Here at UF, we tend to be incredibly proud of our athletic programs and the great athletes that come out of them. This is for good reason — so many of our athletes have gone on to accomplish great things in their respective sports. For example, we have graduated numerous Olympic athletes and gold medalists, like soccer player Abby Wambach. Most notably at UF, we revere our Heisman Trophy winner football players: Tim Tebow, Steve Spurrier, and Danny Wuerffel. In 2011, we even erected three bronze statues to honor these men outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Although the amount of pride we gators have for these athletes cannot be understated, it is also important to recognize the great achievements of UF alumni in areas outside of the sports. Few members of the Gator Nation are fully aware of the long list of accomplished scientists, authors, artists, TV personalities, directors, and politicians who have matriculated through UF. In fact, two alumni of UF were awarded Nobel Prizes, and eight alumni have become NASA astronauts.
The two gators to receive the Nobel Prize are Robert Grubbs, an organic chemist, who won his Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the olefin metathesis mechanism, and Marshall Warren Nirenberg, a biochemist and geneticist who won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “breaking the genetic code” and describing how it operates in protein synthesis. Multiple petitions exist online for the creation of statues to honor the great accomplishments of these men, just like our Heisman Trophy winners.
UF has also yielded many notable creators of useful inventions, novels, and works of art. For example, gator alumnus and scientist John Atanasoff invented the first electronic digital computer. Also, famous crime fiction and detective novelist Michael Connelly graduated from UF, along with Carl Hiassen, author of the wildly successful novel-turned-film, Hoot. Also, UF alumnus and pop artist, James Rizzi, achieved fame and recognition for his “linear, childlike style, vibrant colours and zany imagery.”
The list of great members of the Gator Nation would be incomplete without mentioning the many iconic entertainers and personalities that have come through this institution. Beloved actor, dancer, and entertainer Buddy Ebsen graduated from UF before starring in successful 1960s films, including “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Former gator Faye Dunaway, star of “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Chinatown,” received an Academy Award for best actress in 1977. Another great gator alum in the entertainment industry is Jonathan Demme, Academy Award-winning director of “Silence of the Lambs.”
Though it is not a bronze statue, I hope to article, in some way, pays homage to lesser-known, but nonetheless outstanding, UF graduates. As UF alum, Senator, and former presidential candidate Marco Rubio once said, “Go Gators!”
Photo from laralango.wordpress.com