2018 Honorary Degree Recipients recognized for success, helping community

By Olivia Deloian, Staff Reporter

Three Columbia alumni and one professor, all noted for their successes within their fields, will receive the college’s 2018 honorary degrees.

Mary Mitchell, 1991 journalism alumna and columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, said she is thrilled to be receiving an honorary doctorate.

“It [is] absolutely thrilling to be recognized by your alma mater,” Mitchell said. “Columbia was a big part of my life, and it felt like my life had gone full circle.”

Upon entering journalism after graduation, Mitchell said she knew her main focus would be advocacy. She said column writing is her platform for bringing about change.

“I came into the business in 1991, and my main focus was trying to be a voice for people who didn’t have one, so most of my work has been advocacy work for the community,” Mitchell said. “To be the conscience of the community that’s been plagued by drugs and gangs.”

Jennifer Farrington, 1993 undeclared alumna and president and CEO of Chicago Children’s Museum, said the honorary degree was unexpected.

“It’s a huge honor, it’s humbling and something that took me completely by surprise,” Farrington said. “I have a lot of respect for Dr. Kim, so not only to receive this award at this point in my life is a huge honor but also to have the opportunity to be recognized during his administration is exciting.”

Farrington said she owes her career to Columbia, as she found her internship in 1991 at the museum through the college. Her career has also allowed her to give children a space to play and learn, she said.

“Columbia and Chicago Children’s Museum are compatible in the ideals of community, collaboration, inclusivity,” Farrington said. “The arts as they exist alone are not fully realized unless the community is engaged, unless the art has a purpose to share a story or to engage an audience and get them thinking.”

Dawoud Bey, professor in the Photography Department, said his honorary doctorate shows the college’s recognition of its own faculty’s community.

“I was happy to see the college honoring and acknowledging people within its communities who have gone on to achieve exceptional levels of success both on my side as a professor, and also [alumni],” Bey said. “To [now]celebrate its own community as much as we have in the past celebrated others.”

This recognition comes shortly after Bey was named a MacArthur Fellow, as reported Oct. 11, 2017, by The Chronicle.

Bey said he was surprised to receive the honorary degree, adding that he will speak about how mentoring and encouraging his students to get involved in community work is a huge priority for him as a professor.

“We are citizens as much as we are artists, and we have an obligation to find a way to bring our own particular forms of professional practice together with a larger social community and a larger social conversation,” Bey said.

Paul Broucek, 1974 undeclared alumnus and president of music at Warner Brothers Pictures, said he is excited to once again speak at commencement after he previously spoke about his notable alumni achievement in 2010.

Broucek said his ultimate goal during his speech is to inform students about how to achieve success as he has found it himself.

“I’m a big believer in giving back,” Broucek said. “I know that [if] I’m sharing something, if I just give one idea that they can use, [an] experience that they haven’t had themselves,  they’re more prepared when they come across it themselves.”