Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense

Robert Gates: CIA Chief & Secretary of Defense

Robert Gates, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, grew up in Kansas and attended the College of William & Mary. He was recruited by the CIA while earning his master’s in history at IU–Bloomington and would come to lead the organization 25 years later, from 1991–1993.

When Gates left the CIA, he moved into academia, lecturing at multiple universities and becoming the 22nd president of Texas A&M University in 1999. President George W. Bush attempted to bring Gates into his administration several times, ultimately succeeding in 2006, when Gates became the Secretary of Defense. President Barack Obama kept him in the position and awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom when he retired in 2011.

He has since served as the chancellor of William & Mary, as well as president of the Boy Scouts of America, which lifted its ban on gay scout leaders at his urging. —Tracy Zollinger Turner

Photo by Chris Bellen, Fenell Photography, for Irish Defence Forces

Michael D. Higgins: President of Ireland

Michael D. Higgins, 80, has served as the president of Ireland since November 2011. He was the first in his family to attend college, studying in Ireland and the United Kingdom before coming to Bloomington to earn a master’s in sociology in 1967.

A fierce proponent of Irish culture, Higgins served as the country’s first minister for arts, culture, and the Gaeltacht (areas where the Irish language is still spoken). A renowned intellectual, he has published several collections of poetry.

His more artistic side may have been on display while he was an IU student. In the runup to the 2011 elections, then-candidate Higgins confirmed to the Irish Independent newspaper that he smoked marijuana while he was in Bloomington in the ’60s—and that he did, indeed, inhale. —Carmen Siering

Photo by Benjamin Hanson/Discovery Channel

Jamie Hyneman: MythBuster

Jamie Hyneman, who grew up in Columbus, Indiana, earned a degree in Russian language and linguistics from IU in 1981. He’s worked as a linguist, boat captain, wilderness survival expert, certified dive master, chef, and animal wrangler, among other things, but found his niche in the special effects industry. He was co-host of the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters from 2003 to 2018 and owns the special effects company MF Industries, where MythBusters was filmed.

Hyneman, 64, received the
IU College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012, gave the commencement speech in 2016, and received the Bicentennial Medal in 2020. As the COVID-19 global pandemic emerged, Hyneman partnered with the IU School of Public Health to help engineer improved PPE for health care workers. —Carmen Siering

Photo courtesy of IU Archives

Booker T. Jones: Musician

In 1962, while he was still in high school in Memphis, Tennessee, Booker T. Jones and his band, Booker T. and the MGs, had a Billboard No. 1 hit with “Green Onions,” which Booker co-wrote. Given the band’s success, when Jones chose to attend college to study music, many in the industry were surprised.

While at IU, Jones made the deans’ list, pledged Kappa Alpha
Psi, and played trombone in the symphony orchestra and the Marching Hundred. He returned to Memphis on weekends to record and play with the MGs. He graduated from the IU School of Music in 1967.

Among his many honors, Jones was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992—the only
IU alum to achieve that honor— and was awarded a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 2007. He received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from IU in 2012 and the Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 2013.—Carmen Siering

Photo by Mike Dickbernd/IU Athletics

Lilly King: Swimmer

The winner of two gold medals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Lilly King may have earned one or two more in the Tokyo games by the time this story is published. The Evansville-born athlete swam competitively in high school and joined the swimming and diving team at IU the same year she qualified for the Olympic team. As a Hoosier, she won the NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championship competitions for the 100-yard

and 200-yard breaststroke all four years—the second woman in history to do so.

She currently holds the world record for the 100-meter breaststroke and swims for the Cali Condors, which is part of the professional International Swimming League that was founded in 2019.

A new aquatic center in her hometown—set to open this fall— will be named in her honor. —Tracy Zollinger Turner

Photo by gdcgraphics (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Kevin Kline: Oscar-Winning Actor

Actor Kevin Kline has won three Tony Awards for his work on Broadway and a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for A Fish Called Wanda.

The St. Louis native came to IU to study music, but after two years switched to theater. In an interview, Kline says once he found the stage, he could barely make it to class because all he wanted to do was act. He did manage to graduate, in 1970.

His Hoosier connection
has been of some use. Kline portrayed a fictional high school teacher from Indiana
in the 1997 film In & Out, and Hoosier songwriter Cole Porter in 2004’s De-Lovely. He also played Maurice in the 2017 live-action version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, with lyrics written by IU graduate Howard Ashman. —Carmen Siering

Photo courtesy of IU Archives

Ted Kluszewski: Baseball Player

When travel restrictions forced the Cincinnati Reds to find a new spring training location during World War II, they discovered more than just Indiana University—they found Ted Kluszewski.

“Big Klu” was recruited to play football at IU, but also played baseball. A Cincinnati groundskeeper noticed he was hitting baseballs in excess of 500 feet and the team offered him a $15,000 contract.

Kluszewski is considered one of the strongest baseball players ever. In his career, he was a four-time National League All Star, led the league in fielding average five straight years, topped the NL in home runs and RBIs in 1954, and in 1955 lead the league in hits.

In 1957, the Reds traded Kluszewski to Pittsburgh, who later traded him to the Chicago White Sox for their World Series–winning 1959 season. He died in 1988 at the age of 64.

A statue of Kluszewski stands outside Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. —Tracy Zollinger Turner & Rodney Margison

Photo by Jim Krause

Michael Koryta: Mystery Writer

New York Times Best–Selling author and Bloomington native Michael Koryta was a 20-year-old IU student when the first book in his Lincoln Perry mystery series was published in 2004.

Several of Koryta’s novels have been optioned for films over the years, but the first one hit the big screen in 2021—Those Who Wish Me Dead, starring Angelina Jolie. When the novel was published in 2014, it was named that summer’s best thriller by both Amazon

and Entertainment Weekly and selected as one of 2014’s best books by more than 10 publications.

Now, Koryta has published 15 crime novels under his own name and one supernatural thriller, The Chill, published as Scott Carson. The second Carson novel, Where They Wait, is due in October. Read Bloom’s feature story on Koryta at —Carmen Siering

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