Graduation Week: 10 Notable Penn State Alums

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night might as well have been talking about those who graduate Penn State University.

Being a Nittany Lion isn’t just about the roar — it’s about who “We Are.”

At Penn State, community, love and respect nourish an individual’s strength and self-confidence, helping students grow into their greatest potential, producing notable alumni in all careers and walks of life.

With the 2018–19 academic year coming to a close and commencement just around the corner, let’s take a look at 10 Penn State alums whose blue and white fever sent them sky-high in their careers!


1. Mark Parker

Mark Parker, CEO of Nike and Penn State alumni, poses next to Nike symbol
Photo Credit: Hypebeast


Mark Paker serves as the Nike Inc. President, Chairman and CEO. Parker was a champion runner for Penn State’s team and graduated in 1977 with a degree in political science. He joined Nike in 1979 as a footwear designer before working his way up through the ranks to his current position.


2. Lara Spencer

Lara Spencer poses in front of ABC backdrop for photographers
Photo Credit: Brit + Co


Lara Spencer graduated in 1991 with a degree in broadcast journalism. She began her career working for HGTV and is now a co-anchor for ABC’s Good Morning America. Spencer was named grand marshal at Penn State’s Homecoming in 2014.


3. Donald Bellisario

Donald Bellisario smiles at the camera
Photo Credit: CelebFamily


Donald Bellisario is a television producer and screenwriter known for his production and writing for series like Magnum P.I. He graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism in 1961. In 2017, Penn State renamed the College of Communications the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications due to the producer’s recognition $30 million endowment.


4. Ty Burrell

Ty Burell smiles with arms crossed for the camera.
Photo Credit: USA Today


Ty Burell graduated from Penn State with an MFA. Burell found his major claim to fame in playing Phil Dunphy in Modern Family, garnering nominations for eight consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He received the award in both 2011 and 2014.


5. John Aniston

John Aniston, father of famous actress, Jennifer Aniston
Photo Credit: TVOvermind


That’s right — Jennifer Aniston’s father is a Nittany Lion! Known for his role in Days of Our Lives, John Aniston is a renowned soap opera star and graduated from Penn State with a degree in theater arts.


6. Ali Krieger

Ali Krieger during the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015
Photo Credit: Huffington Post


Ali Krieger is a FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion. She plays as a primary defender for the U.S. women’s national soccer team and graduated from Penn State in 2006. She played for the university’s soccer team, starting in all matches and becoming captain her senior year.


7. Lisa Salters

Lisa Salters speaks at a GoPsuSports event.
Photo Credit: GoPsuSports


Lisa Salters has worked for ESPN on ABC since 2000, previously covering the O.J. Simpson murder case. Graduating from Penn State in 1988 with a degree in broadcast journalism, Salters also played for the Lady Lions basketball team.


8. Keegan Michael Key

Keegan Michael Key is famous for his Comedy Central Sketch series, Key & Peele
Photo Credit: Facebook


Keegan Michael Key is an actor, comedian, writer and producer, starring in Comedy Central Sketch’s series, Key & Peele. He graduated from the Penn State School of Theatre with an MFA in 1996. Penn State football fans also know him for his entertaining — and alarmingly uncanny — cameos as Coach Franklin during a few special football games.


9. Steven E. de Souza

Steven E. de Souza was heavily influenced by his professor and sci-fi author, William Tenn
Photo Credit: IMBD


Steven E. de Souza was a screenwriter for $2 billion box office films, Die Hard and Die Hard 2. He also wrote for television shows like the Six Million Dollar Man.


10. Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley was a star running back of the Penn State football team
Photo Credit: The Washington Post


Saquon Barkley is a running back for the New York Giants. He played for the Nittany Lions for three seasons, garnering 43 rushing touchdowns and 1,195 receiving yards during his time. He received national attention for his talent and skill, making the cover of Sports Illustrated in April, 2018, and he was named the NFL’s 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

As we remember the greatness that has been nurtured in the halls of Dear Old State over the decades, we also continue to look to at our newest Penn State grads with pride. They are the new leaders in industry, science, the arts and everything in between, and we can’t wait to see the great works they will accomplish.

Congratulations Penn State Class of 2019! We ARE!

Back to Top