Billy Mills — Mills scored a huge upset victory in the 10,000-meter race at the 1964 Olympics. He was the second American Indian to earn an Olympic gold medal. He attended both Haskell Indian Nations University and KU, and was a three-time All-American at KU in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Bob Dole — The longtime senator and Senate majority leader attended KU from 1941 to 1943 before going off to fight in World War II, where he was severely wounded. Though he ended up graduating from Washburn University in Topeka when he returned Dole’s papers are housed at the Dole Institute of Politics, a building and political activity center housed on KU’s West Campus.
Clyde Tombaugh — Clyde Tombaugh already had made his life’s major achievement, in 1930 at age 24, when he enrolled at KU two years later. Tombaugh had discovered Pluto, which until recently was classified at the ninth planet in our solar system. Tombaugh earned his bachelor’s of science degree from KU in 1936.
Dean Smith — Smith, an Emporia native, was a member of KU’s 1952 men’s national championship basketball team. He went on to a legendary coaching career and currently is ranked second in all-time coaching wins behind Bobby Knight.
Deanell Tacha — Tacha received her bachelor’s degree from KU in 1968, and she also was a faculty member at the KU School of Law from 1974 to 1985. Now, she’s a judge on the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and her name was mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee during the George W. Bush administration.
Delano Lewis — Lewis (left) graduated from KU in 1960 with his bachelor’s degree before going on to Washburn University for a law degree. He served as director of the Peace Corps in Nigeria and Uganda, was CEO of National Public Radio and was U.S. ambassador to South Africa from 1999 to 2001.
Etta Moten Barnett — Majored in voice and drama while at KU in the 1920s. She’s best known for being the first black star to sing at the White House and for portraying Bess in “Porgy and Bess.”
Gale Sayers — The Wichita native was known as The Kansas Comet in the early 1960s, when he played at KU, gaining nearly 4,000 all-purpose yards as a Jayhawk. He went on to a injury-shortened career in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, retiring in 1971.
Jim Ryun — Best known for being the first high-school athlete to break 4-minute mile time, which he did in 1964 in Wichita. He participated in the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympics, though he never earned a medal. He graduated from KU with a degree in photojournalism in 1970 and later served as a four-term congressman from Kansas.
Mandy Patinkin — The actor attended KU in the 1970s but didn’t graduate, instead going to the Julliard School of Drama. He’s perhaps best known his role of Inigo Montoya in “The Princess Bride” (pictured), though he won an Emmy for his role of Dr. Jeffrey Geiger on “Chicao Hope.”
Neil Labute — The acclaimed playwright and filmmaker (left) received his master’s degree in theater from KU in 1989. His theater works include “The Shape of Things,” and his filmography includes “Nurse Betty,” “The Wicker Man” and “Lakeview Terrace.”
Sheila Bair — A key player in the economic recovery, Sheila Bair is chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The Independence, Kan., native has had a say in much of the federal government’s response to the financial crisis, recently suggesting the FDIC could ease rules for buying failed banks. Bair earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from KU in 1975 and a law degree in 1978.
Sam Brownback — Sam Brownback, who has a law degree from KU, is giving up his U.S. Senate seat next year. But after Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh dropped out of the race, Brownback now has the inside track to be the next governor of Kansas. In terms of higher education allegiances, he can ride the fence — his undergraduate degree is from K-State.
Justin Hartwig — A Super Bowl ring now adorns the finger of Justin Hartwig (right), who was the center for the NFL champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Hartwig graduated from KU in 2002 and spent time with the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers before being traded to the Steelers for the 2008 season.
David Hunke — The former Kansas City Star advertising representative worked his way up with various companies, most recently serving as CEO of the Detroit Free Press. But he reached his biggest role yet in April, becoming publisher of USA Today, the top-selling paper in the country with a circulation of more than 2 million. Hunke graduated from the KU School of Journalism in 1974.
Jerry Moran — The longtime congressman from Hays is gearing up for a battle in 2010 with another longtime Republican congressman, Todd Tiahrt, for Sam Brownback’s Senate seat. Moran has degrees in economics and law from KU. With similar voting records, the race may come down to personalities.
Alan Mulally — The Lawrence native and two-time KU alumnus in aeronautical and astronautical engineering (1968 for bachelor’s and 1969 for master’s) has guided Ford Motor Company through a dark time in the Motor City. But unlike Ford’s competitors, Mulally and his colleagues have not accepted federal bailout money or filed for bankruptcy.
Mark Parkinson — After serving as Kansas’ lieutenant governor, Mark Parkinson was inaugurated as governor in April after Kathleen Sebelius was appointed secretary of health and human services. Parkinson graduated first in his class from the KU School of Law in 1984. He’s perplexed some Democratic supporters by already announcing he will not seek election for governor in 2010.
Paul Rudd — The Overland Park native has gone from “also starring” to big-time in the past few years. Rudd’s recent projects have included “Role Models” and “I Love You, Man.” Rudd attended KU in the late 1980s but did not graduate. He graduated from Shawnee Mission West High School in 1988.
Scott Russell — The KU graduate finished 10th in javelin in the Beijing Olympics in August 2008. Russell, who represented his home country of Canada, narrowly missed qualifying for the previous two Olympic games. In April, he also won the javelin for the fourth consecutive year at the Kansas Relays.
Kathleen Sebelius — The former Kansas governor was appointed by President Barack Obama to be secretary of health and human services, thrusting her into the middle of the national discussion on health care reform, swine flu and other issues. She’s been making frequent appearances on talk shows and press conferences. Sebelius received a master’s in public administration from KU in 1980.
Philip Anschutz — Anschutz, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business from KU in 1961, is a billionaire businessman who is among the richest Americans. His business interests include oil, railroads and entertainment, including ownership stakes in soccer, hockey and basketball teams.
Rob Riggle — The actor/comedian has gained fame as a cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show.” He grew up in Overland Park and graduated from KU with a bachelor’s in theater and film.
Robert Eaton — Eaton, a 1963 KU graduate in mechanical engineering, is best known for serving as CEO of Chrysler Corporation from 1993 to 1998. He also has served on several other major corporation boards.
Sara Paretsky — Paretsky is the author responsible for the V.I. Warshawski detective series, among other novels. She graduated from KU in 1967.
Scott Bakula — The actor known for his work on “Quantum Leap,” “Star Trek: Enterprise” and “Murphy Brown” attended KU through his sophomore year in the 1970s.
Vernon Smith — When Vernon Smith (left) won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002, he (halfway) joked that he learned economic principles by brewing beer and selling it to his fellow KU students. Smith, a professor at Chapman University, received his master’s degree in economics from KU in 1952.
William Allen White — The man whose name appears on the KU School of Journalism and Mass Communications attended the university but didn’t graduate. He went on to be known as the “Sage of Emporia” and befriended many of the most influential leaders and thinkers of his time.
William Inge — Inge, best-known for his play “Picnic,” graduated from KU with a degree in speech and drama in 1935.
Wilt Chamberlain — Wilt “The Stilt” joined KU’s basketball team in 1955 and went on to a two-year career in which he averaged 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds per game. He also shad a long, dominating career in the NBA.