• Home
  • Alumni & Friends
  • Distinguished Alumni

Distinguished Alumni

Our graduates' careers demonstrate the endless possibilities of a degree in the liberal arts and sciences. To recognize the most significant among our alumni's many achievements, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences honors a few select graduates each year with the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award. It is the highest honor bestowed upon alumni of the College.

The award recognizes our graduates' outstanding contributions to KU, their professions or their communities in a wide range of disciplines, including the arts, public service, business, academia and more.


Anne Levinson
Retired Judge

Judge Anne Levinson is known for her work on women’s equity in athletics at KU as well as her career as a public official, judge, WNBA team owner, civic leader and advocate for social justice.

Brad Garlinghouse
Chief Operating Officer of Ripple

Brad Garlinghouse has held senior positions at some of the nation’s most well-known tech companies, including AOL and Yahoo.

Maj. Dan Rooney

Major Dan Rooney is a retired fighter pilot, professional golfer, and founder of Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to family members of soldiers killed or disabled in combat.




Edgar Heap of Birds
Multidisciplinary Artist

Edgar Heap of Birds is a pioneer of conceptual Native American art who works in a variety of media, including multidisciplinary forms of public art.

Sharon Lee
Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Boulevard Family Health Care

Sharon Lee is the founding physician and director of Southwest Boulevard Family Health Care, a non-profit clinic in Kansas City, Kansas.

William Fisher
Professor and Leonidas T. Barrow Centennial Chair in Mineral Resources, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas at Austin




United Nations and the U.S. Foreign Service Diplomat

Retired four-star general of the U.S. Air Force

Emmy Award-winning visual effects supervisor

John Gurche
Award-winning artist

Senior vice president of education and research at Sesame Workshop






Juan Manuel Santos
President of the Republic of Colombia

Juan Manuel Santos is serving his first four-year term as president of the Republic of Colombia. He was elected in June 2010.

Marla Prather
Art Curator

Marla Prather is a curator and scholar who has helped develop collections at some of the most well-known museums in the world.

Marla Spivak
Entomology Researcher

Marla Spivak is a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and Distinguished McKnight Professor and Extension Entomologist in the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota.

Robert Kipp
Civic Leader

Robert Kipp is a civic leader with more than 50 years’ experience managing city administrations, commercial development and philanthropic efforts.




Cynthia Carroll
Mining Chief Executive Officer

Cynthia Carroll has been named the fourth most powerful woman in the world by Forbes for her work as CEO of Anglo American plc, a global mining group and FTSE 20 company headquartered in London.  C

Mark Amin
Film Producer

Mark Amin has earned credit in over 50 feature films ranging from low budget independents to television films and major studio productions as vice chairman of Lionsgate Entertainment and CEO of Sob

Vernon Smith

Vernon L. Smith was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002 for his groundbreaking work in experimental economics.

Wes Jackson

Wes Jackson is a visionary environmentalist who serves as president of The Land Institute, a Salina-based non-profit research, education, and policy organization dedicated to developing an agricult




Ann Hamilton
Visual Artist

Ann Hamilton is a visual artist internationally recognized for the sensory surrounds of her large-scale multimedia installations.

George William James
Baseball Statistician

Through his innovative work with baseball research, George William James has changed the way the sport is viewed, understood and managed.

Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services

Kathleen Sebelius was sworn in as the 21st secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in April 2009.

Steve Mills
Television Producer

Steve Mills, president and producer of New Vision Entertainment, has led a distinctive entertainment career, producing more than 600 television movies and mini series.




Deanell Reece Tacha
Federal Appellate Judge

Deanell Reece Tacha was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in 1985, where she is a federal appellate judge.

Jacqueline Davis
Performing Arts Executive Director

Jacqueline Z.

Robert Hill
Biochemistry Researcher

Robert Hill is a world-renowned scientist who serves as the James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry at Duke University.

Sheila Bair
Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corportation

Sheila Bair was sworn in as chair of FDIC in June 2006.




George Sheldon

George Sheldon has served as chair of surgery for 17 years and professor of surgery and social medicine at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

James Gunn
Science Fiction Author

James Gunn is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential authors, scholars and educators in science fiction.

Mary Dawson

Mary Dawson is an acclaimed paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, one of the largest of its kind in the world.

Thomas Rudkin
Software Engineer

Thomas Rudkin is best known for his role as one of two engineers who wrote the first version of the software program PowerPoint.




B.H. "Pete" Fairchild


Randy Scott
Biotechnology Inventor

Randy Scott is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Genomic Health. Scott has more than 23 years of biotechnology industry experience and a strong history of scientific innovation.

Rosemary O'Leary
Public Management and Policy Researcher

Rosemary O'Leary is a Distinguished Professor of public administration and co-director of the Program for the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

Steven Hawley

Steven Hawley is a veteran astronaut having flown on five Space Shuttle missions, including the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, the second Hubble Telescope servicing mission, and the launch o

Thomas Burish

Thomas G. Burish was appointed provost of the University of Notre Dame in 2005.




Charley Oswald

Charley Oswald is being acknowledged for his success in private business.

David Hillis
Molecular Systematics Researcher

David M. Hillis, who is considered by many to be the world leader in the area of molecular systematics, is being recognized by the College for his academic accomplishments.

Sally Hoglund
Public Service Advocate

Sally Hoglund is being recognized for her extensive public service work.

Sarah Paretsky
Crime Fiction Author

Sara Paretsky is being recognized for her outstanding advancement of the arts.




Elizabeth "Betsy" Broun
Art Museum Director

Dr. Elizabeth "Betsy" Broun is a three-time KU alumna, with a bachelor's in French (1968; Phi Beta Kappa), master's in history of art (1969) and doctorate in history of art (1976).

Gary Sick
Middle East Affairs Analyst

Dr. Gary Sick graduated from the College in 1957 with a bachelor's in French literature.

Irving Johnson
Pharmaceutical Researcher


Mike Robe
Television Writer-Director-Producer

Mike Robe is credited with establishing the Professional Advisory Board of the Department of Theatre and Film in the early 1980s.




Douglas D. Heckathorn
Sociology Researcher

Douglas D. Heckathorn is a sociology professor at Cornell University and is editor of the journal Rationality and Society.

Edward F. Reilly Jr.
Chairman of the United States Parole Commission

Edward F. Reilly Jr. has been chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission since 2001. He was appointed to the commission in 1992.

Paul Keim
Infectious Diseases Researcher

Paul S. Keim is the director of pathogen genomics at TGen and is the Cowden endowed chair in microbiology at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Terrence Jones
Performing Arts Chief Executive Officer

Since 1996, Terrence D.




Jill Docking
Vice President of Investments

Jill Docking received a B.A. in History in 1978 and a Masters in Business in 1984 from the University of Kansas. Docking is currently the Vice President of Investments at A.G. Edwards and Sons.

Paul Ehrlich
Biology Researcher

Paul R. Ehrlich earned a B.A. in zoology in 1953 at the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in 1955 and a Ph.D. in 1957 at the University of Kansas.




Jill Quadagno
Gerontology Scholar

Jill Quadagno is the Mildred and Claude Pepper Eminent Scholar in Social Gerontology at Florida State University. She earned her B.A. from Pennsylvania State University, her M.A.




Fred N. Six
Kansas Supreme Court Justice

Fred N. Six received a B.A. in History from the University of Kansas in 1951 and a J.D. from KU's law school in 1956.




James E. Hesser
Astronomy Researcher

James E. Hesser, Wichita native, graduated from KU in 1963 with a bachelor's degree in astronomy. He received his master's and doctoral degrees in astrophysics from Princeton University.




Martha Peterson
Higher Education Administrator

Martha Peterson first graduated from the University of Kansas in 1937 after which she taught high school math.




Dr. Arthur F. McClure II received his Ph.D. in history at KU in 1966. He went on to become a distinguished author, historian, teacher, and public servant.




Clyde Toland

Clyde W. Toland earned a degree from the University of Kansas in 1969 and the University of Kansas Law School in 1975. Toland has generously supported the University at various levels.

Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker

Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker served in the U.S. Senate for 18 years.




Jessica Beeson
Director of Alumni & Community Engagement

Connect with the College
Home to 50+ departments, centers, and programs, the School of the Arts, and the School of Public Affairs and Administration
KU offers courses in 40 languages
No. 1 ranking in city management and urban policy —U.S. News and World Report
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times