Wright College has a very special place in our hearts and minds for all of us at Eli’s. Throughout the year, our business and personal lives at Eli’s are much richer because of our
partnership with Wright. I had the pleasure to share my thoughts about the relationship on May 8th when I delivered the Commencement Address at the 74th Annual Commencement Exercises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marc S. Schulman, Commencement Address at Wright College—May 8, 2008

President Guengerich, Vice Chancellor Mutz, members of the faculty, staff, parents and members of the Class of 2008 of Wright College.

Each year, I look forward to Graduation Day at Wright College.

We came to this community, first renting a building on Dakin Street, in 1984 to pursue the dream of my dad, Eli Schulman to sell his signature cheesecake beyond the doors of his
restaurant, Eli’s the Place for Steak.

As we started to grow, we wanted to stay in the neighborhood and I remember taking my dad in March of 1988 to show him the then vacant land at the corner of Montrose and Narragansett (right where we are tonight) and telling him that this would be the place for
our new bakery. It took 8 years but in 1996, we moved to Eli’s Cheesecake World,
our bakery, headquarters and cafe just a block west of here.

My relationship with Wright College started on this same site where are this evening. On Saturday, October 8, 1988, I came upon a large tent here as then Mayor Eugene Sawyer and other dignitaries, including then Professor Guengerich, celebrated the ground
breaking for this campus. Since then Wright has been an integral part of my life.

We have worked together to help our people at Eli’s and to help our community. Our work with our GED Program, Eli’ U., resulted in a visit by Presidential Candidate Bill Clinton
(the first of his three visits to Wright) and the beginning of partnership between Wright, Eli’s and the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. We jointly sponsor a weekly Farmers Market during the summer with Wright and are very proud that Eli’s and Stewart’s Coffee support the SGA Café by donating 100% of the products so that all the proceeds can go to student scholarships selected by the SGA.

In January of 2006, we celebrated with Wright and special guests from the State of Illinois, the City of Chicago, and the Chinese Government, the 100th Anniversary of the visit of Chinese Imperial Commissioners to Chicago and to the institutions that were on this
site—the Cook County Infirmary and Hospital for the Insane.

In February of 2007, Eli’s celebrated with our neighboring businesses the renaming of our business park as the Wright Campus Business Park. This came in recognition of our close
partnership and the support that Wright provides for industry and our respective businesses.

When Dr. Guengerich invited me to deliver the commencement speech, I was most honored as I now have the distinction of doing so on two occasions. It was in June of 1993, when I gave the last commencement address at the Austin Avenue Campus of Wright. That
was a momentous event as Wright was leaving its home of nearly 60 years.

While the original facility was designed to be a junior high school, Wright was leaving for a modern facility designed by world famous architect Bertrand Goldberg to be a community college

Many things have changed from 1993 to the present. For example, my youngest daughter, Elana, then 3, is now a high school senior.

Technology has also changed and the way we learn and access information. There was no Google—it was not until 1995 that E-bay, the online auction web site, made its debut ….and not
until 1998 that two Stanford students started GOOGLE…a now indispensable part of
our lives.

All this technology helps me pursue my love of history and information. I hate to throw things away, save remnants of newspapers, and have always been a great fan of Chicago history, an interest that was passed on to me by dad, Eli.

My favorite time in Chicago History is the Century of Progress in 1933 and 1934. Held during the Depression, the Century of Progress celebrated the 100th anniversary of the settling of Chicago—it had paid attendance of over 39 million, finished with a profit and introduced a new style of modern architecture to the world.

The Century of Progress opened in dramatic fashion on May 27, 1933 with a beam of light from the star Arcturus traveling 40 light years to Chicago—225 million miles.

In the shadow of all this excitement in Chicago, there was a terrible blow to public higher education in Chicago as Crane Junior College; the only junior college in Chicago was closed because of budget issues less than 60 days after the opening of the Century of
Progress. Over 4,000 students were suddenly without a school to attend.

There was tremendous public outcry to “Save our Schools” and in 1934—three junior colleges were opened—Herzl (now Malcolm X), Wilson (now Kennedy King) and Wright
College.

There were 10 graduates in the February Class of 1935, 70 in June, and by 1936, there were almost 400 graduates—very close to the number of graduates here this evening.

In my quest to learn more about these early classes of 35 and 36, I became an avid user of E-Bay to find Wright memorabilia. Last year I was very fortunate to purchase the Wright
Yearbooks—“The Survey”–from 1935 and 1936.

In that Class of 1935, was Herbert C. Brown. His father died in 1926, when he was 14 years old. He left school to work in family’s store but then entered Crane Junior College with an interest in chemistry. He had been there for one semester when the school
closed.

With other students, he went to the personal lab of his instructor at Crane, Dr. Nicholas Cheronis. When Wright opened, Mr. Brown and wife to be, Sarah Baylen, followed Dr. Cheronis to Wright. In his yearbook in 1935, Sarah wrote that Herbert C. Brown would one day be a Nobel Laureate.

He was! In 1979, Professor Brown of Purdue, a holder of a PhD from the University of Chicago, and his Associates Degree from Wright received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Earlier this week, I received an e-mail from a Nicholas Cheronis, a partner at Deloitte with his Weekly Compensation & Benefits Report. I quickly wrote back to find out “was
that his namesake” and yes it was. Nicholas, advised me that his grandfather had
continued to inspire many more Wright College and other students until his untimely passing in 1963.

In 1935, Wright also had aWomen’s Athletic Council headed by Katherine Curtis. Under her leadership the entire student body had a Splash Party—so successful that another was held two weeks later.

Katherine Curtis had been the organizer of the “Modern Mermaids” at the Century of Progress, the basis for the Olympic sport “Synchronized Swimming.” It was also in May of 1939 that the first ever dual meet in Synchronized Swimming was held at Wright
College.

There are Dr. Nicholas Cheronis’ and Katherine Curtis’ in the faculty that sits with you today. Their national recognition may not occur for many years to come but their passion for you, the students, is second to none!

I am also sure that there are many Herbert C. Brown’s in this room. Losing his father at a young age, living through the Depression, and seeing his college closed were serious
impediments to success….but Herbert C. Brown overcame them all…as you will.

I also think of my parents—my grandfather died when my father was a teenager and my father was never able to graduate high school. My mother, Esther Schulman, went to Marshall High School and graduated in 1936. Several of her classmates went on to Wright
but my mother went on to join the workforce.

As I watch the joy of your parents, particularly those for whom you are the first generation to graduate college, I think back to my parent’s joy when I graduated from college
and law school….all due to their hard work and savings.

To appreciate the rich history of Wright College and the achievements of its graduates is extremely critical right now.

On a national level, community colleges have been the talk of this Presidential Campaign. John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama don’t agree on many issues—except the
need to make college affordable and to create opportunities at the community college level. If you do a Google Search for John McCain for “community colleges,” you get over 300,000 entries, for Hillary Clinton, 323,000 entries and for Barack Obama, 1,890,000 entries…..and it grows everyday as each of the candidates seems to be speaking at a community college to its students.

At Wright, programs in Green Technology under the direction of Professor Victoria Cooper, and the partnership with the Lumina Foundation to expand transfer opportunities to the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana are the cutting edge of what a
community college should be doing.

Several weeks ago, I met Matthew Rotstein, Associate Dean of Admissions from Columbia University in New York, who visited Wright because of the shared interest in the Great Books Program that is championed by Professor Gans at Wright. About his visit,
Rotstein wrote “it was by far the best first visit to a college that I have ever
participated in and I do believe that it will be the start of a long relationship between Columbia and Wright College.” He continued “I am looking forward to seeing applications form the students I met on campus and would welcome other applications from students interested in transferring to Columbia.” This is from a school that is ranked 9th of all universities in the United States—with an acceptance rate of 11%. Succeed at Wright and see the doors that are opened for you!

Another thing that Columbia University and Wright College have in common is a rich history in football. It was Sid Luckman, later of great fame at the Chicago Bears, who was
named the outstanding college quarterback in the country in 1938. In 1947, my uncle, Glenn “Buddy” Schulman played on the Wright College football team…Number 40…a 190 lb. tackle who graduated from Wright and went on to IIT.

There is a discussion in the media about how the cost of college can be worth it despite the debt. The authors suggest that somehow the choice of a degree from a community college or a four year institution are mutually exclusive. Many of you will prove that the
degree from Wright is just one step on your academic journey.

It is very fitting that Wright is named for Wilbur Wright, one of the Wright Brothers, who changed the world by flying the first airplane on December 17, 1903. It was one hundred
years later that Wright hosted the 100th Anniversary of Flight for the City of Chicago. There was a very big Eli’s Cheesecake that day and slices for all you this evening.

We look forward to welcoming you back to Wright on Thursday, October 30th when Wright as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival will host a presentation by Astronaut Eileen Collins, the first woman to command the Space Shuttle in 1999 and the commander of Discovery—the Return to Flight Mission in 1999.

Commander Collins holds a Masters Degree from Stanford University, another Masters Degree from Webster University and a Bachelors Degree from Syracuse University. But just like Herbert C. Brown, her first post-secondary degree was an associate’s degree
from a community college—in her case from Corning Community College in
Corning, NY.

Aim High! Think Big! It is all possible with your degree from Wright College.

Congratulations and thank you!