4 Notable Columbia College Alumni

Columbia College Chicago is known as one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the U.S., and is especially esteemed for its media and fine arts programs. It’s no wonder then, that there are several notable alumni who have made a name for themselves in television and film.

Josefina Lopez

Born in 1969 in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Josefina Lopez is a member of the class of 1991. As a child she moved to Los Angeles with her family and later attended Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, the same high school that produced the likes of Christiana Milian and Michael Fitzpatrick. After graduating, Lopez went on to attend Columbia College Chicago, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in film and screenwriting. Upon completing her undergraduate coursework, Lopez returned to the West Coast, where she obtained her MFA in screenwriting from the School of Theater, Film, and Television at the University of California at Los Angeles. An artistic director, Lopez is best known as the playwright of Real Women Have Curves, which was adapted into a movie of the same title in 2002. Most recently, Lopez’s work has been showcased at CASA 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights, California, where she is listed as Founder and Artistic Director.

Lopez is best known for writing Real Women Have Curves, which was later adapted for the popular film starring America Ferrera.

Lopez is best known for writing Real Women Have Curves, which was later adapted for the popular film starring America Ferrera. Picture credit Ethical Focus.

Scott Adsit

Born on the North Shore of Illinois on November 26, 1965, Robert Scott Adsit was known in his early school days as a class clown. After discovering his talent for acting while enrolled at Columbia College Chicago, Adsit signed on with local improv troupe The Second City in 1987, shortly after graduation. He then co-wrote, co-directed, co-produced and voiced characters for the show, Moral Orel, which ran from 2005 to 2008. His break-out role came when he was asked to play Pete Hornberger, the executive producer on NBC’s TV show 30 Rock. In 2008, the program scored a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. Most recently, Adsit provided the voice for the robot Baymax in Disney’s 2014 animated movie Big Hero 6.

Pat Sajak

A member of the class of 1968, Pat Sajak was born in Chicago on October 26, 1946. Perhaps best known as the host of the famous American game show Wheel of Fortune, he is also an actor, talk show host, and former weatherman. Raised in Chicago, Sajak graduated from Farragut High School in 1964. For college, he opted to stay close to home, working as a desk clerk at the Palmer House Hotel while attending Columbia College Chicago. Though eventually famous for his role as a television personality, Sajak got his start on radio. During the Vietnam War, Sajak was a DJ on Armed Forces Radio. Upon discharge from the service, he went onto DJ as a civilian, then worked briefly as an L.A. weatherman before getting tapped to host Wheel of Fortune.

Pat Sajak has hosted the beloved American game show Wheel of Fortune since 1983 with his lovely co-host Vanna White. Picture credit TV by the Numbers.

Pat Sajak has hosted the beloved American game show Wheel of Fortune since 1983 with his lovely co-host Vanna White. Picture credit TV by the Numbers.

Glenna Smith Tinnin

One of the earliest graduates of CCC, Glenna Smith Tinnin received a diploma as a member of the class of 1897. After completing her degree, Tinnen went on to become a theater professional and women’s suffrage leader, serving as the first chairman of the Equal Franchise League in the District of Columbia. Tinnen also had a passion for playwrighting, penning many wonderful plays for children including One Night in Bethlehem: A Play of the Nativity which she co-wrote with Katharine S. Brown in 1925 and Arthur Wins the Sword in 1928. Tinnin also co-produced Paul Kester’s Tom Sawyer with Brown on Broadway in December of 1931.

Read More »
chronicle-columbia-college

From Oratory to Online Media: The Evolution of Columbia College Chicago

Since its founding in 1890, the Columbia College Chicago has always been interested in helping young people express themselves. Today, this fine liberal arts college has many programs for students interested in the performing arts, media studies, writing, and even entrepreneurship. However, this college didn’t start out that way. In this article, we will take a brief look at how Columbia College Chicago went from a small proprietary business for orators to the highly successful non-profit liberal arts college it is today.

A School Founded on Oratory

Of course, back in 1890 people didn’t have the communications technologies we currently enjoy. Instead, the main forum for public discourse was good old-fashioned public speaking. Columbia College Chicago was first designed to train a new generation of professional orators. The founders and first presidents of this school were Mary A. Blood and Ida Morey Riley. Both of these strong women were trained in public speaking at the Monroe Conservatory of Oratory in Boston, MA (modern day Emerson College). Blood and Riley created the Columbia School of Oratory in 1890 to train public speakers in the area specifically for Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. This fair was set to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the “New World.”

Columbia College was founded as Columbia School of Oratory, a school intended to create great orators.

Columbia College was founded as Columbia School of Oratory, a school intended to create great orators.

Leadership After Blood and Riley

As the years went on, Blood and Riley added a few courses in teaching, and they changed the school’s name to the Columbia College of Expression. The school also became incorporated into the state of Illinois in 1904. In 1924, George L. Scherger, a former member of the Board of Directors, took over the position of president after both Blood and Riley passed away. Scherger’s major achievement was to help expand the college’s education department. Scherger was eventually succeeded by Bertha Hofer Hegner, a leader in kindergarten education, in 1929. Hegner led the college into the radio age by hiring experts from around the nation involved in radio broadcasting. During the 1940s, this college officially became a not-for-profit organization, and was formally recognized as Columbia College.

1950s Media Expansion

It wasn’t until the 1950s that Columbia College Chicago expanded its coursework in a major way. To meet the demands of the new media landscape, Columbia College began offering coursework in TV, marketing, and journalism. At this time, Norman Alexandroff, a former consultant on radio technology, became the president of the college. Alexandroff expanded Columbia College’s influence by founding sister schools in Mexico City and Los Angeles. Despite these efforts, and despite the new programs of study, Columbia College did rather poorly throughout the late 50s and 60s.

The introduction of a radio broadcasting program was a total game changer Columbia College's future.

The introduction of a radio broadcasting program was a total game changer Columbia College’s future.

Social Action: “Hands On Minds On”

Mirron Alexandroff took over for his father as president in 1961. Mirron was Columbia College’s most ambitious leader. He supported the idea of “hands on minds on” progressive liberal arts education, and worked to get the most experienced men and women in the media industry to teach practical skills at the college. He also made it easier for thousands of high school graduates to attend some of Columbia College’s great seminars. Throughout Mirron’s long tenure, which lasted until 1992, the student population grew to around 6,000, the college gained accreditation for all-of its graduate programs, and Columbia College gained enough funds to purchase a brand-new building on South Michigan Avenue.

Columbia College Chicago Today

This college has done nothing but expand since Mirron Alexandroff’s term. Columbia College Chicago recently made connections with University of East London and Dublin Institute of Technology to bring its media programs into the globalized age. Members of the Columbia College Chicago staff have won Emmys, Guggenheims, and even Oscars in their respective fields. Whatever way students feel comfortable expressing themselves, they are sure to pick up the skills they need in one of Columbia College Chicago’s programs.

 

Read More »