Columbia School of Oratory
Founders Mary Blood and Ida Morey Riley moved to Chicago from Boston, Massachusetts to establish Columbia School of Oratory in 1890, named in honor of the upcoming Columbian Exposition of 1893. To advertise the institution, they advertised in local newspapers. The earliest known mention of Columbia is this advertisement that appeared in print August 25, 1890.
Mary Ann Blood, co-founder
Mary Ann Blood was educated at Boston's Monroe College of Oratory, became a faculty member, then a member of its board of trustees. During her tenure, she taught at an Iowa university where she met fellow instructor Ida Morey Riley whom Blood suggested take further coursework at the Monroe College of Oratory. When Riley completed her degree, the two women moved to Chicago and established Columbia.
Ida Morey Riley, co-founder
In 1887, Ida Morey Riley taught at the State Agriculture College of Ames, Iowa where she met Mary Blood. Riley moved to Boston to attend Monroe College of Oratory in Boston and then joined Mary Blood in Chicago to found Columbia School of Oratory. Columbia's curriculum was founded upon the principles of Monroe College of Oratory, teaching the 'Emerson' method of expression, named after C. Wesley Emerson, Monroe's founder.
Columbia's First Home
The Stevens Art Gallery building at 24 East Adams Avenue was home to Columbia School of Oratory. The building housed an art gallery, a store, and office/studio space for artists, musicians, hat makers, and fashion designers. In 1895, Columbia moved out and into Steinway Hall, 64 Van Buren Street where it occupied the entire seventh floor and later rented space for a gymnasium on the sixth floor.
Columbia College of Expression
May 5, 1905 the Columbia School of Oratory was incorporated under the title of the Columbia College of Expression, a not for profit institution and a Board of Directors was formed, the first in the school's history. This seal sports one of the college's classroom mottos, a quote from Aristotle, as part of its design. Another motto was "theory never made an artist", both concepts are still in practice at Columbia.
Columbia School Song
The author of the Columbia Alumni song, Emanuel D. Schonberger, was a 1904 graduate of the Columbia School of Oratory. Born in Wisconsin December 25, 1875, he was raised in Kimball, SD, and after graduation worked in the Dept. of Public Speaking, Washburn College, Topeka, Kansas where he lived with his wife, Sara and his children. He died August 31, 1957 in Los Angeles, California.
Women's Dormitory Room
In 1916, the College moved to 3358 S. Michigan Avenue. A second building held the Columbia Normal School of Physical Education and two residence halls for female students were located directly across the street. Dorm rooms held basic furniture; students were required to bring a rug, sheets, bedding, towels, a wastebasket, six cloth napkins, and napkin rings.
Coursework By Mail
Columbia offered a series of public speaking courses with homework to be completed and mailed back for feedback from college instructors. The series, authored by R. E. Pattison Kline, Dean of Columbia's Public Speaking Department, focused on tenor of voice, correct body movements and placement, and examples of incorrect postures such as this one depicting poor posture for lecturing in front of an audience.
Columbia College of Expression/Pestalozzi Froebel Teachers College
Columbia College of Expression became a sister institution with the Pestalozzi Froebel Teachers' College after the death of founder Mary Blood. The schools rented and occupied the seventh floor of the 618 South Michigan Ave. building, a property Columbia purchased in 2005. The image shown here is the Little Theatre where a tableau (living picture) was being performed in the one auditorium the two schools shared.
Rev. Dr. George L. Scherger
After the death of Mary Blood, George Scherger became Columbia's president. Minister, public speaker, musician, historian, educator, and writer, he had taught English and English literature at Columbia, becoming Dean of the Departments of History, Public Speaking, and Public Debate in the early 1920s. He left Columbia when he was appointed assistant pastor of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, the oldest German church in Chicago.
Bertha Hofer Hegner
Already president of sister institution Pestalozzi Froebel Teachers College, Bertha Hofer Hegner became president of Columbia College of Expression with both schools operating as separate institutions. She founded PFTC after establishing the first kindergarten at the Chicago Commons Social Settlement and after authoring a publication for the U.S. Bureau of Education entitled Home Activities in the Kindergarten.
Columbia established a Radio Department under the direction of Norman Alexandroff, specially recruited for the job. After a career on the lecture circuit, in 1932 Norman developed his own radio show called "Pages from Life" that recounted the adventures of Mr. Rubin and his Hurry-up Substitute Company, with Norman playing all the parts. This logo appeared on the college catalog and illustrates the importance of the new program.
Herman Hofer Hegner
Son of the previous president, Herman Hofer Hegner became president of both Columbia and Pestalozzi Froebel Teachers College after his mother's death. Even though the two schools formally separated in 1944, both institutions shared resources and staff (many taught in both schools) until the beginning of 1963. He oversaw the development of Columbia's radio curriculum and coauthored radio research with Norman Alexandroff.
Columbia added film curriculum to its courses of study. Also, Norman Alexandroff, Herman Hofer Hegner, both from Columbia and PFTC, and Dr. John De Boer, director of practice training at Chicago Normal College published findings of their five year study showing that fast paced radio drama's tempo helped children remember facts better so educators needed to present educational facts at the same speed as radio dramas to aid in learning.
When the two schools formally separated in 1944, Columbia also formally changed its name to Columbia College with Norman Alexandroff as its President. Under his tenure, new curriculum was developed in the emerging fields of television, journalism, advertising, and business while maintaining studies in radio, theater, and drama, all disciplines in high demand for veterans returning from World War II.
Veterans Administration Guidance Center
Columbia offered educational, occupational, and psychological assistance for returning WWII veterans. Part of the GI Bill, the Department of Guidance and Research counseled more than 20,000 individuals about career choices and included an investigative and testing mission that looked into sociological, educational, and psychological problems associated with industry, radio, commerce, and public affairs. Research findings performed within this center were nationally recognized.
The GI Bill brought in students interested in sports and Columbia had both a basketball and softball team. Other activities included a choral club, a band, and student dances. Though music was absent from the curriculum during its first half century, music theory and public school teaching of music courses were offered as early as 1905 with music appreciation courses offered during the 1940s.
Columbia College Los Angeles
Because of the concentration of television and film in Southern California, Norman Alexandroff opened a Los Angeles branch of Columbia College focusing on these fields. Its faculty were working film and television professionals. In 1959, the Los Angeles campus, now financially self-sufficient, separated from the Chicago institution and became its own private school. It operates today under Columbia College Hollywood.
Columbia College Panamericano
Mexican broadcasters wished to expand the country's television operation and asked Columbia College to organize and direct a training program in Mexico City. Named Columbia College Panamericano, its teachers were exclusively Mexican and were trained by Guillermo Camarena, who created Columbia's first TV installation, and Roberto Kenny, manager of Televicentro's Channel 1. Management of this program was turned over to Camerena and Kenny in 1957.
Mirron (Mike) Alexandroff
Upon the death of his father, Mike Alexandroff became president. At the College since 1947, he was acting president while his father was in Los Angeles. Under his tenure, he steered curriculum to rest upon a liberal arts foundation, recruited minority students, and created noncompetative admissions to make college education accessible to all. Music, photography, dance, AEMM, fiction writing, and other disciplines were added to Columbia curriculum during his time.
First Annual Honorary Degree Recipient
While honorary degrees had been given sporadically by Columbia, 1964 marked the first year of awarding annual honorary doctorates. Poet Gwendolyn Brooks, who taught at Columbia College from 1963 until 1969, was awarded the first doctorate and was that year's only recipient. Pictured here in her Columbia classroom, she taught poetry to Columbia students and oversaw the poetry curriculum for the College.
College Publicity Poster
Designed by adjunct faculty member William Biderbost and illustrated by Skip Williamson, the poster shows the 540 North Lake Shore Drive building where the College rented space from 1963 until 1977. The poster outlines coursework that is still present in curriculum today: motion pictures, photography, art and graphics, writing, fiction and poetry, theater, music, dance, social issues, public information, radio, and television.
On March 27, 1974, Columbia College was awarded accreditation from the North Central Association Higher Learning Commission. Celebrations took place in the president's office where Mike Alexandroff is seated and Dean of Students Hubert Davis holds the sign. The icing on the cake reads 'We Done It'. In 1984, Columbia's graduate programs were also awarded accreditation.
South Loop Campus
In 1975 Columbia purchased its first building at 600 South Michigan Avenue and in 1977 moved the College into it, thus establishing its campus permanently in the South Loop. "Columbia is at the center of the city and the whole city is Columbia's campus" states publicity from the time. In 2002, the building was named the Alexandroff Center in honor of Mike Alexandroff under whose tenure the building was purchased.
Student Media Outlets
WCRX, Columbia's radio station, is featured here where students ran radio programming. A student run newspaper has been on campus since 1972, CC Writer, replaced in 1979 with the Columbia Chronicle, still published weekly. Three annual publications, Hair Trigger begun in 1977, Columbia Poetry Review in 1988, and South Loop Review in 1997, and a record company AEMMP Records in 1982 offer students other creative outlets.
Mobile Broadcasting Unit
Columbia acquired a Mobile Broadcasting Unit, a classroom-on-wheels, with equipment designed to assist in reporting and broadcasting on and off campus. This traveling truck enabled students to learn on location and report news where it happened. When students set up camera equipment on its rooftop, it drew a crowd. Columbia still has such units for teaching students skills in the field.
Dr. John B. Duff
An appointed commissioner of the Chicago Public Library system who supervised the construction of the Harold Washington Library, John B. Duff became President of Columbia in 1992. He oversaw the acquisition of the first residence hall, led the College's first long-range planning effort, expanded its local and national development initiatives, and formally changed the name of the school to Columbia College Chicago.
First South Loop Student Dorm
The 731 South Plymouth Court building was purchased in 1993 as Columbia's first coed modern residence hall. During the 1920s, dormitory space was offered only to female students so this acquisition allowed both male and female students a place to live on campus. The building houses more than 300 students and helped provide housing for out-of-state and international students. Shown here is a typical student dorm room from 1993.
The 1014 South Michigan Avenue building was acquired by Columbia in 1997. In 1999, the College purchased the Dance Center (1306 South Michigan Avenue), the Ludington Building (1104 South Wabash), and the 33 East Congress Parkway building to house the growing Columbia College community of students, full-time and adjunct faculty, and staff. Gallery space and research centers were also added to the campus.
Dr. Warrick L. Carter
After a career at Walt Disney Entertainment in California and Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts, Warrick Carter became President of Columbia in 2000. He has created new student-based programs and initiatives, including Manifest and Shop Columbia, partnered with local universities to construct the University Center of Chicago, purchased new campus buildings for the growing student population, added new curricula, and has overseen Columbia's first newly constructed building, the Media Production Center.
Held directly before commencement each year and begun as May Fest in 2002, Manifest, the annual urban arts festival, celebrates the creative talents of graduating Columbia students, including photography and art exhibitions, media and theater displays, film screenings, street performances, gaming design exhibits, and literary readings and outdoor stages feature student bands.
Offering a wide array of artwork and artistic services, ShopColumbia provides students a commercial venue for showcasing and selling their work on campus. The first store of its kind on campus, some proceeds from sales also support student scholarships. The store provides a professional environment for students to learn the process of marketing and selling work within a vibrant venue.
Media Production Center
The Media Production Center, 1600 South State Street, is the first newly constructed building in College history. The 35,500 square foot facility holds two soundstages, an animation lab, four classrooms, a motion-capture studio, and space for production design, costumes, and equipment storage. Construction incorporated the use of sustainable materials wherever possible.
Johnson Publishing Building
Columbia purchased the Johnson Publishing building at 820 South Michigan Avenue in 2010. Home to Ebony and Jet magazines since 1972, it was the first major downtown Chicago building designed by an African-American, John Moutoussamy. The Library at Columbia College Chicago will move into the space along with other yet to be determined offices.