Dr. John B. Duff

Columbia College Chicago

1992 - 2000

John B. Duff was appointed president of Columbia College Chicago in September 1992. Born in East Orange, New Jersey on July 1, 1931 to John Bernard Duff, Sr. and Mary Cunningham Duff. , he earned a B.S. from Fordham University New York, a M.A. from Seton Hall University, New Jersey,  and a PhD from Columbia University, New York. In 1955, he married Helen Mezzanotti and the couple had six children. 

In 1970, following a decade on the history faculty at Seton Hall University, he was appointed vice-president for Academic Affairs, and in 1973 became the first lay provost and executive vice-president in the history of the school. In 1976, he became the first president of the new University of Massachusetts –Lowell and in 1981 he was the first chancellor of the Board of Regents in Massachusetts. In 1985, he was the first non-librarian appointed commissioner of the Chicago public library system and he supervised the construction of the Harold Washington Library, the world’s largest public library.

During his tenure at Columbia College, he oversaw the acquisition of the College’s first residence hall, led its first long-range planning effort, and expanded its local and national development initiatives. He also served as vice-chairman from 1994-1996 and as chairman from 1996-1998 of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities. Also during his time, the institution changed its name from Columbia College to Columbia College Chicago, effective October 28, 1997.

His publications include The Structure of American History, The Nat Turner Rebellion: The Historical Event Controversy, The Irish in the United States, and Slavery: Its Origins and Legacy.

He retired to Palm Desert, California with his second wife,  Estelle M. Shanley, where he died on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, from complications of  Alzheimer's disease.