Chicago City Council honors DePaul for university’s 125th year


Jacqueline Cardenas

DePaul students (from left) Tommy Le, Erick Quezada, Julianna De Leon and Jaylen Johnson joined DePaul president Robert L. Manuel at Chicago City Council Wednesday as university was commemorated for its 125th year.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city councilmen spoke in honor of DePaul at Wednesday’s meeting at city hall, after the council proclaimed Jan. 25, 2023 will be known as “DePaul Day” in Chicago.

Four current DePaul students attended the meeting alongside university president Robert L. Manuel to accept the proclamation. Manuel, who began leading the university last spring, said it was an honor for DePaul to be recognized by the city’s elected officials and speaks to a strong bond.

“It’s a reminder of how powerful of a relationship there is between DePaul and Chicago,” Manuel said. “It’s a reminder that no matter what we do in the future, we have to preserve that relationship and benefit each other.”

Several aldermen spoke in favor of the resolution to honor DePaul on Jan. 25. DePaul alumnus and city council members Roderick Sawyer, Maria Hadden, Anabel Abarca, Michael Rodriguez and Edward Burke spoke to the body in congratulations of DePaul’s esteemed status as a fixture in Chicago.

Other members spoke as well, including Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), whose ward neighbors DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus. Speaking to Manuel and DePaul students in attendance, Hopkins shared his view of DePaul as synonymous with the city of Chicago.

“I think in many ways DePaul and the city of Chicago grew up together,” Hopkins said. “You are not just resident in the city, you are woven into the fabric of the city of Chicago.” 

Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43rd), whose ward houses DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus, spoke in strong favor of the resolution to honor DePaul. Knudsen, who participated in an aldermanic forum at the university a night prior, shared fond memories after the forum of his connection to DePaul prior to leading the ward it calls home.

Though the alderman did not attend DePaul, he said it played a role during his college years in providing a safe space and welcoming community for those like him who identify as LGBTQ+.

“In the past that DePaul is where I took the train, when I was an undergrad, to where I could go to the city and be gay, with my friends at DePaul,” Knudsen said. “So, I’m going to keep screaming for DePaul from the rooftops.”

On Wednesday in front of city council, Knudsen’s words echoed what he said Tuesday night, commending the institution for its inclusivity.

“[It’s] a university at its core values that stands for diversity, equity, inclusion and public service,” Knudsen said. “As someone who grew up in a [college town] that was called one of the least LGBTQ-friendly universities in the country, in [contrast] DePaul is consistently one of the most LGBTQ-friendly universities in the country.”

Lightfoot capped remarks in the chamber with words of her own. Like Knudsen, the mayor spoke to DePaul’s inclusivity but also thanked DePaul for its commitment to partnerships with area public schools. Following the mayor’s comments, Manuel and members of the DePaul community in attendance received ovations from those present in the chamber.

Manuel sat through each speaker in the chambers’ box, joined by four DePaul students. Jaylen Johnson, Tommy Le, Erick Quezada and Julianna De Leon are all products of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), which was why Manuel asked them to join him Wednesday, as their presence spoke to DePaul’s symbiotic relationship with Chicago.

“They’re all CPS graduates and they all represent in — different ways — the mission applied to their lives,” Manuel said. “What they’re doing is exemplary of what we hope our students would get as a result of being at DePaul.”

Both campuses will hold celebrations this week honoring DePaul’s 125 years, including Blue Demon Challenge, DePaul’s annual day of contribution on Wednesday. Chicago’s skyline will be illuminated with blue and red throughout the week in homage to the nation’s largest Catholic institution.   

“The city of Chicago is aligned with the mission of DePaul,” Lightfoot said. “The futures of DePaul University and the city of Chicago are inseparable and intertwined.”