The Most Interesting Alums in the World

From cable TV’s miracle worker to the most interesting man in the world. Is there anything you can’t do with an education from CGS? What do people do after leaving CGS? Just about anything they want to. You, one of the 26,000 or so alumni to study at CGS (or JC or CBS) in its 60-year history, are proof of that, too. We couldn’t feature everyone (but we’d love for you to add a comment at the end to share what you did after CGS), so, from a leading plastic surgeon and a restaurant chain founder to a Grey’s Anatomy star and the face of Dos Equis beer, here’s a small selection of notable alums to illustrate the diverse career paths a CGS education points to.

Elissa Altman (CGS’83, CAS’85)

Food Writer, Cookbook Editor, and Former Personal Chef

As readers of her delectable column on The Huffington Post will attest, Elissa Altman writes about food in a way that makes your mouth water. After a lengthy career switching between—and combining—publishing and food, Altman is currently winning plaudits for her blog, Poor Man’s Feast. Packed with recipes, “books to savor,” and stories “inextricably bound up with what we feed ourselves,” Altman describes the site (in a warning to those posting comments) as a “gigantically long dinner table; everyone—including me—has to behave or they get sent to their room without dinner.” BU Influence: As she told Bostonia in 2010, BU didn’t just influence Altman in the classroom. In her sophomore year, two friends in Warren Towers bought her a cookbook for Christmas. “I dipped in and out of it, and the cooking bug bit me, hard,” remembered Altman. “I have a distinct memory of sitting in my South Campus suite, reading my very first issue of Gourmet and thinking, I want to write about food.” Photo by Edward A. Brown

Richard Cohen (CGS’67, Questrom’69)

President and CEO of Capital Properties Services LLC and Member of the BU Board of Trustees

Eight years after graduating from BU, Richard Cohen founded Capital Properties Services, a real-estate investment, development, and management firm. Since then, the Manhattan-based company has managed more than 17,000 apartment units and 8 million square feet of office space in major markets across the country. BU Ties: An active supporter of BU, Cohen joined the University’s Board of Trustees in 2006 and has since established a professorship and a scholarship fund that supports 10 BU undergraduate students. Photo by Albert L’Etoile

Fabien Cousteau (CGS’89, MET’91)

Oceanographic Explorer, Filmmaker, and Environmental Activist

Inspired by his famous grandfather (the legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau), Fabien Cousteau has devoted his life to exploring, documenting, and preserving the wonders of Earth’s oceans. His documentary projects include the 2006 television special Shark: Mind of a Demon and the PBS series Ocean Adventures. Cousteau recently founded the nonprofit organization Plant a Fish to restore and protect injured bodies of water around the world. He also serves on the boards of the New York Harbor School and the Water Innovations Alliance. BU Influence: Cousteau entered CGS unsure of what he’d ultimately study at BU, but sure it wouldn’t be marine biology. “My life experience up until then had been nothing but marine biology,” he told Bostonia in a 2003 interview. “So I wanted a flavor of something else. BU was a turning point in my life, because those were the years when I established myself outside of my family.” Cousteau eventually declared a major in environmental economics. “I didn’t know much about the business world,” he told Bostonia, “and I figured that if I someday wanted to pick up where someone in my family left off, I didn’t want to be weak in that area.”

Shamim Dahod (CGS’76, CAS’78, MED’87)

Physician, Philanthropist, and Chair of the BU Board of Overseers

Shamim Dahod is a primary-care physician and board-certified internist in private practice in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. In 2008, Dahod, a two-time cancer survivor, and her husband, a successful technology entrepreneur, established the Shamim and Ashraf Dahod Breast Cancer Research Center at the Boston University School of Medicine. Among their other philanthropic pursuits, the Dahods have helped to build a 280-bed hospital in Mumbai, open a medical clinic in Yemen, and construct mosques in Massachusetts and New Jersey. BU Ties: Dahod is currently chair of BU’s Board of Overseers, an advisory body of alumni and friends who offer their expertise and financial support to the University. Photo by Linda Haas

Allison Davis (CGS’73, COM’75)

Director of Communications at the Jackie Robinson Foundation and Cofounder of the National Association of Black Journalists

Allison Davis has worked as a writer and producer at NBC News and was a member of the team that formed MSNBC and launched Before joining the Jackie Robinson Foundation, she was senior vice president of Dunbar Productions, which was founded by Bryant Gumbel and CBS. She has received Distinguished Alumni Awards from BU, CGS, and the College of Communication. BU Influence: It was at CGS, Davis told Collegian in a 2009 interview, that she learned the skills she would use throughout her career to bring together journalism, activism, and cutting-edge technologies. “The College lit a fire in me that burns to this day,” she said. “CGS allowed me to explore, to think multidimensionally. I learned to be a forward thinker.”

Richard Gladstein (CGS’81, COM’83)

Film Producer

A prolific producer, Richard Gladstein has received Oscar nominations for his films Finding Neverland and The Cider House Rules. His other production credits include Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, The Nanny Diaries, The Bourne Identity, Pulp Fiction, and Reservoir Dogs. Gladstein is founder and president of the Los Angeles-based production company FilmColony and has served as head of production for Miramax Films. BU Influence: Gladstein spoke to CGS students in 2004, telling them it was at CGS that he “learned how to study and be responsible, to make deadlines and be prepared.” Photo by Vernon Doucette

Jonathan Goldsmith (CGS’58)

Actor known as “The Most Interesting Man in the World”

Best known for an ongoing television ad campaign for Dos Equis beer, in which he plays “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” Jonathan Goldsmith is an actor with decades of television and film experience. The New York native attended BU and began his acting career as Jonathan Lippe; he returned to Goldsmith—his birth name—in the 1970s. His film credits include several Westerns, including 1976’s The Shootist, in which he is shot in the head by John Wayne. His numerous television credits include a role in the 1980s drama Dallas and guest appearances in Highway to Heaven, MacGyver, Knight Rider, The A-Team, Knots Landing, Dynasty, CHiPs, Charlie’s Angels, and Eight is Enough, to name a few. Photo by Glenn Francis

Gordon Hamersley (CGS’71, SED’74)

Head Chef and Owner at Hamersley’s Bistro

With his namesake restaurant in Boston’s South End, Gordon Hamersley helped put Boston on the map for destination dining. He was named among Food & Wine magazine’s “Ten Best New Chefs for 1988,” and received the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast in 1995. He appeared with his longtime friend Julia Child (Hon.’76) on her television series Cooking with Master Chefs and is featured in the accompanying cookbook. He is also author of his own popular cookbook, Bistro Cooking at Home. BU Influence: Hamersley holds a degree from BU’s School of Education. In a 2009 interview, he told Bostonia that he uses his teaching skills every day as he works to nurture young chefs. Photo by Fred Sway

Bonnie Hammer (CGS’69, COM’71, SED’75)

Chairwoman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios

In 2011, the Hollywood Reporter named television executive Bonnie Hammer the second most powerful woman in entertainment, calling her “cable TV’s miracle worker” for her recent roles in turning around two NBCUniversal networks—SyFy and USA. Hammer began her television career in Boston, where she worked as a producer for WGBH’s This Old House. She later created documentaries for Lifetime and then became a programming executive at USA, where she helped turn World Wrestling Entertainment into a ratings powerhouse. BU Ties: Hammer holds two degrees from BU, one from COM and another from SED. She was the 2009 Commencement speaker for the College of Communication and currently sits on COM’s Dean’s Advisory Board.

Frederick Huntsberry (CGS’82, Questrom’84)

Chief Operating Officer of Paramount Pictures

As COO, Frederick Huntsberry is responsible for worldwide strategic planning and operations for Paramount Pictures, including legal matters, finance, human resources, industrial relations, and lot operations. Prior to joining Paramount in 2006, Huntsberry held several executive roles at NBCUniversal. BU Influence: In the 11 years before he joined CGS, Huntsberry had been educated at German-language schools in Europe and says, “CGS was a perfect way for me to integrate into higher education in the U.S. CGS filled the important educational differences between Europe and the U.S.” He also recalls “the educator who influenced my life the most”: BU School of Management Professor Emeritus Jules Schwartz. “It didn’t matter if you were ultimately right or wrong,” says Huntsberry, “what mattered was that you were able to analyze a business and articulate an opinion in front of class; a sort of business debating class.”

William McCormick (CGS’62)

Cofounder of McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants, Inc., and Former U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand

A businessman and diplomat, William McCormick served as U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa from October 2005 to January 2009. Before accepting the government post, McCormick gained significant international experience as CEO of the successful restaurant chain McCormick & Schmick’s. He cofounded the business with partner Douglas Schmick in the 1970s and eventually grew the chain to more than 80 locations throughout the country. BU Influence: Although he never graduated from BU (his father’s unexpected death compelled him to leave school and return to his native Rhode Island), McCormick told Collegian in a 2006 interview that he has “great memories” of his time here. “I met friends from all over the United States and from different ethnic backgrounds, different cultures,” he said. “It’s so easy for students to get their noses in a book and forget that the person next to them might be from some other part of the world. It’s an incredible gift that each student has, this accessibility to folks from all over.” Photo: U.S. State Department

Larry S. Nichter (CGS’71, CAS’73, MED’78)

Plastic Surgeon and One of America’s “Top Doctors”

Renowned plastic surgeon Larry S. Nichter is the founder and president of Plasticos Foundation, which provides surgery and training services to underserved populations around the world. Despite maintaining a busy plastic surgery business in Orange County, California—he’s frequently been named among the best doctors in the nation—Nichter remains deeply involved with the nonprofit, completing 30 missions in countries such as Sri Lanka and Honduras. A Story of Healing, a short film documenting a service trip he undertook to Vietnam, won an Academy Award in 1998. BU Ties: Nichter received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Arts & Sciences in 2009. In a Class Notes submission to Collegian, Fall 2011, he wrote: “It was my initial formative experience at BU at CGS (CBS back then) that set the stage for all of my subsequent successes.”

Tracy Paul (CGS’91, COM’93)

Brand Development and Marketing Consultant

Tracy Paul is the eponymous founder and CEO of Tracy Paul & Company, a public relations and marketing agency with offices in New York and Los Angeles. The company specializes in promoting the fashion, design, beauty, hospitality, and lifestyle industries. As Collegian reported in 2007, Paul launched the company in the mid-1990s “out of a single room with a word processor and a client list of one.” Almost 20 years later, Paul has extensive industry connections, helping fashion labels feature in the red carpet turns of stars such as Brad Pitt and Hilary Swank. BU Influence: Paul says it was at BU that she “learned to always look to the source, read the paper each day, be involved. Most important, understand where things are coming from and why.” And, she adds, to see that “the possibilities are endless if you just try each day. There is a lot of competition out there but nobody is you so just go for it!” Photo: Tracy Paul, CEO, Tracy Paul & Company Inc.

Kim Raver (CGS’87, CFA’91)


Currently appearing as Dr. Teddy Altman on the hit television series Grey’s Anatomy, actress Kim Raver is also known for her roles on the TV shows Lipstick Jungle, 24, and Third Watch. Raver began acting at the young age of 6, with regular appearances on the PBS children’s show Sesame Street. Photo by Christopher Peterson

Lauren Shuler-Donner (CGS’69, COM’71)

Film Producer

Lauren Shuler-Donner is among Hollywood’s leading producers, earning her most recent box-office success with the four installments of the popular X Men series. After starting her career in television, she produced her first feature film, the hit comedy Mr. Mom, in 1983 and has produced such successful films as Ladyhawke, Pretty in Pink, Radio Flyer, Free Willy, You’ve Got Mail, Any Given Sunday, and The Secret Life of Bees. BU Ties: Shuler-Donner has received Distinguished Alumni Awards from BU and from the College of Communication. She has also served on the Dean’s Advisory Board for COM and has provided production grants for BU film students.

Howard Stern (CGS’74, COM’76)

Radio Personality, Author, and Self-Styled “King of All Media”

Best known for hosting his no-holds-barred radio show, Howard Stern began his latest media endeavor in early 2012 as a judge for the reality TV show America’s Got Talent. Stern once branded himself the “King of All Media,” after achieving success in the radio business, hosting several TV shows, writing an autobiography (Private Parts), and starring in the movie adaptation of the book. BU Influence: In 2011, Stern shared with Collegian his memories of CGS faculty member Jim Wilcox: “In high school, I was very hesitant to speak up in classes and became very introverted and shy—which might shock people, based on what I’m about now,” he said, “and the guy who brought me out of my shell in classes was Professor Wilcox.” Stern said Wilcox praised his papers, asked his opinions, and created such a comfortable classroom atmosphere that he began confidently chiming in on class discussions. “He made me feel so good about my writing, and so good about my own intellectual capacity. I’ve never had another teacher bring that out in me quite that way.” Photo: Getty Images

W. Rockwell Wirtz (CGS’73)

Principal Owner and Chairman of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks

Rocky Wirtz took over the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks in October 2007 and immediately began orchestrating a remarkable turnaround. Under his leadership, game attendance soared and the Blackhawks—once considered one of the worst franchises in professional sports—claimed the 2010 Stanley Cup. The president of Chicago-based Wirtz Corporation, a diversified company with interests in banking, real estate, beverages, and insurance, Wirtz currently sits at No. 5 on Chicago Magazine’s list of the 100 most powerful Chicagoans. BU Influence: “I came to BU because I thought it’d be nice to go out east for a couple of years,” Wirtz (a Chicago native) told Collegian in a 2008 interview. “The hockey was intriguing too, and I liked the city of Boston. Plus, it was nice to have the small structure at CGS.”


One Comment on The Most Interesting Alums in the World

  • The College of Basic Studies was wonderful. I graduated from it in 1950 with a solid liberal arts education, then went on to many other schools. I am a retired senior career diplomat of the U.S. Department of State, having served in many countries. I am also retired from global business, and from the U.S. Air Force. I live in Hanover, NH, where I teach occasionally at Dartmouth, and have other homes near Washington DC and in France. My new book — “My Global Life,” available from the usual sources — describes all this, and gives appropriate credit to CBS.

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