The Honors College Celebrates 25 Years

First Honors Day at The Forum


We are pleased to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the UIC Honors College.  Join us as we take a stroll down memory here for a photo slide show

To view photos from the 25th Anniversary of the UIC Honors College here for a photo slide show

A Brief History of Honors Programs at UIC

In 1958 the Honors Program, also known as the University Honors Program or the James Scholars Program, was approved for the Chicago Undergraduate Division campus at Navy Pier. The program sought to enhance the experience of academically superior students. In 1959 the first class of honors students arrived.

By 1962 the Chicago Undergraduate Division expanded to become a four year school and the scope of the Honors Program was extended.  Arthur Pickett serves as the first director, with Nan McGhee taking over in 1967 at Pickett’s death in Vietnam.

Honors students were known as 'James Scholars' and received priority registration. A series of special lectures and events were developed for students, and these increased as the program matured.

During the 1970's, debate ensued about the future of the Honors Program, and in 1974 then Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, Arnold B. Grobman announced a plan to de-centralize operations to the colleges. After much discussion and passionate support by many James Scholars students, including Lloyd Zimmerman, Patti Naegele and Dolores Zemont, Grobman revised his decision and funded the Honors Program. Instead, a historical evaluation of all honors programs was spearheaded by then Director of the Honors Program, Samuel Schrage.

In 1976 the committee headed by Schrage, provided its evaluation of honors programs and gave its support to the continuation of the program.  In 1980 the Honors Council proposed a unified honors program to be called University College. In the end the council received approval to establish a unified honors program, and in 1982 the Honors College was born.

Honors College History

1982- President Ikenberry consolidates the Medical Center and Chicago Circle to establish UIC. The Honors College is also established this year.

1982- Suanna Pflaum Grannis is installed as first Dean of the Honors College.

1985- Howard Kerr takes over as Honors College Dean after Dean Pflaum accepts the job of Dean of Education at Queens College, New York.  Kerr is a faculty member from the English Department at UIC.

1994- The first Honors College ball is held at the Congress Hotel, over 200 students attend.

1996- Lansine Kaba is appointed to the of role of Dean. Kaba is a faculty member from the African American Studies Department at UIC.

1997- A UIC Senate committee proposes a cut to the priority registration program. Later that year, the plan is approved and Honors College students, along with two minority organizations, lose access to priority registration.

1997- The Honors College moves from SEO to newly renovated space in Burnham Hall. Enrollment tops 1350 students.

2001- Dean Kaba retires and Janet Madia is appointed Interim Dean.

2003- Lon Kaufman, Professor and Head of the Biological Sciences Department, is named Dean of the Honors College and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs.

Honoring the Past... Looking to the Future

In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Honors College, and in honor of all the students, faculty, staff and friends who have contributed to our success, the Honors College will host a reception on Friday, April 18, 2008 at 6:00pm at the new UIC Forum. All alumni and past faculty fellows are welcome. Please reserve your place by emailing your name (and the name of your guest, if applicable) to

Honors Memories

"Ramona and I were both enrolled in a James Scholar Honors required class with Dr. Schrage which met for one hour every Friday. We both missed the first class and if we hadn't missed that class, we would have known that the course was canceled.

We showed up for the second class are were greeted by Dr. Schrage, who promptly informed us that if we were brilliant enough to show up for the first class, we would've known not to show up for the remainder. After a few minutes of an "honors chastising," we were all dismissed.

I introduced myself [to Romona] and attempted to occupy my free hour with her over lunch. She was short on money, but long on pride, and wouldn't admit she had no money nor allow me to buy lunch. We ended up studying together in the library. We met off and on during our Friday free hour, and for a few years before getting married on October 11, 1980 and now have two boys in college."

Gary Reschak BS '77, MS '84 and Ramona Barski Reschak BS '79


"I was a James Scholar from 1970-1974 and was Valedictorian in 1974.

The best thing about being a James Scholar (besides the early registration!) was being part of a community of people on a commuter campus. We had two lounges where we could meet, chat, eat lunch; one of the lounges was a place to smoke!! (Yep, I quit). I got to know many nice, funny people and enjoyed sharing movies, beer, Italian food, and the occasional skiing trip to Madison, Wisconsin, with some of them. It's surprising, in retrospect, how un-geeky most of us were, but I think the urban campus helped us to stay balanced. Somewhere along the line, we discussed our classes.

I also remember Dr. Schrage fondly and admired his efforts to keep the James Scholar program afloat. He did us a great service."

Mary A. Dering BA '74


"In 1970, I remember being in the James Scholar class on literature, and if I recall correctly, it was taught by Bernie Kogan. I liked Dr. Kogan and thought his methods of getting you involved were great. Unfortunately, I was pretty young at the time and didn't appreciate all the nuances of the literature that I should have. Nonetheless, it was very intellectually challenging and it was one of my most favorite classes my Freshman year.

Somewhere in a box, I still have the key to the James Scholar private study rooms that we had reserved for us. That was a great perk in the early days of UIC (University at Chicago Circle Campus)."

Brian Shankman BA '74


"I was a James Scholar from 1968 to 1972. The best part of James Scholar was very practical. I did not have to wait in line to get my classes each quarter. I set up my schedule, and got every class I requested, with the James Scholar priority. The simplicity was great. Other students would talk of waiting in lines to sign up for this class or that, but I never needed to go where they did, to wait in line. One of many motivations to keep my grades high enough to keep my status as James Scholar.

We were also provided a lounge, which I recall using now and then, to meet friends, talk of serious topics, when my world was new and opening wide with the Circle."

Sarah LaBelle BS '72


"I was a James Scholar from 1977-1980. For me, the James Scholar/Honors program was synonymous with UIC. The program offered academic encouragement, camaraderie, and identity. I spent almost all my free time in the Honors Program building and common room. Nearly all of my friends within and outside of classes were also in the program. The other program members were smart, hard-working, and friendly, and I felt that regardless of their field of study, I had a lot in common with them. Without the James Scholar/Honors program, I would not have felt the same sense of belonging to the University. The program offered a small school atmosphere in what otherwise felt at the time like a large, anonymous, commuter school.

To me, Dr. Samuel Schrage was the embodiment of the James Scholar/Honors program. A scholarly, old world figure, he provided encouragement, positive feedback, and warmth. I can picture him sitting at his large desk on the second floor when I re-read his annual congratulations letters in my UIC file. The James Scholar program instilled in me a sense of academic curiosity and encouraged the pursuit of excellence. It was instrumental in helping me to prepare for a career in science and medicine."

Rupali Das BS '80, MD '85


"My fondest or perhaps frightening was always being asked for my ID by Dean Kerr while I was hanging out in the lounge. I guess he thought I was some homeless guy. It took him a whole semester to figure out that some scholars really don't have that clean cut look, like Jahn Wagner."

Andres Hernandez BA '92


"I remember kids were always waiting like vultures to snatch the next computer that was open. Also, no one wanted to EVER drink the last cup of coffee.... especially me because I actually didn't know how to make a fresh pot."

Joanne Lerman BA '05


"I would not have been able, nor would I have had the desire, to attend law school without the input and support from my Honors College Fellow, Prof. Matthew Lippman. He exposed me to the possibilities that a law degree would provide and was very willing to discuss my future.

Prof. Lippman also listened to me. He made notes when I talked to him. The time came that I anxiously asked him to write a letter of recommendation for me to provide to the law schools as part of the admissions process. His writing was short and deceptively simple, but eloquent and eye-opening. He understood my background and where I came from, and what I hoped to achieve with my life.

DePaul University College of Law offered me a merit-based scholarship. I attended a welcoming party for scholarship recipients, and was introduced to some of the admissions staff. They told me that Prof. Lippman's words of recommendation, his ability to express my background, struggles, hopes and achievements had truly helped to win them over--not only to admit me, but to award me the scholarship.

I'm not the sentimental type, and don't keep many papers from years ago, but I've kept Prof. Lippman's letter in my lockbox for over 14 years."

Fred Nickl BA 1995


We want to hear from Honors College alumni! We welcome you to submit your favorite memories, stories, and photos of life during your time as a student.

We would especially like to hear from alumni from the early years.
Please send us your memories!

Please send your photos, memories and stories to