Notable Alumni

Notable Alumni

Mel Allen (Unknown Major, ’32)

Born Melvin Allen Israel, he was a student manager for the Crimson Tide’s football and baseball programs before receiving a chance to do play-by-play for UA football games. He earned undergraduate and law degrees from UA before winning an audition to announce in New York for CBS Radio in 1936. Allen broadcast his first World Series in 1938 and joined the Yankees the following year, where he stayed for the next 25 seasons. He was the voice of the Yankees from 1939 to 1964 and would wrap up his 58-year career in sports broadcasting having called thousands of Yankees games, 24 MLB World Series, 20 All-Star Games, 14 Rose Bowls, five Orange Bowls, two Sugar Bowls and more than 2,000 newsreels. Allen was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the inaugural winner of the Ford C. Frick winner in 1978.

Norbert Leo Butz (Theatre, ’93)

This UA graduate is a two-time winner of the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, and one of only nine to win the award twice as lead actor. He made his Broadway debut in 1996 in Rent, and went on to star in Thou Shalt Not (for which he won a 2002 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical), Wicked and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (for which he received the 2005 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical). He also won a Tony Award for Catch Me if You Can in 2011. His television credits include Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Good Wife, Blue Bloods, Bloodline and Mercy Street. A native of St. Louis, he studied theatre in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s University of Alabama-sponsored Master of Fine Arts/Professional Actor Training Program.

Michael Emerson (Theatre, ’95)

A film and television actor, Emerson is best known for his roles as Harold Finch on the CBS series Person of Interest and William Hinks on The Practice. He also played Benjamin Linus on the serial drama television series Lost, and has worked extensively in theatre and narration. Emerson has won two Primetime Emmy Awards and been nominated for three others. He met his wife, Carrie Preston, also his co-star on Person of Interest, while performing in a stage production of Hamlet in Alabama. Emerson and Preston teamed up to read A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 1993, he enrolled in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s University of Alabama-sponsored Master of Fine Arts/Professional Actor Training Program, graduating in 1995.

Winston Groom (English, ’65)

Winston Groom graduated from The University of Alabama in 1965 and served in the Army from 1965 to 1969, including a tour of duty in the Vietnam War. Once he returned to the United States, he worked as a reporter for the Washington Star before turning his attention to a career writing novels. His biggest seller, Forrest Gump, was later turned into a movie in 1994, featuring Tom Hanks. The film became a cultural phenomenon and won six Academy Awards. He published a sequel, Gump and Co., in 1995. He has also written numerous non-fiction works on diverse subjects, including the American Civil War and the Great War. His Conversations with the Enemy was a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction finalist in 1984.

Harper Lee (Honorary Doctorate, ’91)

Nellie Harper Lee, better known by her pen name Harper Lee, was an American novelist widely known for To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Immediately successful, it won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize and has become a classic of modern American literature. Though Lee had only published this single book, in 2007 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature. She was also known for assisting her close friend Truman Capote in his research for the book In Cold Blood (1966). Capote was the basis for the character Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird. Another novel, Go Set a Watchman, was written in the mid-1950s and published in 2015 as a sequel, though it was later confirmed to be To Kill a Mockingbird’s first draft. Lee studied law at UA for several years and worked for the campus newspaper, but did not finish her degree. She passed away in 2016.

Betsy Plank (History, ’44)

Betsy Plank was known as a public relations pioneer, a champion of PR education and the First Lady of public relations. A 1944 graduate of the University of Alabama, Plank attained national and international stature during a distinguished career in corporate and agency public relations. She achieved multiple firsts for women, winning many top awards in the field. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Foundation established its first ever scholarship endowment fund in her name. Since then, the Betsy Plank Scholarship Endowment Fund has helped ensure the availability of public relations education funds for students at more than 40 colleges nationwide. In 2005, the Trustees of the University of Alabama established the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. The Center’s mission is to develop research, scholarships, and forums that advance the ethical practice of public relations. She chaired its advisory board until her death in May 2010.

Joe Scarborough (History, ’85)

Joe Scarborough is an American cable news and talk radio host, lawyer, author and former politician. He is the co-host of Morning Joe on MSNBC, and previously hosted Scarborough Country on the same channel. Scarborough served in the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001 as a Representative from the 1st district of Florida. He was named by Time magazine one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2011. He holds a bachelor’s degree from UA.

Richard and Annette Shelby (History ’57 and Speech Communication ’60, respectively)

The University of Alabama’s interdisciplinary science and engineering complex, Shelby Hall, is named after U.S. Senator Richard Shelby and his wife, Dr. Annette N. Shelby. The $58.2 million building, which was dedicated in 2004, is one of the largest academic buildings on the UA campus. Richard Shelby, Alabama’s senior United States senator, is a graduate of The University of Alabama’s undergraduate and law programs. He was elected to the Senate in 1986 and has chaired numerous committees and subcommittees. Annette Shelby specializes in management communication and has served as associate editor of the Journal of Management Communication, associate editor of the Journal of Financial Research, and on the editorial board of the Journal of Business Communication. She holds graduate and undergraduate degrees from The University of Alabama and is a former professor at UA.

Kathryn Stockett (English, ’91)

Kathryn Stockett is best known for her 2009 debut novel, The Help, which spent more than 100 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list. She worked in magazine publishing in New York before publishing her first novel, which took her five years to complete. The book was rejected by 60 literary agents before its successful launch, and is now published in 42 languages. She graduated from The University of Alabama with a degree in English and creative writing.

Ann Waldron (Unknown Major, ’45)

Ann Wood Waldron was an author, who initially focused on writing for children and young adults, but turned her work to biographies of authors from the South, and eventually shifted to writing murder mysteries. She earned a degree in journalism from UA and was editor of The Crimson White. Waldron met her Pulitzer Prize-winner husband, Martin Waldron, while working for The Atlanta Constitution. Ann Waldron wrote biographies on Hodding Carter (Hodding Carter: The Reconstruction of a Racist) and Eudora Welty (Eudora Welty: A Writer’s Life). The latter was recognized by The New York Times as a 1993 Notable Book of the Year. Born in Birmingham, she passed away in 2010.

E.O. Wilson (Biology, ’49 and M.S., ’50)

Edward Osborne Wilson is an American biologist, researcher (sociobiology, biodiversity, island biogeography), theorist, naturalist and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, or the study of ants, on which he is considered to be the world’s leading expert. Wilson is known for his scientific career, his role as “the father of sociobiology” and “the father of biodiversity,” his environmental advocacy, and his secular-humanist and deist ideas pertaining to religious and ethical matters. Among his greatest contributions to ecological theory is the theory of island biogeography, which he developed in collaboration with the mathematical ecologist Robert MacArthur, which is seen as the foundation of the development of conservation area design, as well as the unified neutral theory of biodiversity of Stephen Hubbell. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from UA. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction (for On Human Nature in 1979 and The Ants in 1991) and a New York Times bestseller for The Social Conquest of Earth, Letters to a Young Scientist and The Meaning of Human Existence.