Famous Alumni from University of Washington

Jun 10, 2022 Filed to: Local Highlights Last Update on Jun 10, 2022

Located on the very edge of the country, the University of Washington sits within the Emerald City of Seattle. The area is well known for its location on the Puget Sound, coffee shops on every street, and numerous rainy days. Beautiful and majestic mountain ranges outline the unique location that many fellow UW students call home.

More than 54,000 fellow students attend the University of Washington each year, with plenty of them going on to do great things in their careers. The school is rated #7 on the U.S. News & World Report's Best Global Universities rankings list as well.

The main campus sits in the middle of Seattle, making it an easy campus to get to as well as diverse in its overall experience. Views of Mount Rainier, as well as breathtaking buildings that dot the campus, are enough to take your breath away. Other campuses in nearby Tacoma and Bothell expand the school's reach to other students in the area.

The UW Huskies are well known for their high-ranking programs in medicine, engineering, law, and nursing, as well as being a top research university. However, many of their most famous alumni work as actors in the entertainment industry.

As one of the oldest universities on the West Coast, the University of Washington has plenty of notable alumni to choose from. Learn more about these famous alumni of the University of Washington who once called the UW campus home.

Amanda Knox

While not exactly known for the best circumstances, Amanda Knox was attending the University of Washington when she traveled to Italy for a year which would change the course of her life. Knox is known for her involvement in the murder of her roommate in Italy and widespread trial. She was acquitted in 2015 of all charges.

Beverly Cleary

As one of the most well known children's authors of our time, Beverly Cleary is a notable alumni of UW. She earned a degree in library sciences in 1939 and earned a National Book Award in 1981 for her Ramona series. Cleary also won the National Medal of Arts in 2004. She was one of the most successful American authors with 91 million copies of her books sold worldwide. Cleary died in 2021 and is dearly missed by all of her readers.

Bruce Lee

While this famous Kung Fu star didn't earn a degree from UW, Bruce Lee did attend the school and studied drama and philosophy. Known for his notable roles in martial arts movies, Bruce Lee was a master of Chinese Kung Fu and is easily recognized in multiple movies. Lee died in 1973 at the young age of 32 years old with a much too brief career in the industry.

Dale Chihuly

Blown glass is the preferred way that artist Dale Chihuly uses his skill. This American glass sculptor and entrepreneur earned a degree in interior design from the University of Washington in 1965 and then started experimenting with glass blowing.

He is well known for his ability to create large-scale glass installations full of color and shape. Many of his ideas test the limits of glass in their sheer size and style while other installations seem to defy gravity with their ability to hold the artist's unique and creative pieces.

While he has plenty of pieces in what would be considered normal spaces, like museums and galleries, Chihuly has pushed the envelope when it comes to how people interact with glass. Many of his public exhibitions feature glass in the most unusual outdoors spaces from Montreal to Venice to Jerusalem.

Emily Compagno

As a well-known legal analyst on Fox News Channel, Emily Compagno uses her degree in political science from UW every day. She practiced law after her graduation and also was an NFL cheerleader. She is frequently seen on Fox News Channel weighing in on issues regarding the law and sometimes professional sports.

Hank Ketcham

Famous cartoonist, Hank Ketcham, is a household name due to his famous comic strip Dennis the Menace. Ketcham attended the University of Washington after graduating from high school but soon after dropped out. He wrote and drew his comic strip from 1951 to 1994, making Dennis the Menace a household name for anyone who needed a chuckle. Ketcham died in 2001.

Hope Solo

The UW athletic program is strong and produces high-quality athletes that go on to play professional sports around the world. One of these athletes includes Hope Solo, who played soccer for the Huskies and then moved on to play for the Seattle Reign. Solo also played in the Olympics and World Cup, representing the United States as a talented goalkeeper.

Isaiah Thomas

Known for his tenacity and ability to score points on the basketball court, Isaiah Thomas has enjoyed a great career as a professional athlete. He attended UW from 2008 to 2011 and was selected for the Pac-10 all-conference three times.

While Thomas was the last pick of the 2011 NBA draft, he has proven his worth and is known as one of the best players to perform under pressure for multiple NBA teams. His career as a UW Husky set the stage for his success in the NBA currently.

Jim Caviezel

While this actor has starred in many shows, Jim Caviezel is best known for portraying Jesus Christ in the film The Passion of the Christ in 2004. He attended UW in 1990 and was most interested in a basketball career before a foot injury turned his attention towards acting instead.

He worked on shows like The Wonder Years, Murder, She Wrote, and Angel Eyes. Most recently, he starred in the TV series Person of Interest.

Julia Sweeney

With a double major in European history and economics, the stage is one of the last things Julia Sweeney ever contemplated. However, this UW grad went on to make her mark in the entertainment industry with one of her first jobs being a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1990-1994. She recently worked on the show Shrill and worked as a consultant on seasons of Sex and the City as well as Desperate Housewives.

Ken Jennings

Jeopardy star, Ken Jennings, attended the University of Washington as a freshman before heading off to Brigham Young University in Utah. He is well known as one of the most successful contestants ever on the quiz show, winning 74 games in a row. Jennings has gone on to guest host Jeopardy as well as become the modern face of trivia. His total winnings on the show exceed $4 million.

Jennings worked as a software engineer before appearing on the game show and has since written books and is a guest expert on other game shows as well.

Kenny G

As one of the most famous modern saxophonists of our time, Kenny G started his career on stage at the University of Washington. Born Kenny Gorlick, he performed his first jazz solo while attending UW and earned a degree in 1978 in accounting.

Kenny G has sold more than 71 million records sold globally over his career and is touted as one of the best selling artists of all time.

Kyle MacLachlan

Another actor that stems from the UW stage is Kyle MacLachlan, mostly known for his work on Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, and How I Met Your Mother. MacLachlan graduated from the University of Washington in 1982 and is one of the most well known actors to call UW an alma mater.

Patrick Duffy

Another Husky actor, Patrick Duffy, found success on the small screen after graduating from UW in 1971. Duffy starred in the TV series Dallas for 12 years and then moved on to produce, direct, and act in the sitcom Step by Step.

Rainn Wilson

As one of the most famous characters from the hit TV show The Office, Rainn Wilson earned his degree in drama as a UW Husky in 1986. His off-beat and quirky character, Dwight, made Wilson a household name with plenty of recognition during and after the show ended. Wilson also starred in multiple shows, including Six Feet Under, Backstrom, Utopia, and Mom.

Rick Steves

As a famous travel writer and television personality, Rick Steves can often be heard on the radio encouraging others to visit other countries and cities that are off the beaten path. Steves hosts the radio show Travel with Rick Steves and has a TV show, Rick Steves' Europe, on public television. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1978 with a degree in European history and business administration.

Ryan Lewis

As an American DJ, rapper and songwriter, there is almost nothing in the music industry that Ryan Lewis doesn't do. He is a friend of Macklemore and produced, recorded, mixed, and engineered the duo's most successful songs like "Thrift Shop" and "Same Love." Lewis graduated from UW in 2009.

Lewis has also spent time as a graphic designer, music video director, videographer, photographer, and record producer during his career.

Suzanna Darcy-Henneman

While you may not know her name, Suzanna Darcy-Henneman is famous in her own rite. She earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from UW in 1981 and became the first woman test pilot at Boeing. Darcy-Henneman also set a world record for flying the longest commercial jet flight in 2005 when she flew from Hong Kong to London, over 12,000 miles.

Warren Moon

The Huskies football team enjoyed the talent of Warren Moon in 1978 when the team won the Rose Bowl and the Pac-8 title. Moon went on to play in the NFL and was the first quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in one professional season. He also was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Moon also spent some time playing for the Canadian Football League and was a broadcaster for the Seattle Seahawks until 2017.;

Plenty of famous actors, politicians, authors, and athletes have all called the UW campus home at one point in their lives. While many went on to achieve great things, it is essential to note that more than a few received a degree in a field that they are not well known for.



These University of Washington notable alumni earned their degrees and then followed their hearts in a career that may or may not have been what they studied at all. It just goes to show that you can do anything you want in life!

It is comforting to know how many UW graduates went onto great things after graduation. They walked the same halls as you and enjoyed the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest that you pass by every day. They may even live in a UW housing complex near your own!

Attending the University of Washington, either as a Washington state resident or from out of state, allows you a high level of education with plenty of notable alumni that have made a lasting mark on the world. What is holding you back from becoming just like one of these washington notable alumni in the future?