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Alumni Profiles

15 Stars Who Attended SUNY

Change-Makers of SUNY

SUNY’s 64 unique campuses throughout the State of New York provide a wide array of opportunity, offering an amazing depth and breadth of undergraduate academic programs — over 5,000 total. Almost every academic program is available somewhere within SUNY, and our past and current students have used that to their advantage.

All of SUNY’s 3 million alumni have made an impact on the world. For some, that impact included rising to great fame! These alumni show the range of impact SUNY Alumni have on culture and society.

So without further adieu, here are 15 people that you may not know are SUNY alumni:


Bram CohenBitTorrent creator Bram Cohen is a computer programmer best known as the founder of the popular file-sharing program. BitTorrent gained its fame for its ability to quickly share large music and movie files online. Bram Cohen claims to have learned the basic programming language when he was only 5 years old. He attended the University at Buffalo.


Richard GelfondIMAX CEO Richard Gelfond, a Stony Brook University alumnus, has brought IMAX technology to 400 locations in 44 countries. IMAX is a theater company which designs and manufactures IMAX cameras and projection systems as well as performing film development, production, post production and distribution to IMAX affiliated theaters worldwide. Gelfond’s company is recognized as the top entertainment technology brand in the world.


Natalie MerchantNatalie Merchant was the lead singer of rock band 10,000 Maniacs before venturing off to a solo music career. As a student at Jamestown Community College, she gravitated to music while studying at college, including participating in the local campus radio station. Her debut solo album, Tigerlily, was a critical and commercial success in 1995, relaunching her career.


Wolf BlitzerWolf Blitzer is currently the host of CNN‘s The Situation Room and CNN Newsroom. He is the dean of anchors of all CNN’s programming. Blitzer has said that he has frequently been asked about his name, which has been characterized as seemingly made-for-TV. Wolf Blitzer was hand chosen to cover the 2004, 2008, and 2012 president elections. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University at Buffalo in 1970.


Michael KorsFashion icons Michael Kors and Calvin Klein are well-known designers and businessmen. Kors was selected for the “Time 100”, the magazines list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2013 and his fashion enterprise drove him to a position as a judge on the Emmy-nominated reality television program Project Runway. He is an alumnus of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and this year endowed a $1 million scholarship to his alma mater.

Calvin KleinCalvin Klein, also a Fashion Institute of Technology graduate, is a fashion designer best known for his fashion empire and sportswear line. Klein was immediately recognized for his talent after his first major showing at a New York Fashion Week; after winning Designer of the Year Award in 1993, Calvin Klein has continued his success and has not looked back since.


Ann Dunwoody headshotFour-Star General (Retired) of the United States Army Anne Dunwoody is the first woman in U.S. military and uniformed service history to achieve a four-star officer rank. She is a SUNY Cortland graduate, and was direct commissioned into the Women’s Army Corps. Her family has served our country with military service for more than 150 years.


Al RokerAl Roker is best known for being a weather anchor for NBC’s Today Show and is also a critically-acclaimed author and actor. He has his own morning show on The Weather Channel, Wake Up with Al, and frequently visits his alma mater, SUNY Oswego. Roker double-majored in graphic design and broadcasting/journalism at the SUNY college.


Barry GlickMapquest founder Barry Glick, now the CEO of the groundbreaking tool, also attended the University at Buffalo. Mapquest provides some extent of street-level detail and/or driving directions for a variety of countries. He also is CEO to a number of location-based service companies. He earned his Bachelor’s degree and PhD in geography at the Western New York SUNY campus.


Leslie BlodgettCreator of bareMinerals and CEO of Bare Escentuals Leslie Blodgett is a pioneer in the beauty care industry. Attending both SUNY Oswego and Fashion Institute of Technology, she set out to bring her passion in cosmetics and beauty to women everywhere. Today, Bare Escentuals has boutique locations nationwide and in the U.K.


Harvey MilkHarvey Milk was the first openly-gay person to be elected in public office in California when he became a part of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He graduated from the University at Albany in 1951 when it was formerly named as New York State College for Teachers in Albany. You may recall the 2008 Academy-Award winning biopic Milk, which detailed his life.


Steve LevyESPN broadcaster Steve Levy is a 1987 graduate of SUNY Oswego, where he earned his degree in communications with a concentration in broadcasting. In 1993, he joined ESPN where he became an anchor on SportsCenter. SportsCenter is now aired up to 12 times a day, so it’s hard to miss him! The show has aired more than 50,000 unique episodes, more than any other program on American Television.


Robin LiBaidu co-founder Robin Li collaborated on the ultra-popular Chinese web services company. Baidu is compared to Google as one of the world’s largest web companies, and allows users to search websites, images, multimedia and online encyclopedia. While Li attended the University at Buffalo to study for a doctoral degree in computer science, he received his Master of Science degree to focus on his professional work. And that’s OK!


Scott KellyAmerican astronaut Scott Kelly is also a retired U.S Navy Captain. The twin brother of astronaut Mark Kelly, he attended SUNY Maritime College prior to being selected by NASA in April 1996. Kelly is a veteran of three previous space missions, and was recently selected for a special yearlong mission to the International Space Station set to being in the Spring of 2015. This mission will include collecting scientific data important to future human exploration of our solar system.


lisa-lillienHungry Girl is a New York Times best-selling author, actually named Lisa Lilien, and the creator of the brand, “Hungry Girl.” What started as a daily email to friends and friends has turned nationwide. Lisa reaches out to 1 million-plus die hard subscribers through her daily emails. The University at Albany alum is the author of 8 best-selling books, 5 of which were number 1 on New York Times Best Sellers list. Her television show, Hungry Girl, airs on both Food Network and the Cooking Channel, where she provides guilt-free recipes for real-world eating situations.


>> More: Newscasters Who Got Started at SUNY


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Written by Phillip Leidner

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Join the Conversation:


There are 14 comments


    Good to read about the exploits of some of these great alumni.They are a pride to us who went to that great institution. But please extend your telescope to other parts of the globe You will discover many other alumni who are contributing to social development in their lands.Diversity is at the soul of greatness and I am glad to have been a product of SUNY@Buffalo(1970-1973) which honored me as a distinguished alumnus in 2001.I have served my country Nigeria as Minister of Education in 1979 and Minister of Health in 1995. I have also taken part two times in trying to fashion a democratic Constitution for the country.
    Professor Ihechukwu Madubuike, Ph.D.;D.Litt.’LL.D(Hon)

  • B. says:

    Terry Gross (NPR’s “Fresh Air”) went to the University at Buffalo!

  • Paulie C says:

    Kevin James went to Cortland. How does he not make the list?

  • Mowgli says:

    Jerry Seinfeld attended Oswego for a minute and Linda Cohn from ESPN also went there.

  • Never heard for Sunny Alumni till now. Great i discovered this post.

  • Isabella says:

    I didn’ knew that Calvin Klein and Michael Kors was attended SUNY alumni.

  • Paul from Potsdam says:

    Actors Ving Rhames and Stanley Tucci were roommates for a time at Purchase

  • Michael says:

    Actor William (Billy) Baldwin (Flatliners, Backdraft, Sliver, etc.) was a student at Binghamton University (class of 1985), where he earned a degree in political science and competed as a varsity wrestler. In 2010, he was awarded with the University Medal, in recognition of distinguished service to the University, to higher education and to the larger community.

  • Of course I’ll vote for Ellsworth. He’s in shape and has a positive attitude. As for all the stars of SUNY schools : i think it’s great to achieve what they have. God Bless them all and God Bless SUNY Colleges.

    thank you,
    Michele H. Sturtevant

  • TC Boyle, SUNY Potsdam.

  • nancy says:

    Renee Fleming – SUNY Potsdam/Crane School of Music

  • Dr. TCP says:

    Another from SUNY Fredonia…
    “Mary McDonnell, Class of 1974, is a noted actress and was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Dances with Wolves. She starred on the hit NBC series, ER, as John Carter’s mother and in the movies Battle Star Galactica and Independence Day.”

  • Melissa says:

    There are many others! Dave Annable, a well-known actor who has appeared on such shows as Brothers and Sisters (with Sally Field, Calista Flockhart & Rob Lowe) attended SUNY Plattsburgh. Also famous actor Bill Pullman attended SUNY Delhi. SUNY New Paltz has many notable actors and actresses among its alumni, like JOhn Turtorro. It would have been nice if this piece did many of the schools instead of the same ones over and over, like FIT. Honestly, I don’t even think many people would know FIT is a SUNY school!

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