Murray State produces famous alumni

With an upcoming visit from television personality Bill Nye, students are used to notable people visiting campus. Little do they know, but a handful of notable people spent their college years at Murray State.

The most recent notable alumnus of Murray State is Houston Rockets basketball player Isaiah Canaan.

The point guard gained national attention after successful seasons with the Racers before joining the NBA.

Canaan earned multiple awards at Murray State including the OVC Freshman of the Year and a two-time OVC Player of the Year. As a junior, Canaan and the Racers saw much of their national fame grow as the team won 23 consecutive games.

While Murray State basketball has been a popular sport for the Racers, Kenyan Wesley Korir has run his way to fame after leaving Murray State.

Korir, who transferred to University of Louisville after Murray State dropped the track program, made a name for himself through running, politics and non-profit.

The runner competed in many large marathons, including the Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston marathons and placed first in the races three times in the past four years. He holds a personal best marathon record of 2:06:13 and runs professionally for Nike.

Outside of running, Korir is a member of the Kenyan Parliament after assuming office in March 2013 and will serve a five-year term.

Additionally, Korir and his wife founded the Kenyan Kids Foundation and are working on building a hospital in Korir’s hometown of Kitale.

The foundation’s purpose, according to its website, is to “spread God’s love throughout Kenya by helping to eradicate poverty through education, healthcare and self-sufficiency.”

Senior Keri Yannucci said she believes athletes such as Canaan and Korir bring positive attention to Murray State sports and can be an inspiration to students.

“People know that there are different ways to be successful,” Yannucci said. “They can make it in other ways than a normal career. They can be famous, too.”

While athletes can bring attention to sports, Murray State has seen theater graduates shine after their years on campus.

Alumna Chrishell Staus found success after she graduated in 2003 and landed a role as Amanda Dillon-Martin on the popular soap opera “All My Children”.

After the show ended in 2011, Staus landed a role on “Days of Our Lives” one of the longest running television programs in the world with 48 seasons and more than 12,200 episodes.

Staus studied theater before graduating and is originally from Kentucky. Having experienced homelessness while growing up, Staus is involved with the organization Upward Bound House, which works to eliminate homelessness.

Freshman Kelsey Woodcock said she thinks Staus and those like her could help students prepare for life after college.

“If she could come back, it would give students a good connection,” Woodcock said. “She’s been through it and could give students advice about auditions and good information.”


Other notable alumni include:

• Forrest C. Pogue, graduated in 1931, the official U.S. Army historian during World War II

• Jude Deveraux, graduated in 1970, a romance novelist with 37 New York Times best-seller novels

W. Earl Brown, graduated in 1986, had roles in HBO’s “Deadwood,” FX’s “American Horror Story,” “There’s Something About Mary” and “Scream.”

• Kirk Rueter, graduated in 1991, retired from major league baseball in 2005 as the most successful left-handed pitcher in San Francisco Giants history


Story by Mary Bradley, Staff writer