In nearly 180 years of existence, the university has had the good fortune to count among its students, faculty, staff and other members a number of truly remarkable individuals. Here are just a few:
John Sykes Fayette in 1836 became the first African-American graduate of Western Reserve College. He became a minister and teacher.
Nancy Talbott Clark, Emily Blackwell, Marie Zakrzewska, Cordelia Greene, Sarah Chadwick and Elizabeth Grisell all earned the MD degree from the Cleveland Medical College during the 1850s. They were thus the second through the seventh women in the country to graduate from formal medical schools.
Florence Ellinwood Allen, a 1904 graduate of the College for Women, went on to the law school and became the first woman to serve as the chief judge of a federal circuit court.
Senior national leadership in health seems to draw our alumni. Jesse L. Steinfeld, a 1949 graduate of the School of Medicine, served as U.S. Surgeon General from 1969 to 1973. David L. Satcher, who earned MD and PhD degrees in 1970, served in that capacity from 1998 to 2002. He also served as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1993 to 1998. Julie L. Gerberding, who earned undergraduate and medical degrees from the university in 1977 and 1981, respectively, served as CDC director from 2002 to 2009.
Writers abound among the university's alumni. Alix Kates Shulman, author of Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen and other volumes, is a 1953 alumna of Mather College. Andrew Vachss, Adelbert College '65, is a lawyer and author who has written extensively about child abuse. M. Scott Peck is a 1963 graduate of the School of Medicine and is author of the immensely successful The Road Less Traveled.
Trustee Fred D. Gray, a 1954 graduate of the School of Law, represented Rosa Parks after she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white man. He also served as the first civil rights attorney to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Barry M. Meyer, a 1967 graduate of the School of Law, was chairman and CEO of Warner Brothers from 1999 to 2013.
The Nobel Prize has been awarded to sixteen members of the CWRU community. In reverse chronological order, they are:
- Richard H. Thaler, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 2017, and had earned a BA in economics in 1967;
- Edward C. Prescott, who earned an MS degree in operations research in 1964, received the 2004 Nobel Prize in Economic Science;
- Paul C. Lauterbur, Nobel laureate for physiology/medicine in 2003, earned the BS degree in chemistry in 1951;
- University trustee Ferid Murad was awarded the prize for physiology/medicine in 1998. He earned MD and PhD degrees in 1965;
- Frederick Reines, physics laureate in 1995, was professor and chair of physics;
- Alfred G. Gilman, physiology/medicine recipient in 1994, earned MD and PhD degrees in 1969;
- George A. Olah, who received the prize for chemistry in 1994, was professor and chair of chemistry;
- George H. Hitchings, physiology/medicine laureate in 1988, was professor of biochemistry;
- Paul Berg, recipient for chemistry in 1980, earned the PhD degree in 1952;
- Earl W. Sutherland Jr., physiology/medicine laureate in 1971, was professor and chair of pharmacology;
- Donald A. Glaser, recipient of the prize for physics in 1960, earned the BS degree in physics in 1946;
- Polycarp Kusch, who received the prize for physics in 1955, earned the BS degree in physics in 1931;
- Frederick C. Robbins, physiology/medicine laureate in 1954, was professor of pediatrics, dean of medicine and university professor during a fifty-year career at the university;
- John J. R. Macleod, who received the prize in 1923 for physiology/medicine, was professor of physiology;
- Albert A. Michelson, physics laureate in 1907—and the first American scientist to win the prize—was professor of physics.