Think back to any historical figure and the names that come up are either 1) political figures or 2) artists. Sure, Tom Brady may be a big name now, but in a hundred years time, who’s going to remember him? His legacy is incomparable to the legacy of artists; that’s why names like Dali and Picasso have endured. And while Penn is notorious for being the largest producer of billionaires, who’s going to remember them? It is the artists—the John Legends and Elizabeth Bankses—that will be remembered. Aside from these two, Penn has graduated a number of artists, important in creating cultural moments that will be remembered for years to come. Here's just a few:
Elizabeth Alexander (‘92): the poet who penned “Praise Song for the Day,” the song performed at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. An essayist, playwright, scholar, social justice arts advocate, and now a professor at Columbia, Elizabeth is accomplished beyond any means. With eleven poetry books and several other essays and edited collections, her body of work is poignant and socially relevant.
Charles Addams (‘31): the name of the Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall. But Charles is not just a donor. He is the creator of the Addams family, now famous for their TV shows and films. While iconic lines of Wednesday Addams come to mind, the original cartoons from the '50s and '60s are endearingly funny and still hold today. During his lifetime he had a quirky persona of an artist who suffered from mental breakdowns which produced some of his funniest sketches.
Evelyn Hockstein (‘98): a photojournalist who captures some of today's most iconic events. Since graduating, she attended Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, giving her the background to photograph international politics. Her work has graced the pages of big names such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, TIME, and Washington Post with shots of people such as former President Bill Clinton and world events ranging from the 2010 Haiti earthquake to the “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville. Currently the vice president of the Women Photographers of Washington, she was previously a photographer for none other than the DP.
Scott Neustadter (‘98): screenwriter of this year’s The Disaster Artist, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. If you aren’t familiar with his account of Tommy Wiseau and the making of The Room, considered the best worst film ever made (despite starring the Franco brothers), other titles include The Fault in Our Stars and 500 Days of Summer. Often working with his writing partner Michael H. Weber, the two are now working on screenplays of Looking for Alaska and The Rosie Project.
Next time you need a name to drop about Penn, don’t reach for those working for Goldman. Reach for an artist because these will be the people who are remembered.