UC Berkeley is a prestigious name, brand, institution and place, but most of all, it is first and foremost, a majestic place of learning. It has a lot of history that makes eyes dilate, jaws drop and drool, and minds widen and expand; these reactions might be due to the admissions selectivity, location, amazing diversity, faculty, etc. Cal has produced more alumni – who have contributed more in the tech, art, drama and other humanity-helping fields. Along with Berkeley Lab, famous alumni from UC Berkeley scientists and researchers have discovered 16 chemical elements of the Periodic Table – more than any other university in the world. That’s an impressive feat on its own alone.
Read on for 15 famous alumni from UC Berkeley; you may know some and you may never have heard of the others, but I hope some names intrigue you at the end of reading this article! Please note this list is in no particular order.
1. Rube Goldberg
This alumnus is especially important to me, since I once made a Rube Goldberg machine for a Scholars Physics class. I will never forget that assignment. It cost time, money (yes, I purchased several items and wooden cloth pegs from Walmart), and effort to earn a decent grade. Reuben Garrett Lucius was an American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer and inventor known for his zany inventions; he made 50,000 cartoons in his lifetime. He graduated from Cal with a degree in engineering.
Rube Goldberg is the only person to be listed in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as an adjective. RubeGoldberg.com defines it as “a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a single operation.” Basically, if you remember the sometimes weird, lengthy but still insanely enjoyable antics and inventions Tom invented to get rid of Jerry, then you know what a Rube Goldberg machine is. He’s pure UC Berkeley material.
2. Chris Pine
My mom’s favorite actor, thus a person of considerable importance. Chris Pine earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 2002. Pine does voice acting, something I never knew, but makes total sense. Perhaps the immense degree of participation and discussion Cal requires shaped his beautiful voice? I loved him in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. I saw him in the Star Trek movie too; his debonair attracts me strongly in both.
3. George Takei
This Japanese-American actor, director, author and activist, may not qualify as an alumnus. He temporarily studied architecture at UC Berkeley nonetheless. Takei is known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the television series Star Trek. He also portrayed the character in six Star Trek feature films and one episode of Star Trek: Voyager. Takei transferred to UCLA to earn his B.A. and Masters in theater arts.
One fun fact about Takei is he is a Top 1,000 Amazon.com reviewer. His humorous faux reviews (sometimes with Star Trek references, often with asides about his husband) have attracted thousands (in one case over 25,000) of approving votes from other users. An asteriod is named after him. He has performed considerable amounts of public service in the name of LGBT rights and has been involved in state and local politics.
4. Hannah Hart
Is a famous YouTube personality. Hart is an American internet personality, comedian, author and actress known for starring in My Drunk Kitchen, a weekly series on YouTube. Sometimes she cooks intoxicated. Her first episode “Butter Yo Shit” has over 2.6 million views. Apart from her main channel, she runs a second channel where she casually talks, giving viewers her opinions about things. Hart has participated in world tours. She’s earned a degree in English Literature and Japanese. Hart moved to Brooklyn to pursue a writing career.
5. Will Yun Lee
Lee is an American actor and martial artist, known for his roles as Danny Woo in the supernatural drama series Witchblade. He also places Jae Kim in the science fiction drama series Bionic Woman. Lee has portrayed notable roles in Die Another Day (2002), Elektra (2005) and The Wolverine (2013). As a “man of action,” Lee’s father was a Taekwondo grandmaster, and first began training at three years old. He spent a portion of his youth teaching at Lee’s Tae Kwon Do, a family business in Napa, California. Lee attended Berkeley with a full athletic scholarship and double majored in Political Science and Ethnic Studies.
6. Paula Patton
Patton is another “graduate” who didn’t complete all her four years at Berkeley. She is an American actress who made her film debut in 2005 Hitch and starred in fantasy film Warcraft. Patton has been the female lead in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Her freshman year was at UC Berkeley but transferred to USC for film school after her first year. After completing her studies, she landed a three-month documentary assignment for PBS.
7. David Peoples
Peoples studied English at Cal, and is an Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA nominated American screenwriter, with feature film writing credits. He’s written Blade Runner (1982), Unforgiven (1992), and 12 Monkeys (1995). His work with Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven won best screenplay in the L.A. Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics. He’s even collaborated with his wife, Janet Peoples.
8. Steve Wozniak
Steve Wozniak is the co-founder of Apple Inc. The Wozniak Lounge at Cal is named in his honor. Wozniak is a Computer Science pioneer nicknamed “Woz” or “The Wonderful Wizard of OZ.” He is an inventor, electronics engineer, programmer and tech entrepreneur. Wozniak has a street named after him in San Jose called “Woz Way.” He single-handedly developed the 1976 Apple I, the computer that launched Apple. He also took part in designed the Apple II in 1977. His hacking alias at Berkley is Berkeley Blue, a name used in the phone freak community. He got this name after inventing the blue box.
Wozniak is apart of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He was expelled from Boulder in 1969 for hacking into the institution’s computer system. Later he entrolled at De Anza College then transferred to Berkeley in 1971. Wozniak withdrew from Apple and enrolled at Berkeley to complete his degree. He even used an alias to apply, Rocky Raccoon Clark, the name on his diploma.
9. Abbie Hoffman
Abbot Howard “Abbie” Hoffman was an American political and social activist and anarchist who co-founded the Youth International Party (“Yippies”). Although he graduated from Brandeis University with his B.A. in psychology, he attended Berkeley to complete coursework towards a master’s degree in psychology. Soon after, he married his pregnant girlfriend Sheila Karklin in May 1960.
Hoffman was arrested and tried for conspiracy and inciting to riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He was successful in motivating more youngsters of his time to become involved in politics – a highly impressive feat to accomplish, even in those days. Radical and political – UC Berkeley (contributed to this) anyone?
10. Gregory Peck
Peck was one of the most popular American actors during the 1940’s to 1960’s. He was Atticus Finch in 1962 film To Kill A Mockingbird which earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor. He was nominated for an Oscar for several other films: Spellbound (1945) and Moby Dick (1956, and its 1998 miniseries). Peck first attended San Diego State University and transferred to Berkeley as an English and Pre-Med student.
He was on the rowing team as well. Peck’s tuition was only $26 but he still struggled to pay. He took a job as a “hasher” for Gamma Phi Beta to pay for tuition. He’s stated Berkeley was “a very special experience for me and three of the greatest years of my life. It woke me up and made me a human being.” In 1997, Peck donated $25,000 to the Berkeley rowing team in honor of his acting coach. Now that’s what I call a well-dressed – and well-mannered – gentleman.
11. Jack London
John Griffith “Jack” London was an American novelist, journalist and social activist who was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide fame and a large fortune. “The Call of the Wild” and “The War of the Classes” were among his most famous novels. Additionally, London was apart of a radical literary group “The Crowd” and was passionate about advocating for unionization, socialism and worker’s rights. Financial circumstances forced him to leave in 1897 and he never graduated. No evidence suggests London wrote for student publications while studying at Berkeley.
12. Betty Friedan
Friedan was a writer, activist and feminist. She was a leading figure in the women’s rights movement and published The Feminine Mystique, in 1963. Her book sparked the second wave of American feminism. She co-founded NOW, the National Organization of Women, and wrote six books. Her activism in the feminist movement is quite enchanting. Although she attended the all-female Smith College in 1938 and graduated as a Psychology major, she spent a year at Berkeley. Her memoirs state her boyfriend of the time pressured her to turn down a Ph.D. All in all, she was a highly influential woman.
13. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Bhutto is the 4th President of Pakistan and the 9th Prime Minister of Pakistan. He’s a politician and statesman who founded Pakistan’s People’s Party (PPP). He studied Political Science at USC but transferred to Cal after two years. He earned a B.A. honors degree in political science in 1950. Bhutto became interested in socialist theories and delivered a series of lectures on their feasibility in Islamic countries. He met President Richard Nixon and was accused of a murder attempt (s), followed by several trials in court.
14. Robert Gaskins
Gaskins is the creator of PowerPoint. He inspired future presentation software inventors and was the pioneer of the industry. Gaskins is a visionary entrepreneur who utilized his decade of interdisciplinary graduate studies at UC Berkeley to make PowerPoint a technical reality.
15. Eric Schmidt
Schmidt is a software engineer who’s the Executive Charman and ex-CEO of Google Inc. Currently he is the Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc. Schmidt also received a B.S. in electrical engineering at Princeton. He earned a M.S. degree in designing at Berkely. Schmidt earned a Ph.D in 1982 in EECS and wrote a dissertation about the problems of managing distributed software development and tools. Free Internet use in Burma/Myanmar are topics he strongly advocates for. Forbes also named him the 100th richest person in the world; he has an estimated net-worth of $11.6 billion.