Natalie Coughlin ’05

Guinness World Records-holder for the most Olympic medals among female swimmers, Coughlin left the 2004 and 2008 Olympics as the most decorated female athlete — earning a total of 11 medals. She won a bronze in the 400 free relay in London. In an ESPN ranking of the greatest U.S. Summer Olympians, Coughlin came in at No. 10, sharing the Top 10 with such heroes as Jesse Owens and Wilma Rudolph. Out of the pool, Coughlin keeps a large backyard garden and chickens and is a passionate cook. Follow her on Twitter @NatalieCoughlin.

Health, Olympics, Sports

Heather Petri ’04

The first Cal athlete to compete in four straight Olympic Games, women’s water polo player Petri was one of the youngest members of Team USA when the Americans won a silver medal in 2000. She was the oldest member of the National Team in London at age 34, but that did not stop her from helping them seize the gold. During her three prior Olympic experiences, Petri has had the pleasure of teaming up with three former Golden Bear standouts (Courtney Johnson, Ericka Lorenz, and Elsie Windes) and her former Cal coach Maureen O’Toole-Purcell.

Olympics, Sports

Laurel Korholz ’93

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London will be the fifth consecutive Olympics that Korholz will be a part of as either a rower or a rowing coach. In her final Olympic appearance as a competitor, Korholz captured silver as a member of the women’s eight at the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece. Korholz is an 11-time member of the U.S. national rowing team.

Olympics, Sports

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

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

Warren Hellman ’55

Co-founder of the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, Hellman (1934–2011) built a fortune that he willingly poured into local causes, including education, athletics, politics, and the arts. A banjo player, he made his most visible impact on San Francisco with the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, an annual free event drawing some 750,000 people and headlining favorites such as Emmylou Harris and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

Arts and Entertainment, Business and Economics, Innovators

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

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