From Nobel Prize winners and astronauts to noted actors and athletes, U-M alumni have made an impact on the world. They come from different countries and different cultures; they studied different subjects and entered different professions. But all have one thing in common: The University of Michigan.

Alumni Bicentennial Timeline

In celebration of the University’s bicentennial, we highlight some of U-M’s most notable alumni, showcasing the breadth of alumni accomplishments. This is not a ranking, but rather a confirmation that U-M’s 19 schools and colleges truly have produced the Leaders and Best.

1870

William R. Day, 1870

U.S. secretary of state under President McKinley and negotiated an end to the Spanish-American War before joining the Supreme Court (1903-22). Once there, he voted with antitrust majorities; he also held that ordinances segregating neighborhoods were unconstitutional.

 

(photo courtesy of Library of Congress)

1871

Sarah Killgore Wertman, 1871

First woman in the U.S. both to graduate from law school and to be admitted to the bar.

1875

William Erastus Upjohn, MD1875

Founder and president of The Upjohn Co. and inventor of the first pill to dissolve easily.

Victor Vaughan, MS1875, PhD1876, MD1878

Earned one of the first two PhDs at U-M and founded what would become the School of Public Health.

1877

Clarence Darrow, 1877-78

Darrow quit his job as a Chicago railway attorney to defend union leaders arrested in relation to a railway strike, launching his career as a labor and criminal lawyer. His notable cases include defending a teacher who violated state law by teaching evolution (the “Scopes Monkey Trial”) and arguing against the death penalty (for clients Leopold and Loeb).

 

(photo courtesy of Library of Congress)

1880

José Celso Barbosa, 1880, HMA1903

The first Puerto Rican student to enroll at U-M, Barbosa learned more than the medicine that made him an influential physician. He saw a democratic political system that inspired him to found the Republican Party of Puerto Rico in 1899; he is known as the father of the statehood movement for Puerto Rico.

 

(photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)

1882

George Sutherland, 1882-83

Served in the U.S. Congress, where he advocated for women’s rights. Yet, as a Supreme Court Justice (1922-38), he was leader of a conservative block that struck down New Deal legislation.

 

(photo courtesy of Library of Congress)

1883

William J. Mayo, MD1883, HMA1908, HSCD1908

When a tornado struck Rochester, Minn., where Mayo was practicing, he and his brother labored to save the injured at a makeshift hospital. A local nun who assisted during the crisis encouraged the Mayo brothers to open a hospital—and so started the world-renowned Mayo Clinic.

 

(photo courtesy of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; all rights reserved)

1884

Bertha Van Hoosen, 1884, MD1888, HMA1912

A woman doctor! Medical societies didn’t want her. Her parents wouldn’t finance her studies. Hospitals blackballed her. Yet Van Hoosen, among the first women to graduate from U-M’s Medical School, developed new methods of prenatal care, and served as the first president of the American Medical Women’s Association.

 

(photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)

1885

Wallace C. Abbott, MD1885

Pioneer in the scientific practice of pharmacy and founder of Abbott Laboratories.

Henry Killilea, 1885

Baseball team owner and one of the founders of the American League.

1887

Robert E. Park, 1887

Considered one of the most influential figures in early U.S. sociology.

1890

Moses Gomberg, 1890, MS1992, ScD1894, HLLD’37

Discovered an organic free radical, considered the founder of radical chemistry.

Frederic L. Smith, 1890

One of the founders of the Olds Motor Works and, later, General Motors.

1893

Alice Hamilton, MD1893

When Hamilton lived with social reformers in a poor Chicago community, she became aware of her neighbors’ occupational injuries and illnesses. She then began publishing benchmark studies on industrial hygiene and toxicology. The first woman on the Harvard faculty, Hamilton’s contributions were commemorated by a 1995 postal stamp.

 

(photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)

1894

Margaret Jane Edmunds, 1894

Edmunds traveled to Korea as a missionary and, in 1903, established its first nursing school. She served as president of the Pogunyogwan Training School for Nurses until 1908, then set up nursing institutions at Yonsei University and Seoul National University. Edmunds also translated several English-language textbooks on nursing into Korean.

 

(photo courtesy of Korean Nurses Association)

Eugene C. Sullivan, 1894

Before 1915, railway lanterns broke when warm glass hit cold air, causing accidents. Glass pans shattered in the oven. Then, Sullivan, director of research at Corning Glass Works, developed Nonex for industrial use and Pyrex for household use. The result—improved railway safety and shorter cooking times.

 

(photo courtesy of Corning Incorporated)

1896

Ida Kahn, 1896, Mary Stone, 1896

Childhood friends, Chinese-born Kahn (born Kang Cheng) and Stone (born Shi Meiyu) were the first Asians to earn degrees at U-M and among the first Chinese women to become Western-trained physicians. They returned to China to open a small hospital for women and children and later opened other hospitals. Kahn helped women join the workforce in China; Stone, who played a major role in the development of modern medicine in China, helped found the Chinese Red Cross.

 

(photos courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)

David Murray Cowie, MD1896

Developed iodized salt as a goiter preventive and founded the U-M Department of Pediatrics.

1898

Chalmers Lyons, DDS1898, DDSc1911

Oral surgeons came from around the world to observe Lyons’ groundbreaking work in cleft lip and cleft palate surgery. While teaching at the U-M School of Dentistry and practicing, he served as president of the American Association of Oral and Plastic Surgeons, and president of the Michigan State Dental Society.

 

(photo courtesy of U-M Faculty History Project)

1900

Arthur Vandenberg, 1900-01

Isolationism versus internationalism. As a Michigan senator, Vandenberg criticized FDR, then made a dramatic switch after Pearl Harbor, offering support for the formation of the United Nations. He became chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he helped forge bipartisan support for the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and NATO.

 

(photo courtesy of Library of Congress)

1905

James Avery Hopwood, 1905

The foremost playwright of the Jazz Age, established the U-M Hopwood Awards.

1909

Edgar N. Gott, 1909

A chemical engineer, Gott co-founded Pacific Aero Products in 1916; the following year, it became The Boeing Company. Gott guided a team that developed the first biplane fighters. Through his efforts, Boeing obtained contracts with the military and established itself as a premier designer and manufacturer of many types of military aircrafts.

 

(photo courtesy of Library of Congress)

1911

Branch Rickey, JD1911

Throughout his long career as a Major League Baseball executive, Rickey had many accomplishments, including the creation of a feeder farm system to develop new players. But the Baseball Hall of Famer’s most notable accomplishment was signing Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, thus breaking the sport’s racial barrier. Among his team of scouts tasked with finding a black player was retired first baseman George Sisler, 1913-15. One of the greatest hitters of his time, Sisler entered the Hall of Fame in 1939.

 

(photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)

1912

Paul de Kruif, 1912, PhD1916

Author of “Microbe Hunters,” the series of 12 stories that is a seminal work for medical students.

1914

Frank Murphy, 1914

Served as mayor of Detroit, governor-general of the Philippines, governor of Michigan, and U.S. attorney general. On the Supreme Court (1940-49), he argued against racism, anti-Semitism, and the Japanese-American internment.

 

(photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)

Leo Burnett, 1914

Sometimes, the ads are as memorable as the shows. Recall the Jolly Green Giant? Tony the Tiger? The Keebler Elves? They are among the characters created by Burnett, the founder of what is now Leo Burnett Worldwide, whom Time magazine named one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

 

(photo courtesy of Leo Burnett USA)

1922

Detlev Bronk, MS’22, PhD’26, HLLD’49

Biology and physics were entirely separate disciplines until Brock formulated the theory underlying biophysics. An educator who was a dean at Swarthmore and president of Johns Hopkins University, Rockefeller University, and the National Academy of Sciences, Brock was also an adviser to Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy.

 

(photo courtesy of Joshua Lederberg/National Library of Medicine)

1923

Thomas E. Dewey, 1923, HLLD’37

Dewey lost the presidency to FDR and then, in a well-publicized upset, to Truman. Earlier, as New York City prosecutor, Dewey curbed organized crime. As three-term governor of New York, the moderate Republican increased state aid for education and for established a commission to eliminate religious and racial discrimination in employment.

 

(photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)

John Gideon Searle, ’23, HSCD’67

Metamucil, Dramamine, and the first oral contraceptive, Enovid: When Searle became vice president of the family pharmaceutical company, G. D. Searle & Co., he pushed for more research into new products like these and a more effective marketing strategy. The business became one of the most profitable pharmaceutical companies in America.

 

(photo courtesy of The Chicago Community Trust)

1924

Belford Lawson, ’24

The first African-American to win a U.S. Supreme Court case, Lawson argued before the high court eight times. He was part of the 1950 legal team that argued successfully to stop segregation in railroad dining cars and was a co-founder of the New Negro Alliance, which primarily fought discrimination in employment.

 

(photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)

Ralph F. Sommer, DDS’24, MS’30

One of the two leading pioneers in the development of endodontics.

1925

Harold D. Smith, MMA’25

Smith served as budget director for the state of Michigan until FDR tapped him to direct the Bureau of the Budget (now the Office of Management and Budget). His responsibilities increased because of American involvement in World War II. His picture appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1943.

 

(photo courtesy of Library of Congress)

William Shawn, ’25-27

As editor of The New Yorker, Shawn once told a writer he had “a few questions” about a brilliant story—there were 178. His demands for attention to detail and accuracy over his 35-year tenure as editor are legendary. Shawn’s writers included John Updike, John Cheever, and J. D. Salinger.

Arnold Gingrich, 1925

Author, journalist, and nurturer of literary talent, was the founding editor of Esquire magazine.

1927

DeHart Hubbard, ’27

Although he wasn’t allowed to compete in some events at the 1924 Olympics because he was African-American, Hubbard entered and won the long jump in the track and field competition. He became the first black to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event.

 

(photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)

Eugene Power, 1927, MBA’30, HSCD’71

A founder of the modern microfilm industry and a pioneer in the information revolution.

1929

Theodore Roethke, ’29, MA’36, and HLD’62

Awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1954 for his collection of poetry, titled “The Waking”.

Roger L. Stevens, 1929-30, HLLD’64

A real estate magnate and theatrical producer for musicals including “West Side Story” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”.

1930

Joseph R. Jarabak, DDS’30

One of the giants of orthodontics in America and author of one of the specialty’s classic textbooks.