August 29, 2017

Fun Facts about GPA Alma Maters

Harker Hall, University of Illinois


Summer is practically over and if college-bound men and women haven’t headed back to their schools yet, they will be soon. In honor of the new school year, we’ve scoured the web looking for interesting tidbits about the institutions of higher learning attended by our very own GPA staff.

We found a lot crazy stuff—some inspirational things, too—and shared them below:


1) Celebrity classmates

GPA Consulting is headquartered in the Los Angeles area, where Hollywood reigns. So, it isn’t that unusual to spot celebrities, or former celebrities, on area campuses. Academy Award-winning Steven Spielberg graduated in 2002—yes, long after “Jaws,” “Indiana Jones,” “ET,” “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan”—from the California State University of Long Beach. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Film and Electronic Arts. Students at Cal State Northridge must have been surprised to see actress Eva Longoria (known for her role in “Desperate Housewives”) on campus. She returned to school to get her master’s degree in Chicano Studies; she graduated in 2013.

GPA staff members can also count among their fellow alums: Julia Stiles, Jake Gyllenhaal, James Franco (Columbia University), Weird Al Yankovic (California State Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo), Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer (University of Southern California). Does the name Marion Mitchell Morrison ring a bell? He’s no other than USC alum John Wayne. What do you think about that, Pilgrim?

2) Location, location, location

When choosing a place to go to school, some students make it about location, location, location. As far as natural locations go, Humboldt State University, voted “Best in the West” by the Princeton Review, is situated in one of the most beautiful natural places in the world. Located less than 300 miles north of San Francisco, Humboldt State is surrounded by ancient redwood forests, pristine coastline, and wild rivers. The University of Hawaii at Manoa—tropical paradise; enough said.

Many other GPA alma maters have served as film locales. Columbia University, whose Lion mascot inspired MGM Studio, has served as a backdrop to many Hollywood movies, including “Spiderman” and “Ghostbusters.” The University of California, Los Angeles has stood in for Ivy League schools like Princeton, Harvard, and Yale in movies and TV shows. The UCLA campus can also be seen in “Old School,” “Legally Blonde,” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

3) They spell relief: n-a-p

Finals can be especially taxing on students. Many universities have come up with ways to help ease the burden of studying for finals. The University of California, Davis provides students with a “Campus Nap Map” that points out the best places on campus to catch a wink or two.

UCLA and the University of California, Santa Barbara take another, more primal, tact: a midnight Undie Run. Yep, students reduce stress by stripping down to their tighty-whities and running!

4) Odd traditions

Students of the University of Pennsylvania take things literally. In a tradition that dates back to Prohibition, students toast their football team at home games, literally with toast. It started as a protest to the alcohol ban. At the end of the game, a “toast zamboni” cleans up.
Nothing says school spirit like raining warm bread, well, except raining tortillas. Whenever the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos score a soccer goal, students toss tortillas onto the field.

Some of the odder school traditions surround rituals to attract good luck. Students at Eastern Kentucky University stop by a statue of Daniel Boone, an American frontiersman, to rub the toe of his left boot for good test scores. The 50-year-old bronze statue may be tarnished from head to ankle, but that toe shines like gold!

University of California, Berkeley students roll down 4.0 Hill to get good grades. When it comes to the nearby Berkeley seal, they are cautious not to step it. It is believed that students who step on it will be cursed for the year.

5) Just plain quirky

Loyola Marymount University’s U-Hall was originally constructed by Howard Hughes, the famed Hollywood producer, aviation innovator, and, later, reclusive eccentric, for Hughes Aircraft Company. It was here that Hughes’ company manufactured military weapons, electronics, and aircraft—including the famous Spruce Goose. The building, students claim, is odd. The building’s odd set up could be attributed to Hughes obsessive-compulsive disorder or to the nature of the building when it was first constructed, that of military weapons and aircraft.

Speaking of mysterious buildings, Savannah College of Art and Design has buildings that no one, not even students, knows about. SCAD alum, ever heard of Charlton Hall?

6) Unusual mascots

Who needs Vili the Warrior when you have the SCAD Bee or the University of California, Santa Cruz Banana Slug? Santa Cruz’s mascot was almost changed to the sea lion back in the 1980s, but the students revolted and school decided to keep the Banana Slug.

For a brief time in the ’80s, New York University’s mascot was a Flower. When university officials realized the Flower didn’t really instill fear in rivals, they changed it to a Bobcat.

USC probably has one of the most recognizable school mascots. Or does it? USC’s mascot isn’t Tommy Trojan; it’s really Traveler the Horse!

7) Sports fan rejoice

Collegiate life and sports go hand in hand. In 1895, the University of Illinois—along with Purdue, Northwestern, Michigan, Wisconsin, University of Chicago, and Minnesota—created policies to govern college athletics. The result was the Big 10 Conference, one of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s most competitive conferences in sports today.

Did you know the first-ever televised sporting event in the United States was the 1939 baseball game between Columbia and Princeton University? Columbia, by the way, is the only school to have two alums in the Baseball Hall of Fame: Lou Gehrig and Eddie Collins.

Harry Potter fans may be delighted to know that NYU has a World Champion Quidditch team. Yep. Quidditch. Where team members ride on broomsticks to catch the golden snitch and keep possession of the quaffle. It’s a real thing now.

8) At war

Georgia Institute of Technology has an extensive history; even the property it stands on is historical. It is the site of the surrender of Atlanta during America’s Civil War.

America was drawn into World War II when the Empire of Japan attacked U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Classes at the University of Hawaii were suspended for two months following the attack. When students returned, gas masks were part of commencement apparel. In 1942, UH students of Japanese ancestry formed the Varsity Victory Volunteers and many later joined the highly decorated 442nd Regiment and 100th Infantry Battalion.

In April 2004, students at Loyola Marymount University had to be evacuated when construction workers found two WWII-era bomb casings at a development project just 300 yards from the campus. The casings were found at the former site of the Hughes Aircraft Company.

During Vietnam War protests at UC Berkeley in the 1960s, students chained the handles of a set of double doors that led to the University Chancellor’s office, locking the Chancellor inside. The Chancellor used a series of underground steam tunnels built in the early 1900s to escape. Today, there is only one doorknob on the set of doors.

9) Consumer innovations

You can thank University of Illinois chemical engineers for Tide, Wrigley Gum, Pantene, Cottonelle, Kleenex, Cascade, Smirnoff Ice, Budweiser, and Cheerios. And may soon thank researchers at UC Santa Cruz for on-time flights. UCSC is managing a 10-year research program with NASA on human space exploration, air traffic management, and nanotechnology. Among the projects is software that will help, hopefully, air traffic controllers reduce delays and increase safety.


Top Photo: Harker Hall at the University of Illinois was built in 1877. It originally served as the university’s chemical laboratory.