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Famous Alumni

We're proud of all our Titans, who make a difference in the world as teachers, nurses, attorneys and just about every imaginable rewarding and satisfying career. Some are also deservedly celebrated by broader audiences. Below are just a few.

Bill Damaschke at the Tony Awards
Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Bill Damaschke '85 produced the acclaimed Moulin Rouge! — winner of 10 Tonys, including best musical and The Prom. He spent two decades with DreamWorks Animation, where he rose from an entry-level production assistant to the company’s chief creative officer.
Kevin Dunn speaks at IWU
With over 100 appearances in both TV and film, actor Kevin Dunn '77 is best known for his appearances in the Transformers movie franchise and the TV series Veep.
Frankie Faison

Actor Frankie Faison '71 is noted for his appearance in all four Hannibal Lecter films. His many credits also include HBO's The Wire, the Cinemax program Banshee and the Netflix series Luke Cage.

Lindsey Fitzharris holding a skull

Award-winning author and medical historian Lindsey Fitzharris ’04 wrote the critically acclaimed biography The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine, the New York Times bestseller The Facemaker, and she co-authored Plague-Busters! Medicine's Battles with History's Deadliest Diseases.

Richard Jenkins portrait

Oscar-nominated, Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor Richard Jenkins '69, is perhaps best known for his work as the deceased father, Nathaniel Fisher, on HBO's Six Feet Under, and as the dad on Stepbrothers. Jenkins has been nominated twice for an Academy Award for acting (The Visitor, 2008, and The Shape of Water, 2017). 

Wayne Messmer sings at IWU homecoming

Known as the Voice of the Chicago Cubs, longtime announcer Wayne Messmer '72 has sung the national anthem for Cubs home games since 1985, and at Game Five of their World Series feat in 2016.

Torri TJ Newman holds her novel Drowning

Flight attendant-turned author Torri “T.J.” Newman '06 has published two New York Times best-selling novels which were the target of seven-figure bidding wars for publication rights and then for movie deals. Falling and Drowning will each soon be major motion picture films

Burke Nihill in the Titans stadium

Burke Nihill '00 is president and CEO of the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans. Before joining the Titans in 2016 as general counsel, he worked in various legal and management roles across a range of industries, including technology, big-box retail and professional services. He earned his law degree with honors from Chicago-Kent College of Law.


Ed Rust

Edward B. Rust Jr. '72 was CEO of State Farm Insurance from 1985 until 2015, when he stepped down and fellow IWU alumnus Michael Tipsord '81 was named CEO of State Farm Insurance. Tipsord retired in 2024, while remaining Chairman of the Board of Directors for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. Tipsord was replaced as CEO by Jon Farney, whose role in turn was filled by Mark Schwamberger '91, State Farm’s new senior vice president, treasurer and CFO. 


Jack Sikma interviewed at Shirk Center

Jack Sikma '77 is a seven-time NBA All-Star center with the Seattle SuperSonics, who drafted him in the first round of the 1977 NBA draft. He was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019. 

Dawn Upshaw portrait

Dawn Upshaw '82, five time Grammy Award-winning soprano, was the first vocal artist to be awarded the MacArthur Foundation “genius” prize.




Titans in History

NFL Player Tony Blazine '34 was posthumously inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

IWU graduate George L. Fox was one of four military chaplains who gave their lives in World War II while serving on the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, a military transport ship. The chaplains are honored on the annual "Four Chaplains Day" and have been commemorated in many works of art, memorial foundations, and a U.S. postage stamp.

Sigmund Livingston, founder of the Anti-Defamation League, graduated from Illinois Wesleyan's former law school in 1894.

Carl Marvel, IWU class of 1915, is known as "the father of Polymer Chemistry." Polymer chemistry is the basis of all plastics. 

Doug Rader, nicknamed "The Red Rooster", played shortstop at Illinois Wesleyan in 1963 and 1964 before spending 11 seasons as a major league third baseman. Rader won five straight Gold Glove Awards from 1970 to 1974.

The late Larry Shue '69 was an American playwright, best known for writing the popular farces The Nerd and The Foreigner.

The founder of Toastmasters International, Ralph C. Smedley, was a 1903 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan.

Adlai Stevenson, who attended Illinois Wesleyan in the class of 1853, was vice president of the United States from 1893-1897.

Three IWU alumni were state governors in the 19th and 20th century: