Index of Alumni Profiles

Browse a comprehensive list of all Harvardwood Alumni Profiles below, and find out who our regular Member Profile writers/interviewers are!

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May 2019 | Kelley Nicole Purcell AB '02

Kelley_Purcell.jpg(Senior Director of Member Outreach, The Recording Academy)

By Stephanie Ferrarie AB '18

Kelley Nicole Purcell ‘02 let her love for music guide her path to be a singer, artist, and champion for the artistic community—including our own Harvardwood community! (She served as the Executive Director of Harvardwood from 2009 to 2013). Now the Senior Director of Member Outreach for the Recording Academy, Kelley has toured in Africa with the band Soulfege, released multiple EPs as a solo artist, and now attends the GRAMMYs annually. She also performs in Shattered Glass, a musical-poetry hybrid performance piece surrounding the healing power of art.

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April 2019 | Susan Morris Novick AB '85

smn.jpgPast HAA President; Writer featured in the NYTFood Network

By Cristina Slattery

Susan Morris Novick’s great passion has been the arts for many reasons, not least of which is “its role in creating empathy,” she shares. This former president of the Harvard Alumni Association from 2017-2018 has spent her professional life in and around theater, film, and the arts. 

Morris Novick began her career as a talent agent for actors and writers at The Gersh Agency, eventually creating the book department in the New York office. She then chose to return to writing herself, working as a writer/producer on a restaurant travel show called Dining Around at the Food Network.

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March 2019 | Grant Thompson AB '98

Actor, Writer, & Producer (McFarland, USAUp at Noon with Greg Miller)

By Stephanie Ferrarie AB '18

fullsizeoutput_1766.jpegThe career of Grant Thompson AB '98 is varied and broad, much like his interests. A native of Gainesville, Florida, Thompson grew up playing sports, writing and acting in his high school drama club, and contributing to sketches for homecoming. While well-rounded, he didn’t consider himself a TV or film buff, and until he took Math 21A, he was planning to study math at Harvard. Instead, he studied history.

Meanwhile, he played basketball from freshman through junior year, in addition to being a member of the Phillips Brooks House Association. Thompson recounts his first year at Harvard living on the fifth floor of Weld, where he and his roommates, with whom he remains friends, had a water balloon launcher that they'd use to fire projectiles collected from the dining hall out their window onto the steps of Widener.

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February 2019 | Nicholas Britell AB '03

Film Composer (MoonlightIf Beale Street Could TalkThe Big ShortVice12 Years a Slave)

by D. Dona Le

Photo Credit - Dominic Nicholls“If it feels good, keep going. If it doesn’t, stop.”

That is a “very obvious… but groundbreaking” lesson that film composer Nicholas Britell AB ‘03 discovered at Harvard while collaborating with friend and fellow band member, Jake Rubin AB ‘03. The two were part of a hip-hop group, The Witness Protection Program, comprised of six instrumentalists and two rappers. They were discussing a track that Britell was writing for the band—whether the track was working, going in the right direction—and Rubin’s words struck a chord that lingers with the composer today.

“There are a lot of elements to the creative process. When you’re writing a lot of music, constantly trying to feel what you think works, sometimes there’s a belief that [even] if you’re not feeling something, you just have to trudge through it,” explains Britell. “But I’ve always found that that’s not the case. If you’re not feeling something, stop and do something else. And when it’s working, just keep doing it.”

Here, Britell is describing his work process on a micro level. But even a cursory overview of his career on the macro level proves that everything is working for Britell right now. The young composer is behind the scores for acclaimed films Moonlight, The Big Short, Vice, and If Beale Street Could Talk, to name but a few. He was first nominated for an Academy Award for his score to Moonlight in 2017. He is currently nominated for a Best Score Academy Award for his work on If Beale Street Could Talk. Also the composer for HBO’s drama series Succession, Britell has been described as “the composer with a growing fan club among directors” (NPR) and hailed as “the sound of money in Hollywood” (TheRinger.com).

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January 2019 | John Bowman AB '80, MBA '85

Emmy Award-winning Writer and Producer (Saturday Night LiveIn Living Color)

By Terence O'Toole Murnin

John-BowmanCROP-WIMTBA-940x430.jpg

As the world rings in 2019, John Bowman AB ’80, MBA ’85 makes a bold New Year’s prediction: “I think we’ll be hearing a lot about Trump,” he says wryly.

Another certainty is that this Emmy award-winning writer and producer will continue to explore the boundaries of sketch comedy, as he's done brilliantly for more than 25 years. If sustained buzz is the toughest thing to accomplish in any creative endeavor, this comedic master’s resume rivals that of James Brown, “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business!” Bowman's IMDB profile also reads like the evolution of TV comedy: Saturday Night Live, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, In Living Color, Martin, Murphy Brown, and Frank TV, to name just a few. In fact, if James Brown were still alive today, this would be a mic drop momentand he’d be covered in capes.

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December 2018 | Danny Chun AB '02

(TV Writer & Producer, SpeechlessThe OfficeThe Simpsons)

DChun.jpgBy Adrian Horton AB '17

For some, the path to a Hollywood career is circuitousfull of left turns, doubt, and reconsiderations. Not so for Daniel Chun AB '02, a TV writer and producer who has worked for some of Hollywoods most beloved comedies, including The Simpsons and The Office. For Chun, comedy writing has always been the game (with a degree in biological anthropology on the side).

Chun, who is Korean-American, grew up in a small town in Northeastern Pennsylvania not far from The Offices fictional home of Scranton. He first realized his interest in creative writing around seventh or eighth grade. As a teenager, he and his school friends were pretty obsessed with comedy”—Saturday Night Live, The Kids in the Hall"so we would write and shoot stupid little sketches late at night in my basement.

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November 2018 | Milan Popelka AB '01

COO of FilmNation & Producer (ArrivalLife ItselfThe Space Between)

MP_FN_headshot_2016.jpegBy Stephanie Ferrarie AB '18

In high school, Milan Popelka ’01 wanted to pursue a career in movies. He recounts watching marathons of James Bond movies on TBS as a teenager, remarking that “if I could watch the same movie shown three times a week and still love it, there must be something to this media.”

That captivating nature of storytelling through film stuck with Popelka throughout his undergraduate years at Harvard and remains ever-present today in his professional life. Now COO of FilmNation, a powerhouse in the financing, production, and distribution of independent films such as Arrival and The Big Sick, Popelka revels in the creativity required to put movies together from conception, to financing, to production, and beyond.

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October 2018 | Tayari Jones RAE '12, RF '12

Author (Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, An American Marriage)

By Dayna WilkinsonJones_Tayari_credit-Nina-Subin_rgb_2MB.jpg

“I was driving in Las Vegas when the call came. She said ‘hi, this is Oprah.’ I pulled the car over in a not-so-great part of town. People were tapping on my windows, and I was like ‘Go away, I’m trying to have the biggest moment of my life.’”

Before she wrote An American Marriage, Tayari Jones RAE '12, RF '12 had never been in the running for a major literary prize. “I never thought I would be, and that didn’t bother me,” she says. Now, An American Marriage is a New York Times bestseller, a 2018 Oprah’s Book Club Selection and a longlist selection for the National Book Award.

“I had a neighbor in Las Vegas who spoke very little English. We liked each other but communicated mostly with gestures,” Tayari says, “but after she saw the photo in Oprah’s magazine, she was banging on my door saying, ‘You know Oprah?!’ Part of the joy of being chosen for Oprah’s Book Club is that it’s an honor that’s legible to everyone.”

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September 2018 | Sam Shaw AB '99

(Co-Creator & Showrunner, Castle RockManhattan)

Low_Res_Sam_Shaw.jpgBy Adrian Horton AB '17

When Castle Rock premiered on Hulu in July, it was familiar ground for Sam Shaw, its co-showrunner, along with college friend Dustin Thomason AB '98. Castle Rock weaves together characters and plotlines from Stephen King’s multiverse in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine—a place Shaw imagined long before he dreamed of a career writing for television.

Writing in some form, however, has been a recurring theme in Shaw’s life since he scrawled story ideas on the cardboard backs of his dad’s dry-cleaning pads. Growing up in Brooklyn Heights, New York, as the son of two lawyers, Shaw was drawn to creative output at an early age. His parents "had a lot of big yellow legal pads that they'd bring home, so I spent a lot of time when I was a little kid writing what I could call novels, but were basically the scrawlings of a six- or seven-year-old lunatic," he says.

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