Famous Niles West Alumni


Niles West Alumni

By Alli Lipsit, News Editor

In light of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s death, and all the talk surrounding Niles West alum Merrick Garland, let’s take a minute to look back on some of Niles West’s most famous alumni; some famous for good reasons and others for…not so good reasons.

1.) Merrick Garland

Why not start with one of West’s most famous alumni, Merrick Garland. Merrick Garland was a student at Niles West from 1967-1970, and graduated with the best GPA in his class, making him valedictorian for the class of 1970. At West, Garland was the president of student council, an excellent debate team member, and was also involved in theater. After graduating from West, Garland attended to Harvard, also graduating as class valedictorian there. Garland attended Harvard law school and got his law degree. Following law school, Garland was successful in many aspects of his career. During law school, he worked with Justice William Joseph Brennan Jr, then served as a law clerk for Judge Henry J. Friendly. From 1979-1981, he served as an assistant to Attorney General at the time, Benjamin Civiletti. Garland continued his success streak, becoming Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Although Garland is known for these milestones and many more, his name is most recognized for what could have been. In 2016, following the death of Antonin Scalia, President Barack Obama chose Garland to fill his vacancy on the Supreme Court. The Senate, who at the time had a Republican majority, refused to let Garland fill the seat, or even vote on it. Instead, the Senate demanded the next president pick who would fill the vacancy, arguing that it was too close to the election for Obama to choose (this was in March).

2.) George Papadopolous

Another politician who graduated from West! Papadopolous attended West from 2002-2005. After graduating from West, he attended Depaul University, where he studied political science and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the subject. He later studied at University College London, where he graduated in 2010 and earned a master of science in security studies. Papadopolous is largely known for his involvement in the Israel oil crisis, but recently, he has become notorious for his involvement with President Donald Trump. He served as a member of the foreign policy advisory panel during Trump’s 2016 campaign, but just a year later, in October of 2017, he pleaded guilty to a charge of false statements to government officials (FBI agents). It turned out Papadopolous had been lying about his involvement with Russia, and more specifically, his good friend Donald Trump’s involvement. Papadopolous only served 12 days in Federal Prison before being released and put on probation for another year. He is now the author of Deep State Target: How I Got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump.

3.) Rashard Mendenhall

Let’s switch it up a bit from all the politics and the drama. In 2005, Rashard Mendenhall graduated from West, leaving with the title of a four-year varsity athlete, and a spot on the University of Illinois football team. During his years at West, Mendenhall was nothing short of amazing. As a Sophomore, he recorded 1,300 yards and 21 touchdowns. Junior year he continued to live up to the expectations, rushing 1,832 yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging 11.6 yards per carry. His Senior year, he once again lived up to the expectations and continued the trend of greatness, averaging 9.1 yards per carry and rushing for 1,453 yards on 160 attempts and 14 touchdowns. College football didn’t seem to be quite up to the standards for Mendenhall, as he was even invited to play in the 2005 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, just a couple months after graduating from high school. Mendenhall went on to be drafted to the Pittsburgh Stealers in 2008 and played for them until the Arizona Cardinals offered him a one year contract worth 2.5 million dollars. Since then, Mendenhall has since retired from his football career and has actually pursued writing. He now works as a writer and editor for the 2019 HBO sports comedy Baller. 

4.) George Kontos

Another athlete! Kontos and Mendenhall actually walked the hallways of West at the same time at one point. Kontos graduated in 2003, and along with being a star baseball player, he also participated in basketball and golf. He was actually named high school baseball player of the year in 2003. After graduating from West, Kontos went on to play college ball for Northwestern, until 2006, when the New York Yankees drafted Kontos. In 2012, Kontos moved forward with his baseball career, playing for the San Francisco Giants until 2017. Kontos was then drafted to the Cleveland Indians in 2018 but ended up being traded back to the Yankees that same year. From then on, Kontos seems to jumps teams even more than he had before. In 2019, Kontos signed with his hometowns team, the Chicago Cubs, but was released that same year and ended up signing a contract with Long Island Ducks. Shortly after, The Washington Nationals purchased his contract with the Cubs, once again causing a switch in teams. Kontos announced his retirement just a couple of months ago, in July.

5.) Bart Conner

If you haven’t seen his name and title hanging up in the gymnastics gym, Bart Conner is a gold medalist gymnast who graduated from Niles West in 1976. At the age of 14, Connor had already won the 1972 U.S. Junior National Championships, and at 17, he won the U.S. Gymnastics Federation All-Around championship. After graduating from West, Conner went on to on attend the University of Oklahoma and join their gymnastics team. Conner graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1984, leaving with the title of an All-American athlete, and the 1981 Nissen Award, America’s best gymnast.  In 1976, Conner went on to be the youngest member of the Summer Olympic gymnastics team. In 1980, Conner qualified for the Olympics, but due to the American boycott, he was unable to participate. Luckily, at the next Olympics in 1984, Conner participated and won two gold medals. Conner left his legacy that summer with his infamous “Conner Spin,” which gymnasts still mimic to this day. Along with his gold medals, Conner took home the title of USOC Olympic Hall of Fame athlete in 1991,  USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame athlete in 1996,  Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in 1997, and the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame athlete in 1997. 

6.) Jewell Loyd

Jewell Loyd graduated from Niles West in 2012, making her one of the more recent celebrity alumni. At West, Loyd was a four-year varsity athlete and a four-year starter. At games, Loyd averaged 24.8 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, scoring 3,077 career points. After graduating from West, Loyd went on to play for Notre Dame, where she earned the title of ESPN’s women’s college basketball player of the year, two years in a row. She even led her team to the NCAA championship game…once again, for the second year in a row. Loyd scored 1,909 points in her college career, taking the title of Notre Dame’s fifth-highest scorer, which she still has today. In 2015, Loyd played for the Seattle Storm and won WNBA Rookie of the Year. The following season, Loyd was named All-WNBA Second Team, and even helped lead the Storms to the playoffs. Along with being a star player for the Seattle Storm, Loyd also played overseas in Turkey, Spain, South Korea, and China.

7.) Melissa Isaacson

Check out this awesome feature on Melissa Isaacson, which was written last year.

8.) Rick Singer

Last, but certainly not least, Rick Singer! This name may be a little foreign to you because the name most associated with the scandal is Full House actress Lori Loughlin. Rick Singer was the ringmaster between the infamous college scandals in 2014, where several celebrities were caught paying Singer to help their children get into elite colleges. This included faking ACT and SAT scores, lying about the children’s athletic careers, and bribing college admissions counselors. For more information on the scandal, check out this article written back in 2019 when Singer was first exposed. Singer graduated from West in 1978, with the senior quote, “I would most like to be remembered for the outstanding personality I have been given, and being able to get along with others.” Newsflash: he was not remembered for getting along well with others. At West, Singer was on the Varsity baseball and football teams. After attending West, Singer took a couple of years off before committing to Brookhaven college for a short period of time. The next year, Singer transferred to Our Lady of the Lake on a basketball scholarship, before transferring yet again, this time to Trinity College. After college, Singer managed to get some pretty impressive jobs as basketball coaches, due to his pretty impressive and pretty fake resume. Singer eventually opened his business, where he counseled high school athletes. In March of 2019, Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice charges. He now faces up to 65 years in prison.

Although there are many notable Niles West alum, these are the ones that we often hear about when considering the legacy of West students.

Who knows, maybe you’ll be on it one day.