We all know how proud one feels when they think about the famous alumni from their college. Inventors, Economists, Artists and Pioneers in various fields. It is always important to look back and be inspired by these individuals and let’s be honest, it feels awesome to brag about it. As proud boilermakers, we have a right to be inspired and brag about our rich history. Let’s look at some of the famous alumni that wore graduation hats in our very own halls of Black and Gold! Keep reading for 15 famous alumni from Purdue University.
1. Neil Armstrong
Of course!If you don’t brag about the first man on the moon being a Purdue alumnus, do you even go to Purdue? We have all been inspired by Neil Armstrong at some point in our lives, whether it was after we got to Purdue or before. We have all tried to make those giant moon steps Mr. Armstrong made when he was 239,000 miles away and yet are imprinted in front of the Neil Armstrong building in front of his statue. He has left a rich legacy for us to follow and gain inspiration from, so keep dreaming boilers!
2. Orville Redenbacher
What’s popcorn without Orville Redenbacher? I remember my expression when I first found out he went to Purdue, that smile on my face was full of awe. Popcorn is so good thanks to the Boilermakers! Next time you have a party or a movie night, you know what kind of popcorn to buy!
3. Eugene Cernan
Of course, we had the first man on the moon, but did you know that the last man on the moon was also a Purdue alumnus? That’s right, Eugene Cernan was the 11th and last man to mark his footprints on the moon, travelling in the Apollo 17. Feeling quite proud now aren’t you, Boilermakers?
4. Gus Grissom
A well-known name among the Purdue community, Gus Grissom was the second American to ever fly in space and was also one of the original NASA Project Mercury Astronauts. Over all these titles, Gus Grissom was also a test pilot for the US Air Force. Quite an amazing level of awesomeness, right? It should be no surprise that he was a boilermaker too, just like us!
5. Jim Gaffigan
Purdue kids can be funny too! Jim Gaffigan is a successful and “clean” stand-up comedian who has also spread his skills to TV shows and books! His TV shows have gotten Grammy nominations, and he has humor that ranges from the weather in the Midwest (duh) to fatherhood. If you haven’t already watched his comedy shows, they’re hilarious!
6. Essam Sharaf
Essam Sharaf was the Egyptian Prime Minister, the Minister of Transportation and also a visiting Professor at our very own Purdue University. He was a professor at many other institutions before taking interest in Politics, something that he also succeeded in! We have a lot to learn from individuals like these that have such a diverse set of skills. Thankfully, we have had the opportunity to study at the same institution as them, and can take away similar values!
7. C. N. R. Rao
C. N. R. Rao is a chemist who went to Purdue as a PhD student and has honorary doctorates from 60 universities around the world and is currently the Head of The Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India. Mr. Rao has written over a thousand research papers and 45 books. When you think that a Purdue alumnus has achieved such a high level of success, you should say “I can do it too!”.
8. Brian Lamb
Ever heard of the C-SPAN network? That’s Mr. Brian Lamb! He graduated from Purdue with a major in Speech in 1963 and founded C-SPAN in 1979. He was the CEO of the cable network as well. Coming to think of it, I have already talked about the food industry, science, entertainment and politics. Here comes cable TV, Boilermakers are everywhere!
9. Robert “Bob” Peterson
Who doesn’t like cartoons? Bob Peterson, who graduated from Purdue with a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering is now an animator, screenwriter and voice actor at Pixar Animation Studios! We all know about Pixar, and how awesome their movies are, and surprise surprise, Bob Peterson has been an animator for Toy Story (major throwback) and a voice actor for Dug and Alpha in the movie Up. If you haven’t seen that movie, you need to right now.
10. Callie Khouri
Callie Khouri is a famous Lebanese-American screenwriter, producer and director. She majored in drama, and went on to make many movies and TV shows, the most recent being Nashville, that received strong reviews. She has won an academy award for the movie Thelma and Louise, which is now a classic and was inducted in the Library of Congress just last year! Our alumni continue to spread their knowledge and display skill in every industry on an international scale. Bet you didn’t know about that!
11 and 12. Steele Johnson and David Boudia
Steele Johnson who is currently a student at Purdue and David Boudia, an alumnus are professional synchronized divers that won a silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic games. Even at the Olympics, the Black and Gold colors sore high!
13. Edward Mills Purcell
Edward Mills Purcell, a physicist graduated from Purdue and went on to win the Nobel Prize for his independent discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance in liquids and solids. Many of us don’t understand what that is, but we all know the honor of winning a Nobel prize. Next time someone tries to talk up science at their school, all you have to say is “Yeah but a famous alumnus won the Nobel Prize as a physicist.” That ought to show them.
14. Ted Allen
A food and wine connoisseur, a television personality that hosts shows, what more do we want! Here’s another successful boilermaker that we have all seen on TV at some point. Bet you never knew that he was a boilermaker until now right? (At least I didn’t!)
15. Drew Brees
Football? Of course football! This famous Alumni will appeal to you football fans out there, whether you like the team or not, you cannot dislike the fact that he is a Boilermaker! Drew Brees has led a team to win a Superbowl, has come out of injuries strong and has shown us all what it really means to be a Boilermaker. Everyone can take away something from his story, whether you like or even know how football works, when a Purdue alumnus can persevere his goals as much as Mr. Brees can, all us boilermakers can!
16. Earl Butz
What better way to talk about Purdue than to talk about agriculture? Purdue has one of the best agricultural schools in the country, which brings no surprise when we see a Secretary of Agriculture who is also a Purdue alumnus. Earl Butz was the Secretary of Agriculture under President Nixon and President Ford. He majored in Agriculture (of course) and graduated in the class of 1932, quite a while ago right? Even then, his legacy is remembered today, and we all should realize that our alumni have had a large influence on the country in many ways, even if they were not involved in politics.
There are so many more alumni that are missing from this list. It is important to look back at our heritage and try our very best to live up to it. Every Boilermaker makes a difference, to quote our very own Neil Armstrong, “That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.” Let’s start with that small step, so we can take those leaps! Boiler Up!