Remembering John B. Duff
October 3, 2013
Columbia College Chicago lost a loyal and beloved member of our community this week with the passing of Dr. John B. Duff, who served as our eighth president from 1992 until 2000.
Dr. Duff, 82, died in Palm Desert, Calif., on Oct. 1 from complications of a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Among his family of survivors is his wife Estelle Shanley.
Dr. Duff saw us as a "bigger institution" and was a driving figure in setting the stage for the tremendous growth the college saw from the late 1990s. His vision was key in expanding our South Loop footprint of Columbia College and approving our first residence hall, Plymouth Court, which started our transformation away from being simply a commuter school. In the latter years of his presidency, Dr. Duff oversaw purchases of 1104 S. Michigan Ave., 1306 S. Michigan Ave., 1104 S. Wabash Ave., and 33 E. Congress Parkway.
During his term, Dr. Duff led our first long-range planning effort, expanded our local and national development initiatives, and oversaw the name change of the school from Columbia College to Columbia College Chicago.
Dr. Duff earned three degrees from New York City institutions (B.S, Fordham University; M.A., Seton Hall University; and Ph.D., Columbia University). However, he was as Chicago as they come and very much plugged into city leaders during his time in the city. Before coming to Columbia College, Dr. Duff was the first non-librarian appointed as commissioner of the Chicago Public Library system. In that role, he supervised construction of the iconic Harold Washington Library.
Dr. Duff also served as the first president of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and as first chancellor of the Massachusetts Board of Regents.