Open Doors Gala

By Heather Scroering

Models showcasing hand-tailored vestments, crafted by Columbia’s very own fashion studies students, lined the staircase of the Media Production Center, 1600 S. State St., as a jazz band played lively tunes at the top of the stairs. Women dressed in flowing gowns on the arms of men in bow ties and black tuxedos sauntered about the red carpet at the Open Doors Gala on Nov. 5.

The gala, priced at $1,000 per individual ticket and $10,000 per table, raised money for the Open Doors Scholarship fund, a trust created to provide Chicago Public Schools students an opportunity to attend Columbia.

“Our name is Columbia College Chicago, and we take the third part very seriously because we’ve got both a responsibility and an interest in our city, being supportive and being a good citizen,” said President Warrick L. Carter. “One of the ways we can be a good citizen is to make sure that students from CPS can afford an education from a private institution.”

At the gala, Carter remarked that though the college is the second largest importer of out-of-state students in Illinois, with 50 percent of its student body from outside of the state, Columbia is committed to the needs of CPS high school graduates.

“No students are more important to us, or more central to our mission, than the high school graduates of [CPS],” Carter said.

According to Michael Anderson, associate vice president of Institutional Advancement, the evening raised more than $600,000, with $400,000 going directly to scholarships and the remainder covering expenses. Approximately 250 contributors and guests attended the black-tie event, and roughly 65 students contributed their talents to the evening.

Other student contributions included projections of student photography, a live mural artist, the Gospel Choir and Rhythm Section and performances from Theatre Department students.

Serafin Lopez, senior art and design major and four-year recipient of the Open Doors Scholarship, spoke at the event and expressed his gratitude to the college.

“The scholarship has helped me focus more on school and my work and build[ing] my portfolio,” Lopez said. “Having that scholarship reduces the financial stress of tuition.”

Also at the event was Linda Johnson Rice, chairwoman of Johnson Publishing Company. Rice was awarded the Chicago Legacy Award, which honors those who have “helped open doors for future generations,” Carter said at the gala.

According to Rice, Columbia’s relationship with the Johnson family pre-existed the recent purchase of the Johnson Publishing Headquarters, 820 S. Michigan Ave. She said many journalism students interned with the company and some were hired.

“The intellectual exchange runs both ways,” Rice said. “Several of our editors have served as adjunct professors, delighted to bring to the students the breadth of knowledge and experience they’ve gained during their years as working journalists. It is a relationship we value greatly.”

Allen Turner, chair of Columbia’s Board of Trustees, said the event received support from individuals all across the city.

“Tonight is very important to us because we’re not only honoring Rice and her family, but also honoring our students because tonight we’re raising money for students in our area—people who are qualified but may not have an opportunity to go to a great college like this,” Turner said.