Gregory Peck ’39

Lured into acting while a pre-med student at Berkeley, Peck was so poor as a young actor in New York that he often slept in Central Park. Little did he anticipate that he would become one of the greatest movie figures of all time. Known for characters who personified bravery and kindness, Peck is primarily remembered for his Oscar-winning portrayal of Atticus Finch — a Southern lawyer defending a black man accused of rape — in the classic To Kill a Mockingbird. He swept Audrey Hepburn off her feet in Roman Holiday, confronted anti-Semitism in Gentleman’s Agreement, and teamed up with Alfred Hitchcock in Spellbound, among numerous unforgettable roles. A staunch supporter of liberal causes, Peck was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 1969. Approaching age with dignity, he was quoted in the LA Times obituary as saying: “I’m aware it’s autumn. But I’m not bothered. … I love my work and my wife and my kids and my friends. And I think, ‘You’re a lucky man, Gregory Peck, a damn lucky man.’”

Arts and Entertainment, Public Service and Activism

Beverly Cleary ’38

There are no wizards, superheroes, or princesses in Cleary’s literary world — just normal kids with normal lives. But that hasn’t stopped her from becoming a phenomenon among decades of young readers worldwide. From the adventurous Henry Huggins to the plucky mouse on a motorcycle to the ever-popular, pesky Ramona Quimby, Cleary’s characters speak to such universal kid concerns as homework, family, and pets. Declared a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, she has sold more than 91 million copies of her books in more than 20 countries. Although kids’ lives have changed dramatically since she published her first book in 1950, Cleary, who majored in English, said in a New York Times interview that “children want the same things my generation wanted — a home with loving parents, and children to play with in safe neighborhoods.” Not to mention “funny books about children like themselves.”

Arts and Entertainment, Education, Honors and Awards

Hector “Hecdog” Perez ’94

Hector “Hecdog” Perez is a rare composer who meshes the traditional music of Veracruz, Mexico, with the hip, chill beats of electronica. His debut album, Sistema Bomb Presenta Electro-Jarocho — a 21st-century re-imagining of the Afro-Mexican son jarocho style — oozes so much cross-genre cool that it grabbed a 2013 Grammy nomination for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album. Hecdog also co-produced the album Sembrando Flores by Los Cojolites, which scooped up a 2013 nomination for Best Regional Mexican Music Album. In addition to his award-worthy work, Hecdog is the founder of Music Orange, a commercial music company that counts Apple, Sony, Gap, eBay, and VISA among its clients. Listen to Sistema Bomb on SoundCloud, or follow Hecdog on Twitter @SistemaBomb.

Arts and Entertainment

Oren Jacob ’92, M.S. ’95

As a teen, Jacob found his calling at the movies, where he was entranced by Luxo Jr., the now-iconic short film about a pint-sized desk lamp. He landed a dream internship at Pixar as a Cal undergraduate that led to more than 20 years with the animation studios, most recently as CTO and director of the studio tools group. Jacob lent his talents to Toy Story, Toy Story 2A Bug’s Life, and Finding Nemo. In 2011, he heard the call of the startup and co-founded ToyTalk, a family entertainment company “powered by characters and conversation.” While mum’s the word on its forthcoming product — a talking teddy bear that uses artificial intelligence to communicate via an iPad — media reports are speculating over its technological innovation. Jacob’s company bio says he will “drop all of this in a heartbeat to become a pro snowboarder the minute that first sponsor shows up.” Follow Jacob on Twitter @orenjacob or ToyTalk on Facebook.

Arts and Entertainment, Innovators

Tiffany Shlain ’92

Honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century,” Shlain founded and led the Webby Awards — the global bellwether for honoring excellence on the web — for almost a decade before shifting her passions toward filmmaking. Her last four films premiered at Sundance, including Connected, an acclaimed feature documentary that explores the links among complex issues such as consumption, technology, and human rights as Shlain searches for her place in a fast-changing world. She is currently working on a new series of 15 short films aimed at inspiring global change. Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks, the newest film and a TED Book, examines the parallels between the development of a child’s brain and the development of the Internet. Shlain gave the keynote speech at UC Berkeley’s commencement in 2010. Visit her website, or follow her on Twitter @tiffanyshlain.

Arts and Entertainment, Honors and Awards, Innovators, Technology and Engineering

Jay DeFeo ’50, M.A. ’51

“I believe the only real moments of happiness and a feeling of aliveness and completeness occur when I swing a brush,” wrote DeFeo in a letter to her mother in 1952. At the heart of the Beat Generation  — San Francisco’s historic community of musicians, artists, and poets —   DeFeo resisted conventional materials in her exploration of painting, collage, drawing, and other forms. From 1958 to 1966, she was singularly obsessed with creating The Rose, a monumental work so thick with paint that it blurred the lines between sculpture and painting. Although DeFeo was not well known outside of the West Coast when she died of cancer at age 60, she is receiving due praise today. Museum-goers can enjoy an in-depth retrospective of her work at SFMOMA through Feb. 3, 2013, or find more information through the Jay DeFeo Trust or the trust’s page on Facebook.

Arts and Entertainment

Maz Jobrani ’93


Although his parents thought his wit and flair would make him a great lawyer, Jobrani was first  bitten by the show-biz bug when he played a tree in a school play at age 6. Bridging the rift between the Middle East and West, Jobrani’s taboo-tampering comedy elicits laughter around the world. He is best known as a founding member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, a group of top comedians who sold out a recent international tour of 27 shows and landed a special on Comedy Central — the first show on American TV with an all-Middle Eastern/American cast. Jobrani himself has been on The Colbert Report, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, among other shows. He also appeared in the movies The Interpreter and 13 Going on 30. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter @MazJobrani.



Arts and Entertainment

Jann Wenner

Jann_Wenner4Wenner started a quirky rock-music biweekly in 1967 called Rolling Stone — and changed American culture. Treating the country’s increasingly vocal youth with a newfound seriousness, the magazine spoke for an entire generation through its definitive music coverage, provocative interviews, award-winning photography, and important investigative and political reporting. With 12 million readers today, Rolling Stone still serves as the ultimate source for music information and pop-culture trends. Wenner was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

Arts and Entertainment, Innovators

Terry McMillan ’77

Known for her zesty depictions of independent black women, McMillan’s best-known books — Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back — have sold millions of copies each and were made into movies. On her website, she says she writes to understand herself and others, “especially people I’m not crazy about or have little respect for or whom I find confusing. I want to know why we do (some of the stupid stuff) that we do.” McMillan is also a conduit for information and ideas about writing, parenting, spirituality, travel, and other areas to make life better. Follow her on Twitter @MsTerryMcMillan

Arts and Entertainment

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