Within the first week of the fall freshman semester, practically every Marshall student learns Billy Crystal spent time in the Thundering Herd.
Of course, legendary Jets quarterback Chad Pennington threw the pigskin for The Herd, to the great wide receiver Randy Moss, no less.
However, Marshall University has produced more than a few NFL superstars and the star of Throw Momma from the Train.
Here are seven Marshall Alumni who are made their marks as Sons and Daughters of Marshall.
1. Carwood Lipton
Carwood Lipton didn’t drop out of his first year at Marshall College because he had poor grades; he dropped out to provide for his handicapped mother and his siblings.
Then he stayed dropped out for three more years, doing his part to stop Hitler from taking over the world.
Lipton served in World War II from 1942 to 1945 as a paratrooper in Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division, famously portrayed in the HBO series Band of Brothers.
Rising from enlisted grunt to First Lieutenant, Lipton was recognized not only for his bravery in the field, but keeping his men’s spirits up.
After the war, the Huntington native returned to Marshall College and graduated with a degree in engineering.
2. Robert C. Byrd
This is more for the out-of-state student, virtually anyone born in the Mountain State knows Robert C. Byrd.
There’s nary a county in the state without something named after the longest-serving senator in United State’s history.
Byrd’s career in Congress spanned from the Truman administration until his death during the Obama administration.
Using his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Byrd was able to funnel in millions of federal dollars to fund public works projects around the state.
While serving in state politics, Byrd attended Marshall College, as well as Concord, Beckley and Harvey Morris colleges (now University of Charleston).
After serving 42 years in Congress, Byrd graduated from Marshall University with a bachelor’s in political science in 1994.
He graduated summa cum laude that year—would you expect any less from a Raleigh County boy?
3. Breece Pancake
You might not have heard of Breece D’J Pancake, but spend anytime with a Marshall University English major, and his name is bound to pop up.
Born in South Charleston and reared up in Milton, just a few miles down the road from Huntington, the short story writer transferred to Marshall University after briefly attending West Virginia Wesleyan College in the 1970s.
Before you ask, Pancake’s name is not a pseudonym. The quote mark between his middle initials is a misprint he never bothered correcting.
Pancake was published six times in The Atlantic, a premier magazine for American writers.
With curt, minimalist prose, Pancake set most of his short stories in the hollers of West Virginia—an Ernest Hemingway of the hills, if you will.
Tragically, Pancake’s promising writing career was cut short after he died by his own hand while attending the University of Virginia.
A posthumous short-story collection published in 1983 was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Following Pancake’s death, Kurt Vonnegut, renowned for his novels The Slaughter House Five and Cat’s Cradle, wrote this to a friend:
“I give you my word of honor that he is merely the best writer, the most sincere writer I’ve ever read. What I suspect is that it hurt too much, was no fun at all to be that good.”
4. Conchata Ferrell
A Mountaineer transfer to The Thundering Herd, Conchata Ferrell’s most famous role was as the wisecracking house keeper Berta on the CBS hit sitcom Two and a Half Men.
Her name and face became synonymous with television’s prime time during her 12 years playing opposite of Charlie Sheen, and later Ashton Kutcher.
Ferrell’s career as a supporting actress also placed her alongside many Hollywood A-listers, most notably Julia Roberts. She appeared alongside Roberts in the latter’s breakout film Mystic Pizza, as well as in her legal drama Erin Brockovich.
She also appeared in other critically acclaimed films like Network, Edward Scissorhands and Mr. Deeds.
5. Marvin L. Stone
Sure, Marvin L. Stone isn’t a household name. But U.S. News and World Report is, even if it’s just for the annual college rankings.
Stone, who graduated from Marshall College in 1947, headed the prestigious news magazine from 1976 to 1985.
During his time as the editor-in-chief, Stone shifted the magazine’s conservative tone towards the center and opened more opportunities for minorities.
After leaving U.S. News and World Report, Stone served in the Reagan administration. He passed on in 2001.
Stone is the only person included on this list who’s not from West Virginia, but don’t hold that against him.
Technically, Byrd was born in North Carolina, but there ain’t too many West Virginians who count that.
6. Brad Dourif
Marshall University is one of those schools big enough to have your space, but small enough for people to know each other by face at least.
Turns out actor Brad Dourif, a Huntingtonian in good standing, was college chums with Conchata Ferrell, who advised him to drop out and pursue acting in New York City.
Dourif went on to play in some of the most iconic roles of the past 40 years.
Breaking out in his role as the stuttering Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dourif achieved infamy as the voice of Chucky the killer doll in the Child’s Play franchise.
Known primarily for playing bizarre and disturbing characters, Dourif also appeared as Grima Wormtounge in the Lord of the Rings series, as a corrupt deputy in Mississippi Burning and as a henchman in the surreal mystery Blue Velvet.
Interestingly, though he plays such horrific characters, Dourif has said in interviews that he doesn’t personally watch horror films.
7. Hal Greer
Hal Greer is not only a son of Marshall, but a son of Huntington.
Just read the sign off the I-64 exit for downtown Huntington—it’s Hal Greer Boulevard.
Any and all this recognition is appropriate.
After all, he was the first African American scholarship athlete to attend Marshall.
During his time dribbling for The Herd, Greer led the team in points for 71 games, set the school’s record for baskets sunk and was named the conference’s most valuable player.
Other professional success soon followed.
And national recognition too.
He is the only African American athlete to be dedicated in a major sports hall of fame.
Drafted by the Syracuse Nationals in 1958, Greer proved himself for five seasons and made the NBA All Star Team in 1961.
When the team moved to Philadelphia in 1963 and became the 76’ers, he achieved legendary status playing alongside Wilt Chamberlain.
It was a good time for West Virginia basketball; Greer is considered one of the greatest guards of the era, alongside Mountaineer Jerry West.