One innocent tweet from me this morning sparked a firestorm of retweets and Boiler Ups:
HammerAndRails Travis Miller
What did your school's most famous alumnus do 42 years ago today? Ours just went for a little walk. That's all.
As all true Boilermakers should know, on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon. Among Purdue's many alumni this fact alone makes him stand out as the most famous. That by default makes July 20th as our Famous Alumni Day, when we should celebrate the accomplishments of all Purdue alums around the world (Ed Note: This is where I should push Gene Cernan, Orville Reddenbacher, and John Wooden as well). That got me to thinking, what would be the most famous alumni for the rest of our Big Ten brethren and what would their "days" be? Well, combined with a very slow day at work and the fact it is about 5,723 degrees outside, that gives me time to answer that question.
Most Famous Alum: Hugh Hefner
Alumni day: October 1, 1953
The University of Illinois boasts six astronauts, Roger Ebert, Jerry Colangelo, Gene Shalit, and several other famous alums, but nothing stands up (pun intended) to a man that at age 85 can land 20-year old models by the boatload. Hefner founded Playboy on October 1, 1953 based on a bank loan of as little as $600. It has made him a billionaire and gave him the ability to almost marry women 60 years younger than him. I know it is chauvinistic, but there is not a man on the planet that would turn down the ability to be Hef once they reach 85.
Most Famous Alumni: Jared Fogle
Alumni Day: January 1, 2000
IU should almost get negative points for producing the sleep-inducing Joe Buck and cult leader Jim Jones, but they do have some great alums in Jeff Sagarin, Mark Cuban, and Ernie Pyle. If you're going with straight up fame it has to be "Subway Jared". Thanks to a massive marketing campaign that began on January 1, 2000 and the fact that Subway now has more restaurant locations worldwide than anyone else, most of the world knows who Jared is. That's not bad for a former fat guy who is trying to teach overweight Americans to put the freaking fork down once in awhile.
Most Famous Alumni: Tom Brokaw
Alumni Day: September 5, 1983
The University of Iowa should give the world a public apology for Tom Arnold and Lou Holtz (also known as St. Lou in certain part of Indiana). They also cannot claim James T. Kirk yet since he supposed won't be born until 2233. I went with Tom Brokaw over Nile Kinnick because Brokaw is the voice of the Greatest Generation and the last of the big three news anchors of his era (Brokaw, Jennings, and Rather) that still does a lot. Millions know of him for his stunning voiceovers, which have now bled over to sports with Boys in the Hall on Fox Sports Net. Yes, he dropped out of Iowa, but he gets a special dispensation. His date is based on his first broadcast of The Nightly news with Tom Brokaw.
Most Famous Alumni: Gerald Ford
Alumni Day: August 9, 1974
Michigan alums have accomplished great feats in the fields of law, medicine, aerospace, and technology. Michigan is unique in that they alone have produced a President of the United States in Gerald Ford. Ford was an All-American football player and remains the only person to hold the Presidency without winning an election as a candidate for President or Vice President. He is also the longest-lived President. Therefore, he trumps The Unibomber and Dr. Kevorkian in terms of being a famous alum from Ann Arbor. He does have something in common with Ted Kaczynski though. The Unibomber loved to bomb people and Ford had control of the largest bombs in the world during his Presidency, which began on August 9, 1974
Most Famous Alumni: Magic Johnson
Alumni Day: March 26, 1979
Michigan State gave us Sam Raimi, who produced Evil Dead and Spiderman, but Magic Johnson is known worldwide as one of the great basketball players ever. He was the face of the NBA for nearly a decade, then became the face of a terrible disease during his first retirement. Since then he has become a successful businessman and not so successful talk show host. For awhile you could go to remote African villages and likely find people who knew about magic Johnson. His day is the day he won the NCAA title over Indiana State and Larry Bird, becoming a household name.
Most Famous Alumni: Bob Dylan
Alumni Day: May 24, 1941
Minnesota has gone the longest in the Big Ten without a football title, now 50 years. It's appropriate they boast three losing Presidential candidates in Hubert H. Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, and Walter Mondale. Let's go with a guy that didn't graduate, but he still impacted the entire face of music over the last few years. Dylan is simply a LEGEND in the world of music. The dude is pretty much the voice of the late 60's and his recordings are pretty much the soundtrack for that generation. His date is simply his birthday, as it should be for someone with his influence.
Most Famous Alumni: Johnny Carson
Alumni Day: October 1, 1962
Yeah, Warren Buffet is a billionaire and John J. Pershing is the highest ranked person in the history of the U.S. military, but everyone knows Johnny Carson of Tonight Show fame. He took over the tonight Show on October 1, 1962 and became probably the most famous talk show host ever. He is an icon that still endures even now. He affected popular culture by giving rise to comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld, Drew Carey, tim Allen, and the like. He retired in 1992 after thirty years on air and 4,531 episodes of the Tonight Show. His retirement sparked the rivalry between Letterman and Leno, which is still going on. Basically, he has had a say for the last 50 years of late night entertainment despite the noticeable handicap of being dead for the last six.
Most Famous Alumni: Charlton Heston
Alumni Day: October 4, 1923
Rod Blagojevich leads the nation in "Most Convictions for a sitting Governor", but I doubt that is something Northwestern wants to celebrate. Sports radio personality Mike Greenberg just needs to go away. I have to choose the spokesperson for right-wing nutjobs everywhere and general testament to manliness Charlton Heston. Northwstern actually boast several famous actors like Cloris Leachman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Ed Wood, but Charlton Heston was just a freaking badass! He served in the military during World War II and later played Julius Caesar and the male lead in Planet of the Apes (the good one). October 4, 1923 was his birthdate.
Most Famous Alumni: Jesse Owens
Alumni Day: August 3, 1936
I know Ohio State has many great alums and not so great alums (Jeffrey Dahmer, anyone?) but what about the guy that personally gave Hitler the finger concerning his theories on "the Master Race?" Owens became famous for winning four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. The host Germans were shocked that a black man could outperform their Master Race athletes so easily in the marquee events. One German, Adi Dassler, was so impressed that he convinced Owens to wear his Adidas shoes, giving Owens the first athletic endorsement by a black man. Hitler later privately noted on black athletes like Owens that, "their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites and hence should be excluded from future games." Nine years later all of America would kick his ass for that.
Most Famous Alumni: Jonathan Frakes
Alumni Day: September 28. 1987
I must give note that Adam McKay is a Penn State alum and was the screenwriter of blog favorite Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Unlike Iowa, Penn State can claim a legacy to badass Starfleet captains in Jonathan Frakes, a.k.a. Commander William Riker. Riker was the more balls out officer on the Enterprise to Captain Picard. And yes, Trekkie nerds, I know he was promoted to Captain in Nemesis, so calm down. The world was introduced to Commander Riker on September 28, 1987.
Most Famous Alumni: Charles Lindbergh
Alumni Day: May 20, 1927
I always found it ironic that Purdue gave Amelia Earhart the plane she disappeared in. That's not something I would promote too much. Of course, Lindbergh here was a great aviation pioneer and the father of Abraham J. Simpson (if you believe he is the Lindbergh baby as he claims) and therefore grandfather of Homer Simpson. Lindbergh made his solo flight across the Atlantic on May 20, 1927, something that is now done hundreds of times per day. He also later helped us kick some Nazi ass by becoming an observer of the Luftwaffe and their planes before World War II started. This allowed him to serve as a design consultant for many of our own aircraft during the war.