Chicago Theatre to host 2013 commencement

By Alexandra Kukulka

Commencement is still months away, but Columbia’s administration is already finalizing plans for the event.

The May 2013 commencement ceremony will be held at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., for the second consecutive year, according to Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs. The college is also working on an agreement with the theater to host graduation for the next five years, he added.

“We are returning to the Chicago Theatre based on the rave reviews of everyone involved,” Kelly said. “We asked for feedback from the community after the two days of ceremonies, and it was just overwhelmingly positive.”

As reported by The Chronicle on Nov. 14, 2011, Columbia relocated commencement from the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion, 525 S. Racine St., because the timing had to be changed due to a conflict with the NATO Summit held in the South Loop May 20-21.

Based on a recommendation from the Office of Student Affairs, senior administrators agreed that the ceremonies should remain at the Chicago Theatre, Kelly said. Though the contract is in the works, Kelly could not confirm whether the Chicago Theatre will host commencement for the next five years.

Holding the ceremonies at the theater again will cost the same, if not less, as holding it at the UIC Pavilion, based on what the previous venue charged in the past, Kelly said.

According to him, there will be six ceremonies next May, similar to the spring 2012 commencement schedule, but the Saturday ceremonies will be  moved back one hour.

Each ceremony in May lasted approximately two hours but still followed the “flavor” of Columbia’s commencement tradition, Kelly said. The college is currently searching for honorary degree recipients to be keynote speakers,

he added.

“Some faculty have submitted some incredible possibilities that we are exploring,” Kelly said.

According to Colleen McNicholas, a spring 2012 alumna of the Marketing Communication Department, the Chicago Theatre accommodated a smaller crowd than the Pavillion, which made the event more intimate.

“You just felt this family-like environment,” McNicholas said. “[The ceremony] had more of the Columbia artsy vibe to it. It hands down beats out any other stadium I could have graduated in.”

McNicholas described the event as a rock show. The remix of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” was performed by Columbia’s Jazz Ensemble as the faculty and staff walked on stage.

Jessica Lutchen, a senior marketing major, is expecting to graduate next May and looking forward to having the ceremony at the Chicago Theatre.

She said she is eagerly anticipating walking across the stage and shaking the hands of the faculty and staff who supported her during her years at Columbia.

“I think it is cool that we get to graduate in such an iconic place in Chicago,” Lutchen said. “It’s right down the street … from us. It’s beautiful, [and] it is legendary.”