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Honorary Degree Recipients

Each year at its spring Commencement exercises, Columbia College Chicago confers honorary degrees on individuals whose record of outstanding achievement in the arts, education, public service, or journalism and the media exemplifies the college's mission and core values. The college will recognize the following five honorees on May 17 and 18:


Jeanne Gang, architect
To be honored Saturday, May 17, 10:00 a.m.

Jeanne Gang is the founder and principal of Studio Gang Architects, a Chicago-based architectural and design firm whose projects include the 82-story Aqua Tower near Millennium Park, the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, and Columbia College’s Media Production Center. Her work with Studio Gang has been exhibited at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, and the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2009, she was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and she received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2011. In 2013, Studio Gang received a National Design Award for Architecture Design from the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York.

Jim Jacobs, composer, lyricist, and writer for the theatre

To be honored Saturday, May 17, 1:30 p.m.

Jim Jacobs is an actor, playwright, and songwriter who is best known for co-authoring, with the late Warren Casey, the musical comedy Grease. Inspired by Jacobs' experiences as a teenager at Chicago's Taft High School in the late 1950s, Grease became a popular culture phenomenon following its 1971 off-Loop premiere in Chicago, moving from off-Broadway production to long-running Broadway musical to hit film in the span of seven years. It continues to enjoy revivals all over the world. Another musical co-authored by Jacobs and Casey, a spoof of B movies titled Island of Lost Co-eds, was the first show produced in the Getz Theatre at Columbia. Jacobs is a friend of the college and established the Jim Jacobs Musical Theatre Scholarship in 2012.

Tony Karman, promoter of contemporary art
To be honored Saturday, May 17, 5:00 p.m.

Tony Karman has been an advocate, promoter, and strategic marketer of contemporary art, and of arts and culture generally, in Chicago for thirty years. Currently he is the president and director of EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, which he founded. EXPO CHICAGO 2013 drew 30,000 visitors to view work from over 125 international galleries. He is a former director of Art Chicago, EXPO CHICAGO’s predecessor, and has worked for several other fine arts and performing arts organizations in the city. He has also partnered with other local arts institutions to present year-round public programs on different elements of the contemporary arts landscape in Chicago.

Diane Ravitch, historian of education
To be honored Sunday, May 18, 11:00 a.m.

Diane Ravitch is a historian of American public education who has become the nation’s most prominent critic of rigid standardized test-based assessment of public school students. She is the author or editor of fourteen books, the most recent of which is The Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (2013), and of hundreds of articles and reviews. She was an assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush and served on the National Assessment Governing Board in the Clinton administration. She currently holds an appointment as Research Professor of Education at New York University. She is a former senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former adjunct professor of history and education at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York.

Gordon Quinn, documentary filmmaker
To be honored Sunday, May 18, 2:30 p.m.

Gordon Quinn is a distinguished documentary filmmaker and the artistic director of Kartemquin Films, a documentary film company that he co-founded in 1966. He has served as the director, producer, or executive producer of dozens of documentaries, most notably the award-winning Hoop Dreams (1994). Kartemquin’s other films include A Good Man (2011), At the Death House Door (2008), Vietnam, Long Time Coming (1998), and the seven-hour series The New Americans (2004), which was broadcast on PBS. Quinn has helped to nurture the careers of numerous documentary filmmakers over the course of his career, and he is a dedicated advocate for public and community media.