Zach Vlahos

Wanting to be a Golden Bear since he was a child, Vlahos of New York City will cox the men’s eight crew at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. He coxed the California men’s eight to its last IRA national championships in 2010. After graduating from Cal, Vlahos returned as a volunteer assistant rowing coach and continues to promote the program through social media and event planning. Follow him on Twitter @therealzeej.

Olympics, Sports


Aptheker-BladesBettina Aptheker ’67 (left) was a prominent activist in several major historical and political events of the 1960s and ’70s, including the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley and the movement against the war in Vietnam. Joan Blades ’77 (right) co-founded, which unites education, advocacy, and political action to give Americans a voice in the political process, as well as, dedicated to improving maternity/paternity leave, health care, childcare, and other issues important to families.


James Schamus ’82, M.A. ’87, Ph.D. ’03

An integral contributor to some of the most intriguing independent films of the last two decades, Schamus has the unique distinction of being an award-winning producer and screenwriter who is also an executive.  As CEO of Focus Features, he is unafraid to take risks with innovative filmmakers and daring stories that challenge the mainstream. He has collaborated with writer/producer Ang Lee on 11 films, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Ice Storm, and Brokeback Mountain. Taking his passion for the screen to the chalkboard, Schamus also teaches film history and theory at Columbia University.

Arts and Entertainment

Renee Montagne ’73

Millions of Americans wake up to Montagne’s voice every morning as she teases out the day’s hard news, culture, and entertainment on NPR’s Morning Edition. A long-time voice on NPR, she has also hosted All Things Considered and worked for the science, national, and foreign desks, interviewing thousands of people from around the world and all walks of life. Since 9/11, Montagne has gone to Afghanistan six times, interviewing farmers and mullahs, women and poll workers, the president and an infamous warlord. Find Morning Edition on Facebook and Twitter @MorningEdition.

Arts and Entertainment

Carol Greider Ph.D. ’87

Little did Greider know that her research as a 25-year-old graduate student at Berkeley would ultimately win her the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. While scientists knew that chromosomes were tipped like a shoelace, they did not know how these tips prevented chromosomes from unraveling during cell division. Greider and her colleagues, with whom she shares the Nobel, discovered a new enzyme, telomerase, that adds DNA to the ends, reducing the chances of mutations and lengthening the chromosomal lifespan. Their research catalyzed an eruption of studies connecting telomerase to cancer, anemia, age-related degenerative diseases, and other illnesses. Today Greider is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Health, Honors and Awards, Science

Joan Didion ’56

Joan–DidionOne of the nation’s most influential writers, Didion captures the mysteries of life and death in unflinching prose, reflecting on themes such as childhood, love, motherhood, aging, and grief. The Year of Magical Thinking, a response to the sudden death of her husband John Dunne, received the National Book Award in 2005 and has provided solace to readers as they prepare for the unavoidable losses we all endure. Her most recent book, Blue Nights, chronicles the death of her daughter, Quintana Roo, and her own struggles with whether she protected and loved Quintana as a mother should. In There Was Light, a book of essays by alumni, Didion wrote, “Without Berkeley, the world I know would have been narrowed, constricted, diminished: a more ordered and less risky world, but not the world I wanted — not free, not Berkeley, not me.”

Arts and Entertainment


Peck-Warren2The 14th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Earl Warren 1912, J.D. 1914 (left, 1891–1974) brought a divided court together in Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned the infamous “separate but equal” ruling by banning segregated schools.  In the 1962 film classic To Kill a MockingbirdGregory Peck ’39 (right, 1916–2003) portrayed Atticus Finch, a lawyer who courageously defends a black man wrongfully accused of rape in the Depression-era South. Peck, himself a model of moral integrity, became synonymous with Finch, movie history’s most revered fictional character to fight for racial justice.


Reality TV

Considered the “godfather” of reality-based programming, Ralph Edwards ’35 (left, 1913–2005) is best known as the creator, producer, and host of This Is Your Life, the TV classic that surprised unwitting guests with on-air remembrances by family and friends. Among hundreds of honors, Edwards has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Today’s reigning king of reality TV, Mike Fleiss ’87 (right) has achieved unmatched success as a producer of numerous shows, including The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. He has also dipped into feature films and directed the documentary God Bless Ozzy Osbourne. Follow Fleiss on Twitter @fleissmeister.



Adam Duritz

Adam DuritzA soulful lyricist and singer, Duritz is the frontman for the Counting Crows, a hit band attracting fans of both classic and alternative rock. Their 1993 debut album, August and Everything After, enjoyed a 93-week chart run, and the song “Accidentally In Love,” featured in Shrek 2, was nominated for an Oscar, Golden Globe, and Grammy Award. When asked in a 2007 New York Times interview if he’d ever write a song about Cal, Duritz, a diehard Bears fan, said with a laugh, “I only write about things that make me miserable.” Follow Duritz on Twitter @countingcrows.

Arts and Entertainment

Alice Waters ’67

When Waters opened the world-famous restaurant Chez Panisse in 1971, she never imagined that offering “real food” would help spark a revolution. More than anyone else, she is responsible for the movement to eat fresh foods that are grown locally and sustainably. Her latest focus, the Edible Schoolyard Project, aims to get children into the garden and kitchen to change the way we eat, one student at time. Follow her on Twitter @AliceWaters.

Health, Innovators, Public Service and Activism