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Posted on Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

7 people you probably didn't know went to the University of Michigan

By Kellie Woodhouse

It's common knowledge that the voice of Darth Vader and the Queen of Pop went to the University of Michigan.

But did you know that Alice from "The Brady Bunch" studied in Ann Arbor? Or that Selma Blair —of "Legally Blonde" fame— studied photography at U-M?

While James Earl Jones and Madonna are jewels in U-M's crown of celebrities and successful attendees, they're far from alone. looked at a recent article on the U-M Heritage website and identified seven of the most surprising people you probably didn't know went to the school.


While everyone knows Darth Vader and Madonna went to the University of Michigan, they 're not the only ones who have claimed some fame after their Tree Town education. Clockwise from top left: Selma Blair, of "Legally Blonde," Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees, Ann B. Davis, the lovable maid on "The Brady Bunch," and James Wolk, of "Mad Men."

AP and file photos

For example, you probably know the founder of Google and the CEO of Twitter went to U-M, but did you know the creator of the iPod studied engineering at the school in the 1990s and is now a vice president at Apple?

Selma Blair

If you've watched "Legally Blonde" and found yourself cursing the annoying and evil Vivian Kensington, who actually turns out to be quite nice by the movie's end, then you've actually cursed a U-M graduate. Or at least a character portrayed by an actress who graduated in 1994 with degrees from U-M's College of Literature, Science and Arts and the School of Art and Design.

Blair, a 1995 graduate, grew up in Southfield and transferred to U-M from a school in New York City. She moved back to the Big Apple a week after graduating. She's acted in "Cruel Intentions" and "The Sweetest Thing."

Ann B. Davis

Alice Nelson might not have shared the last name Brady with the Brady Bunch clan from the 1970s hit TV series, but she was definitely family. She's also a 1948 graduate of U-M's School of Music, Theatre and Dance who lived in Stockwell Hall. Davis originally thought she would study medicine, but ended up switching her studies to performance art. And it was well worth it: the New York native has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Tony Fadell

Have you ever owned an iPod? The iPod revolutionized the way people listened to music on the go, and it was created by a 1991 U-M graduate who studied engineering. Fadell is from Grosse Point and was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity during his time at U-M. He also lived in East Quad. He went on to serve as senior vice president of Apple's iPod Division and in 2010 started his own company, Nest.

Derek Jeter

Before Jeter wore New York Yankees pinstripes, he wore maize and blue. To be fair, the famous Yankees shortstop only attend U-M for a semester in 1992, but according to rumor he still makes it to Wolverine home games from time to time.

Jeter grew up in Kalamazoo and took classes in the College of Literature, Science and Arts before leaving Ann Arbor - and a full athletic scholarship— to go pro after being drafted by the Yankees. He lived in Couzens Hall. Due to his father's urging, the Yankees reportedly promised Jeter his college expenses would be covered if pro baseball didn't work out and he wanted to go back to school.

“I never got my degree from Michigan because my baseball career took off,” Jeter told Sports Illustrated a decade ago. “But I’d like to return some day, like Rodney Dangerfield did in ‘Back to School.’ I’m not sure if I could see myself sitting in classes when I’m 40 years old, though.”

Betty Smith

The “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” novelist didn't receive a high school degree, but she did attend classes at U-M when she moved to Ann Arbor with her first husband, a law student, in 1919. They lived on Hill Street. Smith had two daughters while living in Ann Arbor and won the school's prestigious Avery Hopwood Award. She later divorced her husband and moved to North Carolina.

William Shawn

Shawn is another successful Wolverine who left Ann Arbor before graduating. Shawn was editor of The New Yorker for 35 years, from 1952 to 1987, a time when the literary news magazine's influence grew substantially. He attended U-M in the mid-1920s and lived at 408 Thompson St. The notoriously private editor died in 1992.

James Wolk

Wolk is a 2007 graduate of U-M's theater program who has found success in television hits like "Mad Men" and USA's "Political Animals." Wolk originally intended to be a stage actor, but he landed the lead in a Hallmark television movie soon after graduating. Wolk is from Farmington Hills.

This article has been corrected to reflect Tony Fadell's current job.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.


Paula Gardner

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

I just changed this story to better reflect that these former U-M grads first were listed in a University of Michigan Heritage story. While readers may have seen the link in the original version, we wanted to add clarity to how it was presented.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

Anyone who would align themselves with a wacko like Coulter needs to go straight to the funny farm


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 4:22 a.m.

Adolf Hitler went to Ohio State. 'Nuff said.

Tim Hornton

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 11:51 p.m.

LOL, Post of the week.

Ralph Pasola

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 2:17 a.m.

Ted Kazinski

Ralph Pasola

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 2:16 a.m.

Slow news day?

Tim Hornton

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 1 a.m.

Sigh, great article. Nothing mean to say today. Go Blue!


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 11:27 p.m.

The guy who played Niedermeyer in "Animal House" went here. Niedermeyer?? DEAD!!

Dirty Mouth

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 11:24 p.m.

You guys forgot Barry Manilow, Dan Aykroyd, and Jeffrey Dampier.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 9:56 p.m.

Did James Earl Jones graduate? A better article would list the name of "famous" attendees and grads and list the specific dates of attendance and whether or not they graduated. That would be far more useful than trying to figure out specific info from text that wanders all over the map.

Dirty Mouth

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 11:25 p.m.

He graduated and then turned to the dark side of the force.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 9:33 p.m.

Another UM graduate is Wayne Davis. He is the guy who poisoned his wife Shannon in Hillsdale County and tried to cash a huge life insurance policy on her. When the cops were on to him, he fled the country. 10 years later he was found in American Samoa. Brought back to Mich, tried, convicted, and now serving life in Marquette prison.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 9:27 p.m.

Entourage's super agent Ari Gold also went to Michigan!

Ken B

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 8:51 p.m.

Claude Shannon (one of the founders of modern computer theory) went to the U/M too as an undergrad and then onto MIT where he is most noted for graduating from.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 1:37 a.m.

It is said that the field of information theory rests on an unusually small foundation of only 8 or so publications. Shannon was responsible for something like 6 out of the you can go a bit stronger, he wasn't so much one of the founders but the guy who is seen as "the guy". One of the few alums who is memorialized on campus via a sculpture. One of the greats, if not THE most important graduate to come out of Ann Arbor.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 6:06 p.m.

Didn't Robert frost attend?


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 7:56 p.m.

No. He attended Dartmouth and Harvard, without graduating. He was a sort of informal poet in residence in U-M:


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 5:56 p.m.

Here is a list of a few alums who you might not be aware of: Here is a list of over 2,000 alums...many of them not famous, but many of them important in the sense of having made significant contributions to humanity:

Colorado Sun

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 5:44 p.m.

Other famous grads: (A)Arthur Miller; (B)John Z. DeLorean; (C)Mike Wallace - he also was an anchor at Detroit's WXYZ-TV in the 1940s; (D)Gerald Ford; (E)Pam Coulter: (F)Roger Smith (former GM chairman); (G)James P. Hoffa; (H)Governor Snyder; (I)David Cahill

Colorado Sun

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 3:12 a.m.

Mr. Cahill is a 1973 U-M Law School grad who went on to draft many of the laws written in the State of Michigan while employed by the Michigan Legislature, including the Bullard-Plawecki Employee Right to Know Act. He still resides in Ann Arbor - he is married to CM Sabra Briere.

Peter Eckstein

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 2:04 a.m.

Who is David Cahill?

jorge luis

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 5:21 p.m.

Beverley Owen (aka Marilyn Monster) also attended U of M. She's still a scholar from what I hear.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

What about Lucy Lui? Tom Harmon, Marks dad? The list could go on and on.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

The Tony Fadell info is a little out of date. He left Apple in late 2008 and started a new company in 2010 called Nest Labs. They produce the fancy, Apple-like Nest thermostat now.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

Why is it someone can say they would like to forget Phelps attended but I can't say I would like to forget Dave Brandon attended?


Tue, Jul 23, 2013 : 8:01 p.m.

Phelps was caught with Mary Jane and some consider Mary a bad girl.

Jack Gladney

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

Reality show star contestant Michelle Chamuel went to U of M. She's famous. should do some stories about her. I wonder what she had for lunch yesterday.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

Thanks for a good laugh!


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

Didn't Mike Wallace graduate from U of M?


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

What about Ted Kaczynski? Not only did he graduate, his epic beard rivaled those of the schools founders.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 8:32 p.m.

"The Devil in the White City" - that was in our book group last year.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 7:26 p.m.

Another serial killer, Herman Mudgett, alias Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, graduated from the U-M Medical School.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

I applaud ALL the alumni from Michigan. Each one is a celebrity.

Lizzy Alfs

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

Love this! Actually, didn't know about any of these. I also lived in Couzens..well past the time Jeter would have been there, Lucy Liu went to U-M, too. She was a Chi O.

Roland Uris

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

You don't want to forget Michael Phelps. He wasn't pursuing a degree, but he trained, took classes, and helped out with the swim team for several years.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

I waited on him at the Pear...It was truly incredible...he ate like a linebacker.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

Let alone the revenue Middle Kingdom got just from his 13,000 calorie intake in one sitting!


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

It's something we like to forget....

Laurel Erickson

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

There's a nice article about famous UM alumni (from celebrities to public servants) on the UM Heritage site, here:


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

It's just casual all in fun PersonX, don't take it personal.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 1:33 a.m.

"You cannot get away from this crap, which saps the intelligence out of people. " In light of the quality and tone of your post, I can say that I believe that you know whereof you speak.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 9:09 p.m.

I do take it personally--celebrity nonsense has become endemic--I still remember when there was such a things as "news", without "celebrity news," which was then the separate domain of gossip columnists. You cannot get away from this crap, which saps the intelligence out of people. As for "all in fun," that would be OK if we had a serious newspaper, not this silly blog, which is mired in trivia.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

This is all very cute, but I find it rather sad that anyone would waste their time wondering about the role of a great university in celebrity trivia. The value of an educational institution is measured by the people who actually have achieved something meaningful in life, such as scholars, teachers, musicians, artists of all stripe, and some successful lawyers, business people, or even politicians.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 2:54 p.m.

While I tend to agree but musicians, artists.. Why are they so important? All they do is provide entertainment as do some celebrities


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

Ann Coulter went to law school here.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

That's a shame.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 4:38 a.m.

So many comments show how leftists think about anyone on the right, that their opinions are hateful and wrong simply because they don't agree with them. Here I was merely saying it was another person not on the list, certainly one could argue she is more successful than Selma Blair (and less so than the voice of Darth Vader and Madonna). Additionally I believe I read somewhere she is good friends with Bill Maher, so very opposites of the spectrum. Reminds me of a woman I know (an Ann Arborite Liberal) who a few years ago was going on and on about how much hated Sarah Palin while her kid was standing next to her. I asked her if she realized she literally had a "Hate is not a family value" bumper sticker on her car. Shut her right up.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 12:34 a.m.

I take issue with Ann Coulter being held up as a representative of "The Right". She is a mean woman who lacks both manners and the ability to debate. Any Kirk Conservative will have almost nothing in common with her - there is nothing of value to conserve in her positioning and pandering pseudo intellectual self promotion. Sorry - not right.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 11:33 p.m.

Gee Brad, so Ann Coulter is worse than a domestic terrorist who killed numerous people?

Usual Suspect

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 11:15 p.m.

Your perception is that it's all based on some nefarious intent, but that's because it's a differing opinion from yours, combined with the mindset in which that you can't imagine how anybody could ever think differently from you. That's how cults work. "You can make quite a bit of money by simply saying ridiculous and outrageous things at just the right moment." Thank you for that perfect description of the Justice Brothers (Jesse Jackson & Al Sharpton).


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 9:51 p.m.

They took out my comment that said that Coulter was more objectionable than Kaczynski? Weekend moderators at it again, eh?


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 9:36 p.m.

Too bad the UM cannot claim left wing luminaries Keith Olberman and Rachel Madow as grads.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

Excuse me Mr. Uris, I conflated you and "Tano" into one construct. Tano identified Ms. Coulter as hateful, you did not. I apologize for that confusion but I still stand by my comments on the use of "we" implying a shared opinion by all associated in some way or another with the UM. I realize though you were being sarcastic and I apologize.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 9:23 p.m.

Mr. Uris, just who is "we". I'm unaware that anyone was appointed official spokesperson for all the people who have worked at or attended the U-M. I also don't know that anyone except the Regents speak for the U-M in any official or encompassing capacity. I don't agree with Ms. Coulter on a lot of things, but--yeah--she can be funny in the way she makes her point. Other times she overdoes it. Like actors, like comedians, no pundit should be taken too seriously--they are only giving an opinion. My solution is simple, when I don't like it, I turn the page or hit the back button. I'm not saying you have to like it or her opinions, I respect your opinion to choose to ignore her. But, I think it pretentious for someone to appear to speak for all the people from an entire university while labeling someone as hateful. That too is over the top and has become tiresome and meaningless.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 9:11 p.m.

It is not the flavor of her opinions that is the problem, but the fact that she has used her intelligence to discover that you can make quite a bit of money by simply saying ridiculous and outrageous things at just the right moment. She simply contributes to noise pollution.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 8:19 p.m.

@Usual Have you ever read Coulter? How is it "intolerant" to characterize her style as hateful? Thats what here whole shtick is all about -trying to insult half the people in the country in as over-the-top manner as possible, for the amusement of those who enjoy such things.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 8:14 p.m.

@Tom Being tolerant of diverse opinions does not require one to agree with those opinions, nor should it inhibit one from saying so. No one said that Coulter should not be tolerated. We are just not proud of her ties to here.

Usual Suspect

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 7:56 p.m.

There it is again... a differing opinion is called, "hate." Wonderfully tolerant people, the left.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 7:01 p.m.

I'm good with diversity of opinions especially if you can back them with more than anecdotal facts cherry picked for your entertainment style. hating for entertainment purposes? getting rich off the backs of those you bully? not so much.

Usual Suspect

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

He's from the left - they're only tolerant to opinions that match their groupthink.


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

Come on Roland, where is your diversity and tolerance for other opinions?

Roland Uris

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

It's something we like to forget.

Moms Kitchen

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

The city name is correctly spelled "Grosse Pointe"


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 11:18 a.m.

And Matt Damon attended Harvard. Without him, where would they be?

Hugh Giariola

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 10:43 a.m.

Madonna didn't actually graduate or attend for more than a semester or two, right? Although the column was an enjoyable read, I find it curious that any UMers would hold folks who only casually attended and later quit as the embodiment of the school (her success notwithstanding).

Tim Hornton

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 12:59 a.m.

I think she made out ok! I guess some people don't need a worthless liberal arts degree

Rod Johnson

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

Madonna was here for a couple years.