A selection of UChicago alumni whose names are in the news.
Page to screen
Geoff Manaugh’s (AM’01) 2017 short story “Ernest” was adapted into the movie We Have a Ghost (2023). Ernest (David Harbour) is a ghost that Kevin’s family discovers haunting their suburban Chicago home. The family becomes an overnight sensation when their videos of Ernest go viral. Amid the media attention, Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) gets to know Ernest, working to understand the ghost’s past but inviting CIA scrutiny in the process. The PG-13 film, which also stars Anthony Mackie (pictured in the center), Tig Notaro, and Jennifer Coolidge, was released by Netflix in February.
Y. Michele Kang, AB’83, is one of 13 recipients of a 2023 Horatio Alger Award, which recognizes individuals who have succeeded in the face of adversity and who are committed to education and philanthropy. Kang emigrated from South Korea to study economics at UChicago, overcoming language and cultural barriers to excel in the male-dominated field, where she focused on emerging technology. After surviving breast cancer, she started her own company, Cognosante, in 2008 to expand access to health care and improve health equity. In 2022 she became the first woman of color to own a National Women’s Soccer League team, the Washington Spirit. Kang also supports organizations that aid veterans and their caretakers in recognition of the US soldiers who helped defend her home country during the Korean War.
Frances Oldham Kelsey, PhD’38, MD’50 (1914–2015), is the eponymous subject of a forthcoming book, Frances Oldham Kelsey, the FDA, and the Battle Against Thalidomide (Oxford University Press, 2024) by Cheryl Krasnick Warsh. Kelsey, a pharmacologist and physician, is best known for her work at the Food and Drug Administration, where in September 1960 (during her first month on the job) she refused to approve the drug thalidomide without extensive safety testing. The connection between thalidomide and birth defects was confirmed about 14 months later by two doctors—one in Germany and one in Australia. Kelsey’s advocacy spurred landmark reform in FDA approval protocols. Incorporating interviews with family, colleagues, and Kelsey herself, Warsh’s book explains the popular reaction to Kelsey’s battle against thalidomide within the context of the Cold War.
Chris Lammers, JD’79, COO emeritus and senior executive adviser at CableLabs, was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame in September 2022 for his leadership and innovation in the industry. In 1985 Lammers transitioned from a law partnership to a role at Western Communications, becoming its CEO in 1993. In 1997 he joined CableLabs as COO, leading the corporation through a period of growth after its release of new broadband technology. Lammers continues to work on special projects with CableLabs and serves on the board of the Emma Bowen Foundation, which helps young people of color begin their careers in the media and technology industry.
Chuck Brooks, AM’81, has been named Cybersecurity Person of the Year 2022 by the information security industry publication the Cyber Express for excellence in his field. Brooks teaches in Georgetown University’s graduate applied intelligence and cybersecurity programs and is president of Brooks Consulting International, which specializes in strategy and branding for tech companies. He is a member of the Washington Post’s Cybersecurity 202 Network and a visiting editor at Homeland Security Today. During President George W. Bush’s administration, Brooks served in the Department of Homeland Security as the first legislative director of the Science and Technology Directorate.
License to lead
Alexi Giannoulias, EX’98, began his first term as Illinois secretary of state on January 9, 2023. Giannoulias served as Illinois state treasurer from 2007 to 2011, making history as the youngest official to win a statewide election in Illinois when he took on the position at age 30. He is a former chair of the Illinois Community College System and has served on the boards of the Chicago Public Library, Cara Collective, Feed Chicago, One Million Degrees, and the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center.