Academy of Achievement
One of the most gifted and admired actors in America, Morgan Freeman was born in Memphis and raised in Mississippi. At an early age, he found his calling acting in school plays. In the seventh grade, he won the state championship in a student theatrical competition. In his teens he was...
Vocalist, composer and instrumentalist Esperanza Spalding fell in love with music as a little girl in Portland, Oregon. She first drew acclaim as a child violinist before discovering the upright bass as a teenager. Within months she was playing in local clubs, exploring pop, rock, hip-hop...
The arrival of Wynton Marsalis on the music scene in 1982 could not have been more unexpected. Barely out of his teens, this trumpet prodigy recorded jazz and classical music with seemingly equal facility. Even more startling was his dedication to a self-defined mission to restore jazz...
Wayne Gretzky was hailed as the best player in the history of the National Hockey League and was acclaimed by legions of sportswriters, other players, and the NHL itself as "the greatest hockey player who ever lived." Sports fans affectionately dubbed him "The Great One" and "The Great...
"I think if I stop being controversial I wouldn't be doing my job... I'm interested in things that don't fit established conceptions... that don't fit accepted models, and in trying to determine what's true and useful." Andrew Weil's first public controversy came when he was still a...
"If somebody gave me a hundred feet of film, I made a movie out of it." When George Lucas was attending USC Film School he didn't even need a hundred feet. While still a student, he turned 32 feet of 16 millimeter film into a one-minute animated short that not only won awards at festivals...
As a child, Maya Angelou was traumatized by abuse. For five years, she was silent, but in time, she found her voice, and that voice has been heard around the world. A single mother at age 16, she embarked on a remarkable career as an actress and entertainer, as a journalist, educator and...
For 50 years, Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012) was one of the leading literary and political figures of the Spanish-speaking world. A giant of Latin America's literary boom of the 1960s and '70s, his novels, including the classics Terra Nostra, The Death of Artemio Cruz and The Old Gringo, are...
Oprah Winfrey's public speaking career began in 1957. At three, she was speaking in church, by her teens she was touring the churches of Nashville, reciting the sermons of James Weldon Johnson. Other children sang, Oprah talked. And she's still talking -- but to much larger audiences. The...
In recognition of Women's History Month, the Academy of Achievement presents a selection of extraordinary women who have defied expectations, broken boundaries, and made history around the world. They include courageous political leaders and human rights activists, recipients of the...
Singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester burst onto the music scene in the 1970s with the albums Home to Myself, Bright Eyes and Melissa, with its hit single Midnight Blue. Manchester's success as a writer and recording artist was preceded by thorough preparation. She published her first poems...
One of the most acclaimed and controversial filmmakers of our times, Oliver Stone's compelling dramas are steeped in the great social conflicts of our history, and grounded in his own experience. After dropping out of Yale University, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in combat in...
Johnny Mathis was only 19 years old when a Columbia Records executive heard him singing in a San Francisco nightclub and decided to sign the teenage singer on the spot. After his first album, recorded in a jazz style, failed to register with the public, producer Mitch Miller guided Mathis...
Sarah Ophellia Colley Cannon (October 25, 1912 – March 4, 1996) was known professionally as Minnie Pearl. She was America’s best-loved country comic, who appeared at the Grand Ole Opry for more than 50 years (from 1940 to 1991) and on the television variety show “Hee Haw” from 1969 to...
For those who follow the gyrations of American politics, the week is not complete until David Brooks is heard from. After completing his two columns a week for The New York Times, Brooks takes to the airwaves every Friday, on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and on PBS...
Kiri Te Kanawa created a sensation in 1971, when she made her debut as the Countess in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Audiences were captivated by the lyric splendor of her voice and the exquisite tenderness of her interpretation. Soon she was a...
The pre-eminent playwright of his era, August Wilson (1945-2005) was the author of a monumental cycle of ten dramas, chronicling African American life in the 20th century, with each play set in a different decade. Born in Pittsburgh to a German immigrant father and an African American...
Wynonna Judd and her mother Naomi are one of the most popular singing duets in country music history, which have sold more than 20 million records. Naomi married her childhood sweetheart and gave birth to Wynonna during her high school graduation week. The marriage didn’t last and Naomi...
Joseph Vincent Paterno (1926 - 2012) was the head football coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions for six decades. Nicknamed "JoePa," he set the record for the most victories by a major college football coach, coached more bowl game wins (24) than any other coach in college football...
Jim Henson (1936-1990) created his first puppets as a teenager in Washington, D.C., and was soon building puppets for a local television station. By college, he was performing a live five-minute broadcast every night. He called his felt-covered foam rubber creations the Muppets and he...
Johnny Mathis was only 19 years old when a Columbia Records executive heard him singing in a San Francisco nightclub and decided to sign the teenage singer on the spot. After his first album, recorded in a jazz style, failed to register with the public, producer Mitch Miller guided Mathis...
Today, Whoopi Goldberg is one of America's best known and most cherished entertainers. Her films, The Color Purple, Ghost and Sister Act have won her an international following. Her appearances as host of the annual Oscar broadcast and as a regular on such television programs as Star Trek:...
One of the most admired men in American history, Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004) enjoyed a successful career as a motion picture actor, appearing in 53 feature films, before serving two terms as Governor of California. His landslide election to the presidency in 1980 revived the...
William Jefferson Clinton served as President of the United States from January 20th, 1993 to January 20th, 2001. He was the first Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt to be elected to two full terms as President. During the Clinton administration the United States moved from record deficits to...
Dr. Oliver Sacks is an internationally renowned neurologist and best-sel1ing author. As physician and writer he is concerned above all with the link between body and mind; many of his books recount case histories from the outer limits of neurological experience. Born in London, England, he...
The most honored entertainer of our era, Barbra Streisand has made an indelible mark on our culture as a singer, actress, film producer, director, writer and champion of social causes. A high school honor student from Brooklyn, New York, she threw herself into show business right out of...
With the release of his debut album in 1972, Jackson Browne joined the elite rank of American singer-songwriters who shaped the musical ethos of an era. He captured the mood of the 1970s with the introspective songs on his albums Late For the Sky and The Pretender, as well as his greatest...
One of the most beloved performers in the world, Julie Andrews made her Broadway debut at age 18 in The Boy Friend. Historic successes followed in the original productions of My Fair Lady and Camelot. She won the Oscar for Best Actress in her first film, playing the title role in Mary Poppins....
As of 2011, R. L. Stine has sold over 350 million books, making him one of the best-selling children's authors in history. When he was nine years old, he found an old typewriter in his family's attic. That discovery changed his life. He carried it down to his room and began typing stories...
The songs Brian Wilson created as leader of the Beach Boys combined the rhythms of rock and roll with Baroque counterpoint and jazz harmony to create an exhilarating sound that has become the perennial soundtrack of the American summer. Despite near deafness in one ear, Brian Wilson...
Ray Dalio is the founder and owner of Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest and richest hedge fund. The firm manages approximately $130 billion in global investments for institutional clients including foreign governments and central banks, pension funds, university endowments and...
The Cuban-American singer and songwriter Gloria Estefan is the most successful Latin music artist in the United States; she has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. Born in Cuba, she came to the United States at the age of one when her family fled the revolution that brought Fidel...
Amy Grant made her recording debut while still in her teens and soon released the first record of contemporary Christian music to sell over a million copies. She later achieved unprecedented crossover success with her albums "Lead Me On" and "Heart in Motion." With six Grammy awards and...
With the release of his debut album in 1972, Jackson Browne joined the elite rank of American singer-songwriters who shaped the musical ethos of an era. He captured the mood of the 1970s with the introspective songs on his albums Late For the Sky and The Pretender, as well as his greatest...
Louis Leo "Lou" Holtz is a retired football coach, and active sportscaster, author, and motivational speaker in the United States. He served as the head football coach at The College of William & Mary (1969–1971), North Carolina State University (1972–1975), the University of Arkansas...
Lauryn Hill is an internationally acclaimed singer, songwriter and record producer. Born and raised in South Orange, New Jersey, she was only 13 when she joined the innovative hip-hop group the Fugees. Academically accomplished as well as musically gifted, she took time off from her...
Singer and songwriter Vince Gill has won 19 Grammy awards, more than any other male artist in country music. His latest release, "These Days," is a four-disc, 43 song set, showcasing his versatility in bluegrass, country, rock, folk and contemporary styles. His sweet tenor voice has made him a...
As an international film star, Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) personified chic, cosmopolitan elegance, but she spent the last decades of her life traveling to the corners of the earth most afflicted by poverty, hunger and disease. Born in Belgium to a Dutch mother and a British father, she...
Shelby Foote became known to millions of Americans when he appeared on the PBS documentary series, The Civil War, but he had long enjoyed a great reputation among readers as a novelist, and as the author of a three-volume narrative history of the Civil War, the fruit of 20 years toil and a...
Louis L 'Amour (March 22-1908 - June 10, 1988) was the all-time best-selling author of Western novels. Credited with 89 novels, 14 short-story collections. and two full-length works of nonfiction, which have resulted in the sale of 100 million books and have been the basis for more than 30...
David McCullough was encouraged by the success of his first book, The Johnstown Flood, but he was still faced with a difficult decision, to trade a steady and satisfying job for the insecurities of life as a full-time writer with a growing family to support. With his wife's encouragement,...
The undisputed monarch of the blues guitar, B.B. King was born on a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta. As a child he learned the rudiments of his instrument from his preacher and was soon performing blues and gospel songs on street corners. In 1947 he hitchhiked to Memphis,...
An illustrious star of Hollywood's Golden Age, Olivia de Havilland made her screen debut at 19 and soon became the screen's favorite romantic heroine, starring in a popular series of adventure films with leading man Errol Flynn, including such favorites as Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin...
Although the historian Stephen Ambrose (1936 - 2002) wrote over 30 books, he was almost as well-known to the public for his appearances on television's political discussion programs, where he was frequently called upon to discuss the American presidency, the history of the American West...
For over 40 years Johnny Cash wrote and sang about the lives of hard-scrabble farmers, homeless drifters, broken-down cowhands, broken-hearted lovers and men behind bars. He gave a voice to the lonesome and the lost, the dispossessed and the disillusioned. He came by this sympathy...
Oprah Winfrey's public speaking career began in 1957. At three, she was speaking in church, by her teens she was touring the churches of Nashville, reciting the sermons of James Weldon Johnson. Other children sang, Oprah talked. And she's still talking -- but to much larger audiences. The...
A pioneer of contemporary Christian music, Amy Grant is the best-selling Christian music artist of all time. She made her recording debut while still in her teens and released the first record of Christian music to go platinum, selling over a million copies. She soon achieved an...
Like a lot of children, the six-year-old Stephen Jay Gould was fascinated by dinosaurs, but in his case that interest led to one of the most remarkable and celebrated careers in modern science. From his beginnings as a young paleontologist, with field expertise in the multifarious snails...
The acclaimed presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was born in Brooklyn, and grew up in Rockville Center, Long Island. Her invalid mother encouraged her love of books, while her father shared her love of baseball; she traces her interest in history to her childhood experience...
Raised on a farm in Bloomington, Indiana, Joshua Bell was given his first violin when he was four years old after his parents noticed him picking out melodies on a pair of rubber bands he had stretched between the knobs of his dresser. He first came to national attention at the age of 14 in a...