Central Michigan University has proven to be the spark of opportunity for many famous faces.
Former Chippewa celebrities are more common than one might think. From Amy Roloff on the hit TLC show “Little People, Big World,” to “Dumb and Dumber” star Jeff Daniels, maroon and gold alumni are scattered throughout Hollywood.
Brad Slaight graduated from CMU with a bachelor’s degree in education and a major in theater. Slaight’s most known acting roles are in “The Young and The Restless,” “Married with Children” and NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” Slaight has also contributed to writing and producing “Family Feud” and MTV’s “Parental Control.”
“Just last week, I was in Hollywood and saw someone wearing the familiar maroon and gold CMU sweatshirt, and I stopped to talk to them,” Slaight said. “That’s the kind of connection that comes from going to a great university like CMU.”
Slaight said the theater and interpretation department had great professionals on staff, and theater students received a first-class education.
But Slaight said his experiences and growth at CMU went beyond just academic achievements and stage performances.
“For me, being a full-time student not only prepared me for the future I now live in but also gave me the time needed to mature a bit to be able to function in that future,” Slaight said. “There is much to be said for the importance of that.”
“Marley & Me” author John Grogan, a CMU alum who double-majored in English and journalism, said working at Central Michigan Life gave him real-life journalism experience when a story he was working on received statewide, and even a bit of national, coverage. The story was about the Federal Bureau of Investigation spying on The Young Socialist Alliance, a former registered student organization on campus.
“That was my first taste of the excitement of breaking a big, important story, and it inspired me to stick with journalism,” Grogan said.
Grogan said he was a mediocre student in high school and didn’t take his schoolwork seriously, but, when he arrived at CMU, something changed.
“I almost instantly fell in love with learning and threw myself headlong into my courses. The experience was so different from high school, so much more stimulating and challenging,” he said.
Grogan said he thrived as a student at CMU and found a home on the CM Life staff, where he worked as a reporter during all four years of his undergraduate education.
Slaight said he got involved on campus by joining student groups. He said many of his memories came from a street theatre comedy troupe called “The Other People” when he was a student.
“We felt the need to let people know who we were. So, on a football game day, as students streamed towards Rose Arena to see the mighty Chips, we gathered around the pond outside the stadium. As I shouted unintelligibly, I walked straight into the pond,” Slaight said.
Andrew Dost, the pianist for the rock band fun, also got involved in the community, playing in a band called Anathallo during his time at CMU in 2004.
“I would say one of my favorite things about CMU was that, for the first time in my life, I had met my friends,” Dost told CM Life last March. “It was a place to meet lifelong friends.”
Dost has had great success since attending CMU. His band, fun., was recently nominated for six Grammy Awards and is currently on a worldwide tour.
Another way alumni gain celebrity status is through sports.
In 2010, CMU wide receiver Antonio Brown took part in the NFL draft and has seen much success in the pros over the past two years.
After signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011, Brown became the first NFL player to have more than 1,000 yards receiving and returning in the same year. In July, Brown signed a five-year extension with the Steelers for $42.5 million.
In 2010, Brown told CM Life the community in Mount Pleasant helped him get ready for his professional career.
“It really prepped me as a man, just staying grounded and being respectful. A lot of people at CMU really helped me — they really care about me,” Brown said.
CMU celebrity alumni seem to graduate with not only their diplomas, but a sense of community and connection with the campus.
Slaight said he now lives in Los Angeles but feels a connection to CMU that will live inside him forever, recalling his recent return to CMU for a theater reunion and noting that the friendships he formed in college have withstood the test of time.
“If you graduate from Central Michigan University, or even just attend there for a couple of years, you are a Chip for life,” Slaight said.