Donors recognized at luncheon

By Alexandra Kukulka

Scholarship recipients stood on every other step of the spiral staircase leading to the second floor, greeting visitors. On the second floor, a lunch was prepared for all to enjoy while students and administrators thanked and honored special guests.

The first Students First Scholarship luncheon took place on Dec. 6 in the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building. Students, alumni, scholarship donors, administration and Columbia’s Board of Trustees were present at the event.

Special guests at the event were The Northern Trust Company, The Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Diane Dammeyer, all of whom have made substantial contributions to fund scholarships to students. Each of these entities received awards during the luncheon as recognition for philanthropic generosity.

“[Scholarship donors] are allowing students to follow their muse, to give them the opportunity to be successful creators,” said President Warrick L. Carter.

Northern Trust, a Chicago-based institution, describes itself as an industry leader in delivering investment management and banking solutions to corporations. According to Carter, Northern Trust is invested in the communities it serves, contributing more than $120 million to nonprofit and non-government organizations worldwide in the last decade. The company has been a strong partner of Columbia since 1980, he added.

Columbia’s Career Beginnings Project, which was funded by Northern Trust, prepared local high school students to enter college, Carter said. In 2007, the company founded The Retention Award Scholarship, which assists Columbia students who graduated from Chicago Public Schools and are in danger of withdrawing from the college because of financial pressures, Carter added.

In recognition of these accomplishments, Northern received the Students First Outstanding Corporation Award.

“Northern Trust believes in arts and culture and that it has to be the fabric of any community,” said Deborah Liverett, director of Community Affairs for Northern Trust. “It feeds people’s spirits. If students can’t afford to do that, then we feel it is the corporation’s responsibility to make that happen.”

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation was also recognized at the luncheon. This foundation is committed to fostering communities of educated, informed and engaged citizens. Since 1970, the McCormick Foundation has been one of Columbia’s longest- standing donors, according to Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs. It has provided support to many of the college’s programs, such as Education, Journalism, Dance and Music, as well as donations to many scholarships.

This foundation established The McCormick Tribune Scholarship fund in 2006. The Open Doors Scholarship invests in the local community and assists Chicago Public Schools graduates with tuition and fees, Kelly said.

“[Columbia’s] Open Doors Scholarship is by far the largest scholarship program supporting Chicago Public School[s] students of any college in the country,” Kelly said. “We are so proud of that and the work of the McCormick Foundation in supporting our work.”

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation received the Students First Outstanding Corporation award.

“[The McCormick Foundation] thinks the best thing to do is find the organizations that know what they are doing and give them the support to do it,” said Donald Cooke, senior vice president of philanthropy for the McCormick Foundation. “In the case of scholarships, get the money to the kids so [that] they can do what they do best.”

Dammeyer, a Columbia alumna, was the final scholarship donor to be recognized during the luncheon. She was described by Eric Winston, vice president of Institutional Advancement, as one of the many alumni who have created a legacy and then given back to Columbia to help train the future.

Dammeyer was given special recognition for creating the first full-ride scholarship in Columbia’s history, as previously reported by The Chronicle on Nov. 14. Dammeyer became a Columbia student after completing a successful career in Real Estate.She was a documentary photographer for 15 years with Heartland Alliance, an international organization that focuses on poverty alleviation. With the organization, Dammeyer helped impoverished people improve their lives and realize their human rights, Winston said.

Now, Dammeyer wants a Columbia student to do the same. As part of her scholarship, she requires that a student use his or her artistic ability to volunteer with a nonprofit organization until the student graduates, Winston said.

The scholarship will be awarded to a freshman for the first time this year and will finance his or her remaining three years at Columbia, he added.

Dammeyer received the Students First Outstanding Individual Award.

“I think I am just as excited as they tell me the students are,” she said. “As a student, it’s about learning. [With the scholarship], the student is learning the application of [his or her skill]. I want a student to find this out early.”Students who have received scholarships were also at the event to thank those who have donated. “Because of our ever increasing scholarship fund, [Columbia] has become a magnet for young, creative talent in this country,” Kelly said.