The Top Twenty Most Influential Alumni
of Phi Delta Theta

By Jay-Raymond N. Abad, UC Irvine, 2002

#1 Frank Lloyd Wright
Wright was both an architect and a great visionary who revolutionized not only his field but the rest of society and therefore he occupies the top of the list as Phi Delta Theta’s most influential alumnus. No other Phi has so greatly influenced the way we live than Wright. Among his inventions was the pre-cast concrete blocks reinforced by steel rods which has made buildings bigger and stronger than ever. He also introduced numerous innovations, including air conditioning, indirect lighting, panel heating, the carport, glass doors and the modern day living room. His work forms the basis of the fundamental concepts of modern architecture. His visions back then has now become the standard today. He made his buildings into a work of art by blending nature with inanimate objects. The effects of his work are still being felt decades after his death and there are no signs his legacy will ever fade.

#2 Powel Crosley
Crosley is a name unfamiliar to younger generations. He is probably the most unheralded of all the Famous Phis and today his name is largely forgotten by American society but if one were to step back and look at what he accomplished, one will see how truly remarkable his contributions were. Simply put, he did it all in multiple fields. Crosley is by far, Phi Delta Theta’s greatest inventor. Among his many innovations included the push button radio, the first cars to have disc brakes, the first refrigerator with shelves in the door, and the most powerful radio broadcast system in the world. In World War II he helped create the proximity fuse. His company was the first to manufacture proximity fuses which were designed to detonate an explosive automatically when close enough to a target. It was credited by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General George Patton among others in helping to contribute to allied victory. So great was the importance of the fuse that it was regarded as the third greatest innovation brought on by the war behind the atomic bomb and the radar. The Crosley Corporation was regarded as one of the most important defense contractors in WWII. Also during the war years, it was his company which built the high-power shortwave transmitters that became the “Voice of America” the official broadcasting service of the US government. He was the founder of Crosley Automobiles and Radios turning the corporation into one of the most profitable of the first half of the 20th Century. His company was the first to introduce mass produced "economy" cars. For the sports fan, he was the owner of the Cincinnati Reds. In fact the home of the Reds for several decades was known as Crosley Field. With the help of Larry MacPhail, Crosley Field was the first to ever hold night games.

#3 Neil Armstrong
If Influential also means Inspirational then Armstrong deserves his iconic status in world history. It can be argued that Armstrong is not only the most famous member of Phi Delta Theta but also one of the most famous members of any fraternity. How? While other names on this list are only known to Phis or Americans his name resonates internationally not necessarily because of what he did but what he stands for. Armstrong gave hope and gave birth to the dreams of future generations making millions believe that anything is possible. July 20, 1969 is one of the most recognizable dates in world history.

# 4 Benjamin Harrison
There is no greater position of power in the United States than that of the Presidency. By today’s standards Harrison would be considered an average President, however many historians have argued that he formed the basis of an aggressive foreign policy which continues to this day. He was part of the first Pan-American Conference. No other Phi has ever been placed in such a high office where his decisions directly affected the lives of millions

# 5 Lou Gehrig
Gehrig was one of the most dominant baseball players in his era and among the greatest in history. His awards and accomplishments include League MVP, the Triple Crown, Batting Titles and several World Series Championships. To this day he still holds several baseball records including most career grand slams and most RBIs in a single season. As a testimony to his character and ability, in a poll taken in 1999 by Major League Baseball, Gehrig was not only selected on Major League Baseball's All-Century Team but he was the leading vote getter even beating out his team mate, Babe Ruth. Gehrig is not only a legend in Baseball, but he is among one of the greatest players in Sports history. He became a standard to what all athletes of any sport are measured by. He embodied great skill and even greater character, but most of all he played for the love of the game. Gehrig's streak of 2,130 games is remarkable in that later in his career his hands were X-rayed, and doctors were able to spot 17 different fractures that had "healed" while he continued to play. Lou Gehrig's accomplishments on the field made him an authentic American hero, and his tragic early death made him a legend.

# 6 Sam Nunn
He served in the United States Senate for over 20 years and became one of the most memorable politicians in the last half of the 20th century. A Democrat, he won the respect and admiration of many, including the Republican Party. During his tenure in office he authored several major legislations. Along with Senator Richard Lugar he created what is regarded as the most important legislative act created after the Cold War. The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Act set about to disarm the nuclear capability of the former Soviet Republics. To date, over 6,000 nuclear warheads have been destroyed as a direct result of his actions. No other Phi has contributed directly and in such a large scale with regards to the safety and security of the world. He has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, one of only two Phis to ever be considered. Having retired from the U.S. Senate, he would go on to be the founder of the Nuclear Threat Initiative which continues to monitor and reduce the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

# 7 James Baker
Although Baker, a Republican, has held many government positions he was never elected to public office. Nevertheless, this did not stop him from making significant contributions in politics. He was the White House Chief of Staff under President Ronald Reagan but is best known for being the Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush. During his tenure at the State Department, Baker traveled to 90 foreign countries as the United States confronted the unprecedented challenges and opportunities of the post Cold War era. He is credited as a leading architect of the peaceful transition from communism to democracy in Europe beginning in 1989. After his tenure, he founded the Baker Institute of Public Policy, located at Rice University. The Institute is regarded as one of the most prestigious organizations of its kind in dealing with political affairs. In 2000 he was called upon by the Bush family to serve as their chief legal advisor. It was his idea to have the outcome of the controversial 2000 election decided by the Supreme Court. Baker was also a special envoy to the president to persuade other countries to relieve Iraqi debts in the Iraq War.

# 8 J. Willard Marriott
Though there have been several Phis who have established multi-billion dollar corporations, Marriott stands out as Phi Delta Theta’s most accomplished businessman. The Marriott Company is synonomous with hotels but it should also be noted that there is also a great deal of involvement in the food industry. Today, Marriot Food Services is the #1 provider of food to airlines wordwide, in addition to their other food service businesses. The Marriott Hotel chain encompasses many other entities including the Ritz-Carlton and is the fourth largest hotel chain in the world; larger than the Hilton, Hyatt and Best Western. Marriott's work ethic serves as a model to all. What started out as a food stand would grow into one of the most well known business empires in the world.

# 9 Major General Frederick Funston
His service took him to the cold frontiers of Alaska to the beaches of the Pacific. He fought with the revolutionaries in Cuba and patrolled the Mexican-American Border in search of the famed revolutionary Pancho Villa. He served with great distinction in the Philippine American War earning him the Medal of Honor. He was tapped by President Woodrow Wilson to lead the US Forces if and when the country would enter the Great War but unfortunately died of a heart attack before he was able to get the chance. At the time of his death, he was America’s highest ranking officer in the Army and was regarded as America’s finest soldier. No other Phi serviceman was as well known or ever held such high esteem in the eyes of an entire country.

# 10 Robert Wise
Wise is Phi Delta Theta’s most accomplished alumnus within the Entertainment Industry. He won a total of 5 Academy Awards, 2 for Directing, 2 for Best Picture and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, an honorary award which recognizes "Creative producers, whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production." It is an award so prestigious that it is not awarded every year. His academy awards were for his work in West Side Story and the Sound of Music, models for which any musical is measured by. Wise was also nominated for best editing for Orson Welles' classic Citizen Kane which is regarded by The American Film Institute as the greatest film in cinema history. Wise would go on to have a storied career spanning nearly six decades and over 40 films while also becoming the President of The Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

# 11 Dr. Thomas Francis
Francis was a renowned physician, virologist and epidemiologist. He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. He was the first to isolate the influeneza virus in the country. In 1938, he took Dr. Jonas Salk under his wing acting as his mentor. Salk would become one of the most important medical researchers of the 20th Century when he discovered the polio vaccine. Meanwhile, Francis directed the mass vaccination of schoolchildren. Though Salk is rightfully credited with the discovery of the vaccine it was Francis who laid the early research and groundwork that enabled the medical breakthrough.

# 12 Dr. Howard Rusk
You often take for granted the recovery process after a surgery or illness or any other medical ailment. However things weren't always the way they are now. Dr. Rusk was considered to be "The Father of Rehabiliation Medicine". He revolutioned medicine by treating the whole person and not just the disease or injury. He was a tireless advocate for improving patient healthcare. He championed the notion that motivation, psychology, and what we would now call "feedback" were as important as surgical reconstruction. The techniques and practices he developed in treating the individual patient are now universal doctrines which govern hospitals and clinics throughout the world. Rusk was also known for his tireless efforts in promoting cooperation with other nations. Along with Sam Nunn, he is one of only two Phis to have ever been consistently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Though he never won the prize, his work was so revered internationally that he was awarded the first Pacem in Terris award by Pope John Paul II, an award which honors those who promote peace and universal harmony.

# 13 Elmer Davis
Never underestimate the power of information during a time of crisis. World War II was arguably the greatest crisis of the 20th Century, directly affecting the lives of every American. During this time, Elmer Davis had one of the most critical jobs in the entire country. Davis was the Director of the Office of War Information. His role in the war was considered to be just as an important as a Field General in Europe or the Pacific. Davis was entrusted by President Roosevelt to not only present information but to ultimately sustain the morale of the American public and thereby winning the war on the homefront. Davis was a great reporter before, during and after the war. During the frenzy of the MacCarthy era it was Davis on the radio, along with Edward R. Murrow on television, who steadied the nerves of the nation with calm, courageous reason.

# 14 Robert Patterson
Robert Patterson lived life and performed in his various roles with determination and quiet dignity. He was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary bravery in World War I. After the war he became a judge until President Franklin Roosevelt appointed him to the very important position of Under Secretary of War in World War II. He became the full Secretary of War under President Truman. Patterson refused an appointment to the US Supreme Court because he felt he had an obligation to the Armed Services first. He strongly advocated unifying the services (army and navy) and having a single chief of staff which was done by the National Security Act of 1947. He was also credited with helping desegregate the U.S. Army. When Patterson was tragically killed on January 22, 1952 in a plane crash, Phi Delta Theta lost one of its most beloved sons while the country lost one of its most influential civil servants.

# 15 Grantland Rice
"For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He will ask not whether you won or lost but how you played the game" This old adage written by Grantland Rice has since become timeless. Rice was known as "The Dean of American Sportswriters" because of his ability to combine drama with what he saw on the field of play. His writing was often emulated by other sportswriters. Rice was so influential that in 1962 he was selected as the first Hall of Fame member of The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame. He is also a recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Aside from his writing legacy another area where Rice is remembered is through the National Champion College Football Trophy which bears his name.

# 16 Dr. F. Story Musgrave
Musgrave is arguably Phi Delta Theta’s smartest person... literally. He holds 2 Bachelors, 3 Masters and a Medical Degree from Columbia University. With a NASA career spanning 30 years, he flew in 6 shuttle missions including the first. He also holds the distinction of being the only astronaut to fly on all shuttles. Musgrave is also credited for helping to develop much of the spacesuits, life support systems, airlocks and manned maneuvering units that are used for space walks and other extravehicular activity on the Space Shuttle missions. Musgrave is a true Renaissance Man: he is a pilot, surgeon, mechanic, poet, philosopher and writer. He is also a consultant for Disney Imagineering and continues to advocate exploration of the far reaches of the universe. Musgrave is the ultimate true role model of the sentiment: "Make The Most With Your Life".

# 17 Dr. Alton Ochsner
Today it is common knowledge that the abundant use of tobacco causes severe health problems. However, this was not always thought to be true until 1939 when Dr. Alton Ochsner made the first discovery between tobacco and lung cancer. Ochsner would have one of the most distinguished careers in medicine. He founded the Ochsner Clinic Foundation which is one of the most well-known clincs of its kind. Currently, it is one of the largest, non-university based physician training centers in the U.S. with over 350 medical residents and 250 allied health students annually. It is also a leader in medical research with approximately 650 ongoing research trials, and nearly 200 annual publications in medical literature. Ochsner's legacy in medicine continues to this day.

# 18 Louis Bromfield
Louis Bromfield is Phi Delta Theta's first famous fiction writer. In 1926 he was the first Phi to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his work "Early Autumn". He was often compared to the great writers of his day such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck. In fact it was he who helped Ernest Hemingway to first get published. His books created a path to the world of Hollywood - Bromfield's novels were among the first adapted for feature-length sound films. Among his many close friends were Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Of his 30 books, many--such as The Rains Came and Mrs. Parkington--were made into successful motion pictures. Aside from being a writer, he was a great agriculturist who revolutionized the field and developed techniques which are still used today. He became internationally known both as a writer and a scientific farmer.

# 19 Byron Price
Director of Censorship during World War II, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, Vice President of the Motion Picture Arts Association and respected Writer of the Associated Press. It is not so much all the positions that Price held but the type of positions he held. Byron Price was one of the most influential figures during his time because he was placed in offices that not only directly affected the United States but the world as well.

# 20 Frank Stanton
The CBS President for over thirty years, and a three time recipient of the Peabody Award, Stanton organized the first televised presidential debate in American history. The first debate was held and televised in the CBS studio in Chicago; John F. Kennedy vs. Richard M. Nixon. After the debate Stanton met with Richard J. Daley, the mayor of Chicago, who decided that after seeing the debate he would tell his men to go all out for Kennedy. Daley's support made an enormous difference, because it turned out that Illinois determined the election. During his time Stanton was a powerful and extremely influential media executive who is also noted for leading the charge for colorized television.

Honorable Mention

Van Heflin
Before, Burt Reynolds, Tim Conway or Dabney Coleman, Heflin was Phi Delta Theta’s first true Hollywood super star. His name is largely forgotten today but it is important to know that Van Heflin is the only Phi to receive an Academy Award for acting. He took the art of acting seriously and considered it privelage once remarking: "I just didn't have the looks and if I didn't do a good acting job I looked terrible." He is the only Phi to have two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for television and another for motion pictures. Heflin is also one of the rare actors who has an imprint on the world famous forecourt of Graumann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. His storied career includes nearly 60 feature films.

William Allen White
White was one of the most celebrated literary figures of the first half of the 20th century. He was the editor for the The Emporia Gazette up until his death in 1944. White won the Pulitzer Prize for his editorial "To An Anxious Friend" in 1923.

Roger Ebert
In 1975 he became the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Ebert has honorary degrees from the University of Colorado, the American Film Institute, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in June 2005 becoming the first professional film critic to receive this honor. Through his newspaper reviews, books, television shows, and lectures, he has contributed perhaps more than anyone to the appreciation of film among the general American public.

Thomas Hardwick
Thomas Hardwick is the only Phi to be Governor of State, Senator and Congressman. Among his notable accomplishments was his strong opposition to the Ku Klux Klan in the State of Georgia and the appointment of the first woman in the United States Senate.

Dwight F. Davis
Davis like F. Story Musgrave was a great Renassiance man. A remarkable athlete, he is best known for being the name sake of the Davis Cup in tennis. His awards in tennis include winnning the Wimbledon and being enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1956. However, his accomplishments were beyond tennis. He fought in World War I earning the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award for valor; second only to the Medal of Honor. He retired from the Army with the rank of Major General. Amazingly, his accomplishments crossed over to government where he became The Secretary of War under President Coolidge and was appointed as the Governor-General of the Philippines by President Hoover. During his life he was considered to be one of the great Americans of his era.

William Henry Hays
In 1922 Hays was hired by the Hollywood movie studios as the first president of the Motion Picture Association of America. By the time he retired from the position in 1945 he turned the organization into one of the most powerful in the entertainment industry. He was the namesake of the Hays Code the forerunner of the rating system for motion pictures. Aside from his great influence in the entertainment industry, Hays was the chairman of Republican National Committee and U.S. Postmaster General. He was also the campaign manager for Warren G. Harding's successful campaign for the Presidency of the United States in the 1920 U.S. presidential election.

Hermon H. Scott
Scott was a great intellectual, businessman and inventor. He invented the RC oscillator, an important development because of it's current application in regards to the the pacemaker. He held more than 100 patents (U.S. and foreign) for original research in the field of electronics. He would eventually establish Scott Inc. which specialized in radio and electronics.