Life at ‘Nova was good for these alum …

Cheryl McEvoy

Villanova’s campus is missing something this year. There are no light sabers in sight, no somersault attacks. Villanova’s resident celebrity, Mendel Doug, has moved on. To some Villanovans, Doug had the right idea: go to class – sometimes – and just have fun. Now, we realize that careers actually are in our futures. But have no fear – here are a few Villanova alums who have done pretty well for themselves outside the limits of campus.

Lt. Col. Andrew AllenMove over, Tom Cruise; Lt. Col. Allen is Villanova’s true Maverick. When Allen received his engineering degree in 1977, the sky wasn’t the limit – it was just the beginning. He flew with the U.S. Marine Corps in South Carolina, then was stationed in California, where he attended the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, better known as Top Gun. After graduating from test pilot school in 1987, Allen turned his sights to infinity and beyond; he became a NASA astronaut and completed three missions before retiring in 1997.

Maria BelloThe Golden Globe-nominated actress can thank Villanova for her success in Tinseltown. Well, sort of. According to, Bello, who graduated from ‘Nova in 1989 as a political science major, had her sights set on a law degree until she took an acting class during her senior year. Registration on a whim paid off, as she quickly discovered a passion – and talent – for acting. Bello later graced the small screen on such shows as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “E.R.,” then jumped to movies, playing roles in such films as “Coyote Ugly” and “Thank You for Smoking.” In 2004, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in “The Cooler,” and in 2006, received a best actress nomination for “A History of Violence.” Chances are, she won’t be hitting the law books anytime soon – unless it’s for a role, of course.

Jim CroceCheck out any Spires concert and you have to admit, those guys have serious pipes. But can all the oohs, ahhs and beat-boxing really launch a career? For Jim Croce, Class of 1965 (Arts and Sciences), performing with the Singers and Spires was the start of a successful musical career. Croce performed in coffeehouses and bars before recording his first album in 1968. His big break came with the release of “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” the title track off his second album. Croce is best known, however, for the 1973 No. 1 hit, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” His career was cut short in September 1973 when his plane crashed during takeoff, but you can still hear his songs on the radio today.

John DrosdickNext time you fill up the tank so you can make it to that 11:30 a.m. class, be glad that a Villanova alumnus keeps Sunoco stations in ship shape. John Drosdick, who graduated with a degree in chemical engineering in 1965, has been at the wheel of the gas giant as chairman of the board of directors, president and CEO since May 2000. In addition to leading the company ranked No. 70 on Forbes’ 400 Best Big Companies 2006 list, Drosdick also serves as director of the United States Steel Corporation and the H.J. Heinz Corporation.

Bert JacobsFor Bert Jacobs, life isn’t just good; it’s pretty darn fabulous. Thanks to a smiling stick figure named Jake, Bert and his brother, John, run an $80 million (and growing) business: the Life is Good brand. A communication major, Bert graduated Villanova in 1987, then joined his brother in Boston, where the pair sold T-shirts out of a van. Now, the business sports a list of clientele that includes Michael J. Fox, Stephen King and the average tourist on South Street. The brand has also expanded to includes items ranging from hats to duffle bags to dog toys. But the Jacobs brothers don’t just sell the gear; they want to make sure life is good and even established the Life is Good Kids Foundation for “children facing unfair challenges.”

Hazel Johnson-BrownWhen Hazel Johnson-Brown received her bachelor’s degree from Villanova’s School of Nursing in 1959, she was already on track to make history. In 1955, Johnson-Brown joined the U.S. Army, which had recently been desegregated. She was commissioned to the Army Nurse Corps in 1960 and quickly worked up the medical ranks, serving as dean of the Walker Reed Army Institute of Nursing and chief nurse of the U.S. Army Medical Command in Korea. In 1979, Johnson-Brown became the first black woman to serve as general in the Army and the first black chief of the Army Nurse Corps. Today, she is Professor Emerita of Nursing at George Mason University.

Howie LongWhether his name conjures images of football plays or Radio Shack batteries, Howie Long is one of Villanova’s most famous alumni. Long spent four years on the Villanova gridiron, but when he wasn’t at practice, he was working on a degree in the College of Arts and Sciences. Drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 1981, Long played defensive end and sacked his way to a Super Bowl victory in 1983. Long was named NFL Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1984 and 1986 and played in eight Pro Bowls. In 2000, he was inducted into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame. Though Long retired from the game after 13 seasons, fans could still catch him on the tube every night, either as an NFL sports analyst or as Teri Hatcher’s other half in those oh-so-cheesy Radio Shack ads – and no, the two were never married.

Gov. Edward RendellSome undergrads may only know Garey Hall as the strange building across from St. Mary’s, but Pennsylvania’s leading man knows it well – and so does his wife. Long before he became the state’s 45th Governor, Rendell graced the halls of the School of Law as a member of the Class of 1968. With the bar exam under his belt, Rendell served as district attorney of Philadelphia from 1978 to 1985 and as mayor from 1992 to 1999. Gov. Rendell is now in his second term as governor of the Commonwealth. His wife, the Honorable Marjorie Rendell, was a member of the Class of 1973 and is now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.

Brian WestbrookWho knows what the Eagles’ running back feasts on now, but back in his college days, Brian Westbrook was an average Villanovan ordering omelets in the Pit. Well, maybe not average; in 1998, the Business student became the first college football player to record 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in one season. He also won the Walter Payton Award as the top player in Villanova’s division in 2001. After graduation, Westbrook joined the Eagles and became a starter in 2004, a season that ended with the Super Bowl game against the Patriots. He continues to play well year after year. And good news for fans on campus: Westbrook is signed to stay in Philly through 2010.

So, next time your parents ask “What are you going to do with that major?” rattle off a few names of Villanova notables. That, or just hope to see Doug dash by on a return visit.