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Circle Campus: 1965-1982, part 1



Governor Otto Kerner cuts the ribbon opening Chicago Circle Campus. Ribbon-cutting ceremony opening Chicago Circle Campus. UIC photo.

On February 22, 1965, ninety-eight years after a promise was made to locate a branch of the University in Chicago, the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle Campus opened. Two ROTC cadets stretched a ribbon on the walkway under the looming five-story Science and Engineering Laboratory in front of the various dignitaries who had planned the new campus, including Circle Chancellor Norman Parker, University President David Dodds Henry, Governor Otto Kerner, U of I Trustee president Howard Clement, UICC student body president Anthony Podesta, and, of course, Mayor Richard J. Daley. Each had a chance to cut part of the ribbon, officially opening the new campus.

Mayor Richard J. Daley at the Chicago Circle Forum. Mayor Richard J. Daley considered the creation of Circle Campus as his “greatest accomplishment” during his twenty-one years as Chicago’s mayor.  Photo courtesy  Chicago Sun-Times.


Chicago Circle Campus marker.

No one was more proud than was Mayor Daley. For nearly 30 years, he had worked to realize the dream of establishing a public degree granting state university in the heart of Chicago. “Our world," he proclaimed, "is becoming more and more urbanized. Of necessity, a university which truly seeks to meet the needs of society must be a part of urban life. Just as universities make great cities, so too, great cities make great universities – and the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle is destined to be one of the great universities of our nation.”


For a time, Circle Campus was the fastest growing campus in the country. Enrollment started at around 5,000 students, grew to almost 8,500 by winter, 1965-66, and then climbed to 17,500 by 1970-71 – an increase of over 340 percent in just five years. Before Circle opened, Chicago did not have a degree-granting public university. So the mission for Circle was heavily contested. Even before classes started, questions surfaced over what should be the focus of the new University. Should it concentrate on general education for undergraduate students and become a resource for the City, or should it become a research university, using the City as a resource?




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