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.

2010s

2017

DAVID CROMER:  Award-winning Theatre Director 
RICHARD P. KIPHART (in memoriam): Former Chair, Columbia College Chicago Board of Trustees
MARK KELLY: Commissioner, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events 
KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: Artist and Painter of African -American Culture 
JUDY and DENNIS SHEPARD: Founders, Matthew Shepard Foundation

2016

PAUL GARNES '96 Television and Movie Producer
JANE LYNCH Actor, Singer, and Comedian
TRACY K. SMITH Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet
CARLOS TORTOLERO Founder and President, National Museum of Mexican Art
DIANE WARREN Grammy Award-winning Songwriter

 

2015

LEONARD C. AMATO '75 President, HBO Films
CHESTER M. GREGORY '95 Stage Actor and Singer
JOSEFINA LOPEZ '93 Playwright, Screenwriter, and Theatre Producer
ANNA D. SHAPIRO '90 Tony Award-winning Theatre Director
NAN R. WARSHAW, MA '93 Co-founder, Bloodshot Records

2014

JEANNE GANG Architect
JIM JACOBS Composer, Lyricist, and Playwright
TONY KARMAN Promoter of Contemporary Art
GORDON QUINN Documentary Filmmaker
DIANE RAVITCH Professor and Historian of Education

2013

WARRICK L. CARTER President, Columbia College Chicago
JANE HAMILTON Novelist
HERBIE HANCOCK Pianist, Composer, and Bandleader
LORENZO (RENNIE) HARRIS Dancer, Choreographer, Dance Company Director, and Teacher
MARTHA NUSSBAUM Philosopher
JOSEPH SHANAHAN Founder and Owner, Metro and Smart Bar
JESSICA STOCKHOLDER Artist
ROBERT TEITEL '90 and GEORGE TILLMAN JR. '91 Filmmakers
ALLEN M. TURNER Former Chair, Columbia College Chicago Board of Trustees

2012

PHILIP LORCA diCORCIA Photographer
LEE FLAHERTY Founder and CEO, Flair Communications Agency
STEVE JAMES Documentary Filmmaker
PHIL RAMONE Record Producer and Recording Engineer
WARREN SPECTOR Video Game Designer
MAVIS STAPLES Grammy Award-winning Singer

2011

BRUCE MAU Designer
RYAN SCHREIBER Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Pitchfork
REGINA TAYLOR Actress and Playwright

2010

ROBERT KLEIN Actor and Comedian
ALEX KOTLOWITZ Author and Journalist
PETER MAGUBANE Photographer

2000s

2009

LEE ELIOT BERK Former President, Berklee College of Music
RAY BRADBURY Science Fiction Writer
TRISHA BROWN Dancer and Choreographer
CARLA DELFOS Executive Director, European League of Institutes of the Arts
ALISON KNOWLES Artist
THOMAS MISNER Audio Education Entrepreneur
KUNIHIKO UKIFUNE Advocate for Vocational Education

2008

PHILIP BAILEY, RALPH JOHNSON, MAURICE WHITE, VERDINE WHITE Band Members, Earth, Wind & Fire
GRACIELA  ITURBIDE Photographer
DAN RATHER Broadcast Journalist

2007

JOE ADAMS Business Manager and Music Producer
ARMYAN BERNSTEIN Film Producer, Screenwriter, and Director
DIONNE WARWICK Grammy Award-winning Singer

2006

BUDDY GUY Blues Musician
LINDA JOHNSON RICE President and CEO, Johnson Publishing Company
BERNARD SAHLINS Founder, The Second City

2005

MARK HEISTER Fashion Designer
ALAN KAY Computer Scientist
BILL VIOLA Video Artist

2004

BILL T. JONES MacArthur Fellowship-winning Choreographer and Dancer
MARY ELLEN MARK Photographer and Humanist
FRANK RICH Columnist and Drama Critic, New York Times

2003

HENRY FOGEL President, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
TONY KUSHNER Playwright
RUSSELL SIMMONS Music Producer, Entrepreneur, and Hip-Hop Pioneer
LOIS WEISBERG Commissioner, Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Chicago
JOHN EDGAR WIDEMAN Writer

2002

ALAN ARKIN Screen Actor and Director
LEWIS MANILOW Founder, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
GRACE PALEY Writer and Political Activist
JAWOLE WILLA JO ZOLLAR Choreographer and Founder, Urban Bush Women

2001

MIKHAIL BARYSHNIKOV Dancer and Choreographer
DANNY K. DAVIS United States Representative, 7th Congressional District, Illinois
RENEE FERGUSON Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter
ALTON B. HARRIS Chair, Columbia College Chicago Board of Trustees
JESSE L. JACKSON JR. United States Representative, 2nd Congressional District, Illinois
LISEL MUELLER Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet
HAROLD RAMIS Film Director and Screenwriter
JOHN SZARKOWSKI Curator and Photographer

2000

ORAL LEE BROWN Philanthropist and Child Education Advocate
SIDNEY L. PORT Philanthropist and Businessman
ROBERT v. REMINI Historian
ROBERT SHAVE Founder and CEO, New Line Cinema

1990s

1999

SHERMAN JOSEPH ALEXIE JR. Novelist, Poet, and Filmmaker
ARTHUR C. NIELSEN JR. Former President and Chairman, A.G. Nielsen Company
SARA PARETSKY Mystery Writer
WILLIAM E. STRICKLAND JR. President and CEO, Manchester Bidwell Corporation

1998

JOHN H. BRYAN Chairman and CEO, Sara Lee Corporation
DAVID HENRY HWANG Tony Award-winning Playwright and Screenwriter
MOMMA HAWK Educator and Children's Advocate
WILLIAM WARFIELD Singer and Actor

1997

JAMES W. COMPTON President and CEO, Chicago Urban League
MARGARET CORBETT DALEY First Lady of the City of Chicago
FRED EYCHANER Media Innovator and Philanthropist

1996

ISABEL ALLENDE Writer
RICHARD HUNT Sculptor
IRV KUPCINET Chicago Sun-Times Gossip Columnist and Television Talk Show Host
JOHN W. ROGERS JR. Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Ariel Capital Management
PAUL SIMON United States Senator, Illinois

1995

EUGENE C. D'ANGELO JR. Television News Innovator
SANDRA P. GUTHMAN President and CEO, Polk Bros. Foundation
JOHN H. JOHNSON Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Johnson Publishing Company
ANN LANDERS Syndicated Advice Columnist
VICTOR SKREBNESKI Photographer
BEN VEREEN Stage and Film Actor, Dancer, and Singer

1994

MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS Civil Rights Activist
JOHN HOPE FRANKLIN Presidential Medal of Freedom-winning Historian
HAGE G. GEINGOB Prime Minister, Republic of Namibia
JOHN T. RICHARDSON Former President, DePaul University
RITA SIMO Founder and Executive Director, The People's Music School

 

1993

JANE ALEXANDROFF Former First Lady of Columbia College Chicago
ETTA MOTEN BARNETT Singer, Actress, and Chicago Civic Leader
RIGOBERTA MENCHU Nobel Peace Laureate, 1992
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN United States Senator, Illinois
CINDY PRITZKER President, Board of Directors, Chicago Public Library
COKIE ROBERTS Senior News Analyst, National Public Radio

1992

HENRY AARON Hall-of-Fame Baseball Player
MATHILDE KRIM Medical Researcher and Founding Chair, American Foundation for AIDS Research
HEDRICK L. SMITH Journalist

1991

WILLARD L. BOYD President, Field Museum of Chicago
JOHNATHAN RODGERS President, Television Stations Division, CBS
HELEN VALDEZ President, Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum
DOUGLAS TURNER WARD Founding Artistic Director, The Negro Ensemble Company

1990

LEON DESPRES Former Alderman, City of Chicago
FAITH HUBLEY Academy Award-winning Animated Filmmaker
YOUSUF KARSH Photographer
CLARENCE PAGE Syndicated Columnist
HASKELL WEXLER Academy Award-winning Cinematographer

1980s

1989

LEON LEDERMAN Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1988
BERNARD LOWN Cardiologist and Nobel Peace Laureate, 1985
STERLING STUCKEY Historian
BERNICE WEISSBOURD Founder and President, Family Focus

1988

JOHN BIRKS "DIZZY" GILLESPIE Jazz Trumpeter
ARDIS KRAINIK General Director, Lyric Opera of Chicago
MIKE ROYKO Newspaper Columnist
KENNETH G. RYDER President, Northeastern University
WILLIAM JULIUS WILSON Sociologist

1987

JACK BRICKHOUSE Sportscaster
MARGARET BURROUGHS Founder, DuSable Museum
PASTORA SAN JUAN CAFFERTY Professor, University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration
LAWRENCE K. GROSSMAN President, NBC News
IRVING B. HARRIS Businessman and Philanthropist
JAMES HIGHTOWER Commissioner, Texas Department of Agriculture

1986

RUTH ADAMS Editor, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
WILLIAM D. FORD United States Representative, 15th Congressional District, Michigan
FRED FRIENDLY Broadcast Journalist and Educator
LINUS PAULING Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 1954, and Peace, 1962
RANDALL ROBINSON Executive Director, TransAfrica

1985

JAMES HOGE Publisher, New York Daily News
RAY NORDSTRAND President, WFMT, Inc.
CONOR CRUISE O'BRIEN Diplomat and Author
EILEEN SOUTHERN Musicologist

1984

PAMELA HARRIMAN Democratic Party Activist
JOHN LEWIS Composer, Pianist, and Founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet
VICTOR NAVASKY Editor, The Nation
WILLIAM APPLEMAN WILLIAMS Historian

1983

MARJORIE CRAIG BENTON United States Representative to UNICEF
CHRISTOPHER JENCKS Sociologist
MARCEL OPHOLS Documentary Filmmaker
HAROLD WASHINGTON Mayor, City of Chicago

1982

HELEN CALDICOTT Anti-Nuclear Activist
SHERRY LANSING President, 20th Century Fox
LUIS VALDEZ Playwright and Artistic Director, El Teatro Campesino
JAMES VAN DER ZEE Photographer
GARRY WILLS Historian

1981

MICHAEL CACOYANNIS Filmmaker
HARRY EDWARDS Sociologist
MARILYN FRENCH Writer and Feminist Activist
FRANKLIN A. LONG Chemist
GEORGE McGOVERN Former United States Senator and Presidential Candidate

1980

HERMON D. SMITH Chairman, Field Foundation of Illinois
HARRY WEESE Architect
LOIS WILLE Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist
RONALD WILLIAMS President, Northeastern Illinois University

1970s

1979

MAYA ANGELOU Poet and Memoirist
JOHN FISCHETTI Pulitzer Prize-winning Editorial Cartoonist
CARLOS FUENTES Novelist
TOM WICKER Journalist
JESSIE WOODS Director, Urban Gateways

1978

CARLOS CHAVEZ Composer and Conductor
ROBERT COLES Child Psychiatrist, Professor, and Author
EDGAR Y. "YIP" HARBURG Lyricist
ABBY MANN Emmy and Academy Award-winning Screenwriter
ADDIE WYATT Labor and Civil Rights Leader

1977

ORIANA FALLACI Journalist
MARIA MARTINEZ Potter
GORDON PARKS SR. Photographer, Filmmaker, and Author
DANIEL SCHORR Broadcast Journalist
ELIOT WIGGINTON Oral Historian and Folklorist

1976

ED BULLINS Playwright
JOHN HAMMOND Record Producer
JONATHAN KOZOL Educator and Social Critic
KATHARINE KUH Museum Curator and Gallery Owner
ROMAN VISHNIAC Photographer and Biologist

1975

GEORGE W. BONHAM Editor-In-Chief, Change
SEYMOUR M. HERSH Pulitzer Prize-winning Reporter
ARTHUR MITCHELL Director, Dance Theatre of Harlem
ADA "BRICKTOP" SMITH Cabaret Artist and Club Owner
ALEC WILDER Composer

1974

IVAN ALBRIGHT Artist
JAMES T. FARRELL Writer
ALBERT E. JENNER JR. Attorney
RUTH PAGE Dancer and Choreographer
CHARLEMAE ROLLINS Librarian, Chicago Public Library

1973

BOB FOSSE Stage and Film Choreographer
JAMES B. HOLDERMAN Executive Director, Illinois Board of Higher Education
MYLES F. HORTON Director, Highlander Folk School
ROSA PARKS Civil Rights Activist
HARRISON E. SALISBURY Associate Editor, New York Times

1972

CHESTER "HOWLIN' WOLF" BURNETT Blues Musician
PAULINE KAEL Film Critic
NEWTON N. MINOW Attorney and Former Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
BILL RUSSELL Former NBA All-Star
NEIL SHEEHAN Reporter, New York Times
QUENTIN D. YOUNG National Chairman, Medical Committee for Human Rights

1971

KAY BOYLE Writer
CHARLES G. HURST JR. President, Malcolm X Coilege
JOSEPH PAPP Director, New York Public Theatre and Shakespeare Festival
WILLIAM PROXMIRE United States Senator, Wisconsin
AARON SISKIND Photographer and Teacher

1970

WILLIAM M. BIRENBAUM President, Staten Island College
R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER Architect
FANNIE LOU HAMER Civil Rights Activist
FRANK REYNOLDS Broadcast Journalist

1960s

1969

ANN IDA GANNON President, Mundelein College
DAVID HALBERSTAM Pulitzer Prize-winning Reporter
CHARLES WILBERT WHITE Artist

1968

EDWARD KENNEDY "DUKE" ELLINGTON Composer and Bandleader
RALPH NADER Consumer Advocate
LOUIS J. "STUDS" TERKEL Radio Journalist and Oral Historian

1967

NORMAN CORWIN Radio Journalist, Radio Dramatist, and Screenwriter
DWIGHT W. FOLLETT Chairman and President, Follett Corporation
LANGSTON HUGHES (honored in memoriam) Poet 
KENNETH F. MONTGOMERY Attorney

1966

JOHN BRADEMAS United States Representative, 3rd Congressional District, Indiana
FREDERICK DOUGLASS O'NEAL President, Actors' Equity
EUGENE RABINOWITCH Editor, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

1965

PAUL HAMILTON ENGLE Poet and Teacher
CURTIS D. MacDOUGALL Journalist and Teacher

1964

GWENDOLYN BROOKS Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet