UIC celebrates 50 years of ‘Circle’ beginning Feb. 22


The University of Illinois at Chicago marks the golden anniversary of the Circle Campus on Sunday, Feb. 22, with a reenactment of the ribbon-cutting that opened the city’s first four-year public university on a striking modern campus designed by celebrated architect Walter Netsch.

Circle’s 100 acres along Harrison and Halsted Streets was what one alumna calls a “small town in a big city.” Today, with more than 28,000 students, UIC is Chicago’s largest university and one of the nation’s most diverse campuses. It is among the top 60 research universities in the U.S. and has a $2 billion annual budget. Its 15 colleges include the nation’s largest college of medicine and six other health science colleges. Ranked 11th in the world among institutions under 50 by Times Higher Education of the U.K., UIC was formed when the Circle Campus merged with the Health Sciences campus in 1982 and now encompasses 240 acres.


Circle Campus Ribbon Cutting

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley presides over the ribbon-cutting for Circle Campus Feb. 22, 1965. The event will be reenacted Sunday. Photo: Special Collections/UIC Daley Library (click image to download)

A full day of events on Feb. 22 begin the year-long “Circle Back … UIC Forward” celebration.

Festivities begin at 9:30 a.m. with a “Pier to Here” trolley ride/walk that will take alumni from Navy Pier, where the University of Illinois offered educational programs beginning in 1946, to the Circle Campus. Participants can park at UIC’s Halsted Street Park Structure and take a bus to Navy Pier. They can return to campus either on foot or on the bus for the ribbon-cutting.

Navy Pier — officially, the University of Illinois Chicago Undergraduate Division — was leased by the university as a temporary facility, primarily to accommodate returning veteran students on the G.I. Bill. Pier students completed their last two undergraduate years at the Urbana campus. All that changed with the 1965 opening of Circle, a four-year institution.

The ribbon-cutting will include two original participants who were students at the time. One of them, Col. William J. Hawes, an ROTC cadet in 1965, saved a portion of the ribbon, which now resides in the archives. Dignitaries expected include Ed McMillan, chair of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees; President-designate Timothy Killeen; UIC Chancellor-designate Michael Amiridis; former White House chief-of-staff and commerce secretary William Daley, representing the Daley family; Hawes; and another 1965 student present at the first ribbon-cutting, Washington lobbyist Anthony “Tony” Podesta, who was student government president at the time.

A reception prior to the ribbon-cutting will be held in the atrium of the Engineering Research Facility, 842 W. Taylor St. The group will then proceed outside to the location of the original ceremony, between the two wings of the Science and Engineering Laboratory.

Circle Campus construction

Chicago Circle Campus under construction. Photo: Special Collections/UIC Daley Library (click image to download)

The complete Sunday schedule:

  • Noon: Hull House Museum opens, 800 S. Halsted St.
  • Noon: Lunch buffet, UIC Student Center East cafeteria, 750 S. Halsted St. Visitors can dine with current students.
  • 1 p.m.: Welcome ceremony prior to ribbon-cutting, Engineering Research Facility. Arlene Norsym, associate chancellor for alumni relations and vice president of the alumni association, will emcee. Dignitaries expected include: Gov. Bruce Rauner (invited); University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chairman Edward McMillan; University of Illinois President-designate Timothy Killeen; UIC Chancellor-designate Michael Amiridis; UIC Interim Chancellor and Provost Eric Gislason; UIC alumnus Anthony “Tony” Podesta, president of Washington-based lobbying firm Podesta Group; and Jacob Schulz, UIC Student Government president.
  • 2 p.m.: Ribbon-cutting, Science and Engineering Laboratory.
  • 2 p.m.: Dedication of the Circle Reading Room, Richard J. Daley Library, 801 S. Morgan St. Mary Case, UIC dean of libraries, will emcee. Dignitaries expected to attend include novelist and UIC alumnus Gary Buslik; and William Daley, representing the Daley family.
  • 2 p.m.: UIC Theatre presents “The Piano Lesson.” 1044 W. Harrison St.
  • 3 p.m.: Campus building update virtual tour, Daley Library. Review of the physical changes over the past 50 years.
  • 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: Guided tours of the African-American Cultural Center, 209 Adams Hall; the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center, 101 Taft Hall; and the Rafael Cintron-Ortiz Latino Cultural Center, Lecture Center B2.
  • 4:30 p.m.: Reception and tour of the James Stukel Towers Student Residence Hall, 1225 S. Halsted St.
view of east campus

The University of Illinois at Chicago campus today. Photo: UIC Photo Services (click image to download)

Events during the “Circle Back … UIC Forward” year are not only for the UIC community, Norsym said, but an opportunity to remind the city, state and world of the impact that UIC’s faculty and alumni have made over the past 50 years.

“An estimated one in 10 Chicagoans with a college degree is a UIC alumnus,” she said. “Students come from more than 100 countries, and they can select from among 82 bachelor’s, 93 master’s and 66 doctoral programs. One of every six Illinois physicians, more than 40 percent of the state’s dentists, and one-third of Illinois pharmacists are UIC alumni.

“UIC has come a long way in 50 years. Just imagine what the next 50 will bring.”

For more information, visit circleback.uic.edu.

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