reorganization was impossible, and I think no one else could have pulled it off.” Koshland also served as the editor of Science from 1985–1995, turning “a good, but stodgy journal” into the nation’s leading voice of science. Extending his vision and generosity beyond Berkeley, he established a scholarship program for San Francisco public high school students. Nga Pham, a 2012 recipient, said in a video, “This is the first time that I’ve wanted to go to college so bad. Even though I only came here two years ago, I realized that there’s nothing that I cannot do.” Among Koshland’s many awards are the National Medal of Science in 1990, the Berkeley Medal, and Alumnus of the Year in 1991.
A lifelong sports fanatic — she once dressed up as the Giants’ Will “The Thrill” Clark for Halloween — Scott first gained legendary status at Cal as the “mic chick,” the first full-time female yell leader at football and basketball games. KNBR’s morning sports anchor today, she continues to break ground as a lesbian in a male-dominated field. With a smooth voice and direct honesty, Scott doesn’t back down when men think they know more about sports. Program Director Lee Hammer told the SF Chronicle, “She knows what she’s talking about. She keeps guys in their place with the way she handles herself on the air.” In 2008, during a short window of time before California banned same-sex marriage, she wed Nicole Everett, a graduate of UC Berkeley Extension’s interior design and interior architecture program. Although the Supreme Court recently overturned the ban, they felt “lucky” to be married when so many of their friends lacked the right. Tune into Scott on weekday mornings, or follow her on Twitter at @katetscott.
Pérez made history in 2010 when he became Speaker of the California State Assembly, the first openly gay person to hold such a position in the nation. Raised in working-class communities, he learned the value of hard work and community service and spent more than 15 years advocating for more jobs, expanded healthcare, and the protection of workers’ rights. A longtime champion for LGBT issues, he was appointed by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to serve on the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. In March 2012, Pérez told a massive rally in Sacramento protesting education cuts that, “California is watching, and the people support you.” Backing their call, he wrote the Middle Class Scholarship Act to lower tuition for students who don’t qualify for financial aid at the University of California and California State University campuses. It was signed into law on July 1, 2013, the same day Congress failed to keep student loan rates from doubling. Find him on Facebook and Twitter @SpeakerPerez.
The starting right end for the last Bears team to play in the Rose Bowl (1959), Bates has pursued a lifelong career of visionary, socially responsive public service. A former captain in the U.S. Army, he served in the California State Assembly for 20 years, passing 220 bills that included legislation for children and families, mental health services, the environment, and civil rights. Berkeley’s mayor since 2002, his successes include the establishment of the David Brower Center, a home for environmental and social action; the Ed Roberts Campus, a fully accessible transit hub dedicated to disability rights; and the relocation of the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, a traditional music venue, to downtown Berkeley. Green at heart — he doesn’t own a car and composts his coffee grounds — Bates told the LA Times that recycling is his religion. “I want to do what I can for climate change and global warming,” he said. Follow Bates on Facebook or Twitter @MayorTomBates.
Growing up in Texas, Lee encountered “whites-only” drinking fountains, segregated schools, and denied entry to public places — discriminations that fueled her lifelong dedication to public service. Today, whether the Democratic congresswoman is fighting for HIV/AIDS legislation, an end to poverty, or equal rights for all minorities, everything she does is informed by the values she learned at Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare. She is best known for her actions on Sept. 14, 2001. As the World Trade Center still smoldered, Lee was the lone voice out of 421 in the House of Representatives to reject the use of military force against the terrorists. Reflecting on the recent end to the global war on terror, the Daily Beast called her “the most prescient person in Washington.” Her memoir, Renegade for Peace and Justice, is a candid look at the whole person behind the politics and the issues she so intensely champions. Follow Lee on Facebook or Twitter @RepBarbaraLee.
A natural leader, Johnson moved from calling the shots on the basketball court to being a political playmaker — and found great success in both arenas. K.J. earned two All-Pac-10 Conference player honors at Cal and an honorable-mention All-American nod from the Associated Press. When he left Cal, he ranked as its all-time leader in assists, steals, and scoring. As a professional, the point guard was named an NBA All-Star three times and set numerous team scoring records during nearly 12 years with the Phoenix Suns. Johnson established a nonprofit in Sacramento after retiring, and in 2008 he was elected the city’s mayor, launching initiatives addressing everything from homelessness to literacy to keeping the city’s NBA team, the Kings, from moving to Seattle. “I want to be remembered,” says Johnson, now in his second term, “as someone who gave his life fighting for those who did not have a voice.” Follow him on Twitter @KJ_MayorJohnson.
When Costello, a healthy, nonsmoking athlete, was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer as a junior, she did not let it stop her from giving life her all. Telling her mom cancer was “just another thing on my plate,” according to a Sports Illustrated profile, the beloved women’s crew coxswain instead focused on leading her team and graduating from Cal. Embracing grueling workouts and aggressive treatments without complaint, Costello went on to become the PAC-10 women’s rowing athlete of the year, organize Jog for Jill, an ongoing charity run, and graduate with a 4.0 GPA. She held onto the philosophy to “do what makes you happy in the moment ” until her death at age 22 in 2010. Inspired by Costello’s courage, the campus co-hosts a jog each spring, and childhood friend Kelcey Harrison ran from Times Square to San Francisco in 2012 to raise funds for Jill’s Legacy. She was joined by Costello’s teammates and coach on the final leg across the Golden Gate Bridge. Costello was the first athlete to receive the NCAA’s Inspiration Award posthumously.
Like the Green Bay Packers, Cal recognized Rodgers’ talent when others were more skeptical. The star quarterback transferred to Berkeley in 2003 and became the Golden Bears’ starter in his fifth game. After a junior year in which Cal finished 10-1 and advanced to the Holiday Bowl, Rodgers entered the NFL draft, where he famously (and awkwardly) sat undrafted until the Packers selected him 24th. He sat on the bench behind Green Bay legend Brett Favre for three seasons, only to take over in 2008 and fulfill his potential. A three-time Pro Bowl player, Rodgers led the Packers to victory in Super Bowl XLV, earning the game’s MVP award in the process. “It’s something that gives me perspective all the time, knowing that the road I took was difficult,” he told the Associated Press in 2011. “But it did shape my character and it shaped my game as well.” Follow him on Twitter.
Case’s “aha” moment occurred as an undergraduate. When an architecture professor said her design of student housing looked like a layer cake, she baked her next model. “I’m sure (my peers) were thinking, ‘Do we get to eat the damn thing when she’s done talking?'” Taking it further in 2008, Case began making ice cream sandwiches with a friend and naming them after architectural legends — such as Frank Berry and Mies Vanilla Rohe. They revamped a dumpy postal truck and parked it at a music festival, generating a hungry following within hours. Coolhaus — a play on Bauhaus, the modernist movement of the 1920s and ’30s, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, and “cool house” (the “sammies” look like tiny houses) — now has trucks in four cities, a store, and a sweet deal with Whole Foods, among other retailers. But the obsessed need not feel guilty. Committed to sustainability, Case uses local, organic ingredients whenever possible and wraps each delight in edible paper. Follow Coolhaus on Facebook or Twitter @Coolhaus. (photo courtesy of New York Street Food)
Little did Das know as a pre-teen that his makeshift experiments using kitchen gadgets would lead to becoming Berkeley’s University Medalist — the top graduating senior — a few years later. Now 18, Das founded an undergraduate research journal, wrote and taught poetry, and brought science to underserved middle and high school students, among a whirlwind of successes that earned him more than 40 awards. A double major in bioengineering and chemical biology and a minor in creative writing, he is the youngest medalist in at least a century. “In my 30 years at Berkeley, I cannot think of a single undergraduate student who would match Ritankar’s accomplishments,” wrote chemistry professor Marcin Majda. Headed to the University of Oxford and MIT for his master’s and Ph.D., Das spoke at the Class of 2013 commencement. He said society tends to put everything into boxes labeled “success or failure. But I believe there’s a third box, and it’s called ‘not trying.’ … We must follow our ideas, even if they sound crazy or impossible.”