Utah State University Notable Alumni Skip to main content

Notable Alumni


With more than 160,000 alumni in the United States and in more than 100 countries around the globe, Utah State University alumni are making an impact.

Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz

Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz

M.S., Instructional Technology, ’82

Norah Abdullah Al-Faiz transformed educational policy and practice in Saudi Arabia becoming a symbol of female leadership in the Islamic world.

Al-Faiz was appointed vice minister for girls’ education in 2009, the highest ministerial rank reached by a woman in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The appointment was a significant indicator of the broadening role for women in politics and education in Saudi Arabia.

Lars Peter Hansen

Lars Peter Hansen

B.S. Mathematics, ’74, B.S. Political Science, ’74

Nobel Prize-winning economist Lars Peter Hansen is a scholar, researcher and author. Dr. Hansen shared the 2013 Sveriges Riksbank prize in economic sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel with two other economists for their for their analysis of asset prices. He developed a statistical method to test the links between financial markets and the macroeconomy that is now used within all economics research.

A mainstay on the University of Chicago economics faculty since that time, Dr. Hansen has received many accolades for his teaching and research at the institution. He currently serves as the David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and Statistics and is the inaugural Research Director for the Becker-Friedman Institute.

Greg Carr

Greg Carr

B.S., History, ’82

Having made his fortune revolutionizing the telecommunications industry with his company Boston Technology, and later with Prodigy Inc., established the Gregory C. Carr Foundation in 1999, a nonprofit organization dedicated to "the environment, human rights, and the arts.” The foundation's current focus is on protecting and preserving Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, South Africa.

Carr also helped to form the Museum of Idaho, the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in Boise, and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University.

Mary Louise Cleave

Mary Louise Cleave

M.S., Biology, ’75; Ph.D., Civil & Environmental Engineering, ’80

After completing a master’s of science in microbial ecology in 1975 and a doctorate in civil and environmental engineering four years later — both from USU — Mary Louise Cleave aced an interview with NASA in Houston and was approved to be an astronaut in May 1980, at the age of 33.

She worked in several other posts as an engineer for NASA on the ground before becoming a veteran of two space flights — one in 1985, the other in 1989. She was one of the first 10 U.S. women to travel to space.

Elizabeth Dowdeswell

Elizabeth Dowdeswell

M.S., Behavioral Sciences, ’72

V. Elizabeth Dowdeswell is the current lieutenant governor of Ontario, the 29th since Canadian Confederation. She is the viceregal representative of the Queen in Right of Ontario.

A graduate of the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, Dowdeswell began her professional career as a teacher and university lecturer and has a deep interest in CEHS and its interdisciplinary approach. Along with her current role for Ontario and former position with the United Nations, Lt. Governor Dowdeswell’s experience includes serving as founding president and CEO of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, former assistant deputy minister at Environment Canada, adjunct professor at the University of Toronto, and several honorary degrees from various Canadian and European universities. USU awarded her an honorary doctorate in the mid-90s.

Merlin Olsen

Merlin Olsen

B.S., Finance, ’62

NFL Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen is considered the greatest athlete in Utah State University history.

Olsen’s outstanding record on both college and NFL football fields was followed by successful careers as a beloved television actor and as a television sports commentator. He is remembered also as a tireless philanthropist, giving enormous amounts of time, talent, and financial resources to numerous causes across the country.

A native of Logan, Utah, Olsen was a two-time All-American (1960-61) as a defensive lineman at Utah State and won the 1961 Outland Trophy as the nation's outstanding interior lineman.

As the second player selected in the 1962 National Football League Draft, Olsen became a charter member of the Los Angeles Rams, and the famed "Fearsome Foursome." In 15 pro seasons, he was named to an NFL record 14 Pro Bowls. Olsen was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1962 and was the league's Most Valuable Lineman in 1973. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982 and earned a spot on Sports Illustrated's all-time NFL team.

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

B.S., Political Science and History, ’61

Utah State University may seem a long way from world Capitol Hill, but over the years, it’s proven itself a reliable way to get there.

A rural Nevada boy named Harry Reid liked what he saw at USU, and used his political science and history double major to vault him into a successful career in the United States Senate. After finishing a degree at USU, Senator Reid went on to receive a law degree from George Washington University.

The people of Nevada elected Reid to the U.S. Congress in 1982 and to the U.S. Senate in 1986, where he has since become one of the most influential politicians in the nation's capital. Reid is one of only three senators to have served as senate majority leader for at least eight years. His current senate term ends in January 2017.

Mignon Barker Richmond

Mignon Barker Richmond

B.S., Home Living, Textiles, and Foods, ’21

The first African-American to graduate from a college in Utah, Mignon Barker Richmond served a lifetime as a leader and activist in her community. During her time at the UAC she was a member of the Empyrean Club, a group of college women devoted to furthering discussion of important current problems, and served as its secretary-treasurer during her senior year.

Although credentialed, Mignon was refused work as a teacher because of racial discrimination. In 1948, 27 years after graduating from college, Mignon finally had the opportunity for employment in her field when she was hired to start the school lunch program for Stewart School at the University of Utah. Five years later, she was hired to develop home-living classes at the Utah State Industrial School, an Ogden youth-correctional facility. In 1957, she became the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Food Services Director in Salt Lake City, a position she held until her retirement in 1962 at age 65.

May Swenson

May Swenson

B.S., English, ’34

Before she became one of America’s best contemporary poets, before she was named a Literary Lion by the New York City Public Library, before she received a MacArthur (genius) grant, May Swenson was an Aggie. A 1934 graduate of USU’s English department, Swenson gave us a new perspective on the human condition, death, sexuality and the art of poetry.

Despite her international success and reputation as a progressive thinker who discovered her own path, it is evident in Swenson’s written work that her family and Cache Valley roots were sincerely important to her. She remained true to the different components of her heritage and personal identity.

Ardeshir Zahedi

Ardeshir Zahedi

B.S., Animal Science, '50

Ardeshir Zahedi has spent his entire life in the service of his country and other people. Zahedi achieved a reputation as a leader and became one of the most influential ambassadors in Washington, D.C..

Zahedi left his home in Iran to study at Utah State University in 1947. He received a bachelor’s in animal science from USU’s College of Agriculture in 1950. After completing his education at Utah State, Zahedi returned to Iran where he was appointed chamberlain to His Majesty, the Shah, and assistant to the prime minister. His foreign diplomatic career began in 1959 when he became Iran’s Ambassador to the United States where he enjoyed the confidence of the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations.