At the Columbia College Chicago Commencement each year, we honor outstanding individuals in the arts, education, politics and public information, people who have engaged their talents in important human service and whose life work and example embody the college's ideal and spirit.



Tracy K. Smith - Author, poet, and Pulitzer prize winner for Life on Mars
Jane Lynch - Actor, singer, author, and Golden Globe and Emmy award winner
Diane Warren - Songwriter and owner of Realsongs publishing company
Paul Garnes - Producer/production manager of film & television series for Disney, Dreamworks, HBO, ABC, NBC, and Paramount Pictures
Carlos Tortolero - Founder & President of the National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago


Josefina López - Playwright, screenwriter, and theater producer
Anna D. Shapiro - Broadway director and artistic director of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Nan Warshaw-  Co-founder of Bloodshot Records
Len Amato - President of HBO Films for Home Box Office and oversees development and production of HBO Films for its network
Chester Gregory - Award-winning actor, singer and songwriter


Jeanne Gang - Founder and principal of Studio Gang Architects
Tony Karman - President and director of EXPO CHICAGO
Diane Ravitch - Author and American public education historian 
Gordon Quinn - Documentary filmmaker and artistic director of Kartemquin Films
Jim Jacobs -Composer, lyricist, actor and writer for the theater


Jane Hamilton - Award-winning novelist
Herbie Hancock - Legendary keyboardist and composer
Rennie Harris - Dancer, choreographer, artistic director, and professor
Martha Nussbaum - Award-winning author, philosopher, and professor
Joe Shanahan - Founder and owner of rock club Metro Chicago
Jessica Stockholder - Internationally acclaimed sculptor/installation artist
George Tillman Jr. - Filmmaker
Robert Teitel - Filmmaker


Phil Ramone - Grammy and Emmy winning music producer
Lee Flaherty - Founder of the marketing agency Flair
Philip-Lorca diCorcia - Photographer with a theatrically-staged documentary style
Steve James - Award winning director whose work includes Hoop Dreams
Warren Spector - Video game designer and producer
Mavis Staples - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer and member of The Staple Sisters


Regina Taylor - Award winning actress and Artistic Associate, Goodman Theater
Bruce Mau - Bruce Mau Design, founder of Institute Without Boundaries, author
Ryan Schreiber - Creator of


Dr. Peter Magubane - South African photographer
Alex Kotlowitz - American journalist and author
Robert Klein -American comedian, singer and actor



Lee E. Berk, Esq. - President Emeritus of the Berklee College of Music
Ray Bradbury - American speculative fiction writer
Trisha Brown - Acclaimed choreographer
Carla Delfos - Executive Director of European League of Institutes of the Arts
Alison Knowles - Interdisciplinary performance artist, Fluxus Movement founding member
Dr. Tom Miser Founder of the School of Audio Engineering and the SAE Technology College
Dr. Kunihiko Ukifune - CEO of the Jikei Group, an international education center


Dan Rather - Journalist
Graciela Iturbide - Photographer
Earth, Wind & Fire: Maurice White, Ralph Johnson, Philip Bailey and Verdine White - Band, Eight-Time Grammy Winners


Dionne Warwick - Recording artist
Joe Adams - Arts manager & Producer
Army Bernstein - Screenwriter, Producer, & Director


Linda Johnson Rice - President & Chief Executive Officer, Johnson Publishing Company
Buddy Guy - Blues Artist, Five-Time Grammy Winner
Bernard Sahlins - Founder of The Second City and playwright, director and producer


Mark Heister - Fashion Designer, Mark Heister Design Inc.
Bill Viola - Video and Sound Artist
Alan Kay - Computer innovator & former professional jazz guitarist & composer


Bill T. Jones - Artistic Director and Choreographer
Mary Ellen Mark - Photographer and Humanist
Frank Rich - Author, Editor, and Cultural Critic


Russell Simmons - Music Entrepreneur and Arts Advocate
Lois Weisberg -Civic Arts Advocate and Innovator
Tony Kushner - Celebrated Playwright
Henry Fogel - Arts Manager and Advocate
John Wideman - Celebrated Author


Grace Paley - Author and Activist
Alan Arkin - Actor and Director
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar - Director and Choreographer
Lewis Manilow - Arts Advocate


Alton B. Harris - Outstanding Columbia College Chicago Trustee
Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. - Member of the United States House of Representatives
John Szarkowski - Curator, Photohistorian, Writer, and Photographer
Danny K. Davis - Congressman and Advocate of Education
Lisel Mueller - Pulitzer-Prize-winning Poet
Renee Ferguson - Investigative Reporter and Community Activist
Harold Ramis - Director and Screenwriter
Mikhail Baryshnikov - Outstanding Contributor in the Field of the Arts


Oral Lee Brown - Entrepreneur and Savior of Children
Sidney L. Port - Philanthropist, Businessman, and Son of Chicago
Robert V. Remini - Scholar and Teacher
Robert Shaye - Pioneer of Independent Film



Arthur C. Nielsen, Jr. - Market Researcher and Corporate Leader
Sara Paretsky - Mystery Writer and Champion of Women
William E. Strickland, Jr. - Empowering the Disadvantaged Through the Arts
Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr. - Storyteller, Poet and Voice of Truth


Momma Hawk - Mentor of Hope for the Children
John H. Bryan - Exemplary Leadership in Business and the Arts
William Warfield - Magnificent Voice of the Century
David Henry Hwang - Truth-teller for Our Times


Fred Eychaner - Media Innovator, Inspiring Activist
Margaret Corbett Daley - Civic Activist and First Lady of the City of Chicago
James W. Compton - Champion of Racial Equality


Irv Kupcinet - A Man, a City, an Era
John W. Rogers, Jr. - Chicago's Pioneering Investment Leader
Isabel Allende - The Voice of Spirits, Magic and Dreams
Paul Simon - United States Senator


Victor Skrebneski - Photographer, Artist
John H. Johnson - A Voice of Reason for All People
Sandra P. Guthman -A Driving Force Behind Social Progress in Chicago
Eugene C. D'Angelo, Jr. - A Positive Catalyst in the Communications Industry
Ann Landers - The Most Influential Woman in the United States
Ben Vereen - The Very Definition of Entertainer


The Right Honorable Hage G. Geingob - Prime Minister of The Republic of Namibia
Myrlie Evers -Williams A Champion of Justice
Reverand John T. Richardson - A Chicago Leader in Higher Education
Rita Simo - Musician, Teacher, Social Reformer
John Hope Franklin - A Scholar for Our Generation


Etta Moten Barnett - Stage and Film Performer, Arts Educator
Cindy Pritzker - President, Board of Directors, Chicago Public Library
Rigoberta Menchu - Nobel Peace Prize Winner
Jane Alexandroff - A Prime Contributor to the Success of Columbia College
Carol Moseley Braun - United States Senator
Cokie Roberts - Senior News Analyst, National Public Radio


Hedrick L. Smith - Journalist
Mathilde Krim - Medical Scientist and AIDS Crusader
Henry Aaron - Baseball Player and Executive


Douglas Turner - Ward Founding Artistic Director, The Negro Ensemble Company
Helen Valdez - President, Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum
Johnathan Rodgers -President, CBS Television Stations
Willard L. Boyd - President, Field Museum of Chicago


Faith Hubley -Animator and Illustrator
Leon Despres - Advocate of Social Justice
Yousuf Karsh - Photographer
Haskell Wexler - Cinematographer
Clarence Page - Editorial Columnist



Bernard Lown - Nobel Laureate for Peace, 1985
Sterling Stuckey - Historian
Bernice Weissbourd - President, Family Focus
Leon Lederman - Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1988


Kenneth G. Ryder - President, Northeastern University, Boston
Mike Royko - Newspaper Columnist
John Birks - "Dizzy" Gillespie Jazz Trumpeter
William Julius Wilson - Sociologist
Ardis Krainik - General Director, Lyric Opera of Chicago


Lawrence K. Grossman - President, NBC News
Pastora San Juan Cafferty - Professor, Social Service Administration
Jack Brickhouse - Sports Broadcaster
Margaret Burroughs - Founder, Du Sable Museum
Irving B. Harris - Distinguished Contributor to Human Welfare
James Hightower - Texas Commissioner of Agriculture


Fred Friendly - Broadcast Journalist and Educator
Linus Pauling - Nobel Laureate Chemistry 1954 and Peace 1962
Randall Robinson - Executive Director, TransAfrica
William Ford - United States Congressman
Ruth Adams - Editor, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists


James Hoge - Publisher, New York Daily News
Eileen Southern - Music Historian
Ray Nordstrand - President, WFMT, Inc.
The Honorable Conor Cruise O'Brien - Diplomat, Writer


William Appleman Williams - Historian
John Lewis - Composer, Musician, Founder, Modern Jazz Quartet
Victor Navasky - Editor, The Nation Magazine
Pamela Harriman - National Civic Leader


The Honorable Harold Washington - Mayor, City of Chicago
Marjorie Craig Benton - United States Representative to U.N.I.C.E.F.
Marcel Ophuls - Documentary Filmmaker
Christopher Jencks - Educator


Helen Caldicott - Peace Advocate
Sherry Lansing - President, 20th Century Fox
Luis Valdez - Writer, Director, Producer
James Van Der Zee - Photographer
Garry Wills - Columnist


Franklin A. Long - Scientist
Harry Edwards - Sociologist
Michael Cacoyannis - Film Director
Marilyn French - Writer
George McGovern - Statesman


Hermon D. Smith - Chairman, Field Foundation of Illinois
Harry Weese - Architect
Lois Wille - Journalist, Pulitzer Prize Winner
Ronald Williams - President, Northeastern Illinois University



Jessie Woods - Director, Urban Gateways
John Fischetti - Political Cartoonist
Maya Angelou - Poet
Carlos Fuentes - Novelist
Tom Wicker - Journalist


Robert Coles - Social Philosopher
Edgar Y. "Yip" Harburg - Lyricist
Abby Mann - Television-Film Writer
Addie Wyatt - Labor Humanist
Carlos Chavez - Composer-Conductor


Oriana Fallaci - Journalist
Eliot Wigginton - Educator
Maria Martinez - Potter
Gordon Parks, Sr. - Photographer, Filmmaker, Writer
Daniel Schorr - Broadcast Journalist


John Hammond - "Columbus" of American Music
Roman Vishniac - Biologist and Microphotographer
Katherine Kuh - Art Critic, Curator, Writer
Jonathan Kozol - Educator, Social Critic
Ed Bullins - Playwright


Arthur Mitchell - Director, Dance Theatre of Harlem
"Bricktop" - Entertainer
Alexander L.C. Wilder - Composer
George W. Bonham - Editor-in-Chief, Change
Seymour M. Hersh - Pulitzer Prize Reporter


Albert E. Jenner, Jr. - Distinguished Lawyer
Ivan Albright - Artist
James T. Farrell - Writer
Ruth Page - Dancer
Charlemae Rollins - Acclaimed Librarian


Harrison E. Salisbury - Associate Editor, New York Times
Bob Fosse - Film, Theater and Television Director
Rosa Parks - Montgomery, Alabama
Myles F. Horton - Director, Highlander Folk School
James B. Holderman - Executive Director, Illinois Board of Higher Education


Quentin D. Young - National Chairman, Medical Committee for Human Rights
Pauline Kael - Motion Picture Critic
Chester Burnett - Musician ("Howlin' Wolf")
Neil Sheehan - Reporter, New York Times
William F. Russell - Sports Commentator, Coach, Athlete
Newton N. Minow - Public Servant, Attorney


William Proxmire - United States Senator, Wisconsin
Kay Boyle - Writer
Joseph Papp - Director, New York Public Theatre and Shakespeare Festival
Charles G. Hurst, Jr. - President, Malcolm X College, Chicago
Aaron Siskind - Photographer, Teacher


R. Buckminster Fuller - Architect
Frank Reynolds - Broadcast Journalist
Fannie Lou Hamer - Chairman, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
William M. Birenbaum - President, Staten Island College, New York



Sister Ann Ida Gannon -B.V.M. President, Mundelein College, Chicago
Charles Wilbert White - Artist
David Halberstam - Reporter, Pulitzer Prize Winner


Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington - Composer
Louis J. "Studs" Terkel - Writer
Ralph Nader - Citizen


Dwight W. Follett - Publisher
Kenneth F. Montgomery - Attorney
Norman Corwin - Writer, Poet, Playwright


Eugene Rabinowitch - Editor, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
Frederick Douglas O'Neal - President, Actors' Equity
John Brademas - United States Congressman


Curtis D. MacDougall - Distinguished Teacher
Paul Hamilton Engle - Poet and Teacher


Gwendolyn Brooks - Poet