A Brief History of Columbia College Chicago


“Nowhere can the precept ‘know thyself’ be so fully realized as in a school of true expression.”

-College catalog, 1905

For more than 125 years, the educational purpose of Columbia College Chicago has continuously informed the pedagogies, curricula, and student experiences as we have evolved. Unafraid of change, the College continuously incorporated new technologies into creative communications coursework to remain current and adhere to best practices. Columbia has woven itself into the fabric of Chicago and is an integral part of the South Loop community. The College’s motto “esse quam videri” (to be rather than to seem) and its original classroom philosophies of “learn to do by doing” and “theory never made an artist,” remain vital to the Columbia experience today.

• 1890: Named in honor of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the Columbia School of Oratory was founded by Mary A. Blood and Ida Morey Riley as a private institution teaching elocution, oratory, and physical culture.

• 1930s: Expanded communications curriculum to include the growing fields of radio broadcasting and dramatic arts • 1940s-1950s: Offered educational, occupational, and psychological assistance for returning World War II veterans and incorporated advertising and television programs into the growing curricula

• 1960s: Evolved into a liberal arts college with a “hands on minds on” approach to arts and media education with a progressive social agenda

• 1970s-1990s: Added new programs of study, all of which contribute to the diverse means of expression for the student body

• 2000s: Enhanced student activities, opportunities, and experiences through campus-wide initiatives and programs

• 2013: Appointment of Kwang-Wu Kim, D.M.A., as the 10th President and CEO of the College, who has led the “Achieving Our Greatness: A Strategic Plan for Columbia College Chicago” in 2015 and its implementation in 2016