Columbia College Chicago Recognizes Industry Leaders in Film, Theater and Music at 2015 Commencement

Alumni honored: HBO Films President Len Amato; Steppenwolf Theatre Artistic Director Anna Shapiro; Bloodshot Records Co-Founder Nan Warshaw ; Actor and Singer Chester Gregory; Playwright, Screenwriter and Theatre Producer Josefina Lopez

CHICAGO (April 16, 2015) - Five Columbia College Chicago alumni who are leaders in their fields, including an Emmy-winning executive and a Tony Award winner, are returning to the college to receive honorary degrees for their achievements in business and the fine, performing and creative arts. The degrees will be presented during the spring 2015 commencement ceremonies on May 16 and 17 at the Auditorium Theatre on 50 E. Congress Parkway.

With more than 2,300 undergraduate and graduate students, the college will present honorary degrees to HBO Films president Len Amato; Steppenwolf Theatre Company artistic director Anna Shapiro; co-founder of Bloodshot Records Nan Warshaw; actor and singer Chester Gregory; and playwright, screenwriter and theater producer, Josefina López.

“These five Columbia College Chicago alumni have had tremendous impact in their respective fields and truly embody the mission of the college by ‘authoring the culture of their times,’” said Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim, President of Columbia College Chicago. “They are an inspiration to all and we look to the Class of 2015 to follow their lead with high aspirations as they begin their careers.”


Josefina López (BA ’93)
Honored at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, May 16

Josefina López is a playwright, screenwriter, and theater producer best known for authoring the play and co-authoring the 2002 Sundance award-winning film, “Real Women Have Curves,” and is developing a musical version of the play for Broadway. She is the founding artistic director of CASA 0101 Theater in Los Angeles, which is committed to presenting plays that celebrate and shatter the myths and stereotypes of women and Latinos. López started her writing career at 17 and has had more than 80 productions of her plays throughout the U.S. She has also been working as a professional screenwriter in Hollywood for nearly 25 years with countless development deals and screenplay assignments. López is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including a formal recognition from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s 7th Annual “Women Making History in Hollywood” in1998; and a Screenwriting Fellowship from the California Arts Council in 2001. She and Real Women Have Curves co-author George LaVoo won the HUMANITIES PRIZE for Screenwriting in 2002, The Gabriel Garcia Marquez Award from L.A. Mayor in 2003, and the Artist-in-Residency grant from the NEA/TCG for 2007.

Anna D. Shapiro (BA ’90)
Honored at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, May 16

Anna D. Shapiro is a Broadway director, an ensemble member, and the new artistic director of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. She was nominated for a 2011 Tony Award for her production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ award-winning play, The Motherfucker with the Hat, which she also directed at Steppenwolf to critical acclaim. She received the 2008 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Direction of a Play for Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. Last season, Shapiro directed the Broadway revival of Of Mice and Men, which National Theatre Live selected as the first American production to be broadcast to over 700 cinemas across the US and Canada. She has been affiliated with Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago since 1995, serving as the original director of the New Plays Lab, later joining the artistic staff as Resident Director, Associate Artist and, since 2005, as an Ensemble member with numerous directing credits Shapiro is the recipient of a 1996 Princess Grace Award, as well as the 2010 Princess Grace Statue Award. Shapiro’s work can currently be seen on Broadway in the critically acclaimed revival of Steppenwolf’s production of This Is Our Youth by Kenneth Lonergan. Upcoming projects include the world premiere of Larry David’s Fish in the Dark on Broadway.

Nan R. Warshaw (MA ’93)
Honored at 5:00 p.m., Saturday, May 16

Nan Warshaw co-founded Bloodshot Records, an independent record label based in Chicago that specializes in roots and country music (also known as alt-country or insurgent country) in 1994. With more than 220 releases to date, Bloodshot Records has launched the careers of Ryan Adams, Neko Case, Old 97's and Justin Townes Earle. Warshaw has worked closely with Jon Langford (Waco Brothers, Mekons), who served as an “exceptionally prolific, hardworking role model who taught by example.” Warshaw is currently working new releases by Lydia Loveless, Murder By Death, Barrence Whitfield and The Savages, Robbie Fulks, Banditos, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Cory Branan, Luke Winslow-King among many others. She also currently sits on the advisory boards of The Future Of Music Coalition, The Chicago Music Coalition, and on the honorary board of Foundations Of Music. Nan, along with her Bloodshot Records partner Rob Miller, were named 2014 Chicagoans of the Year in Rock by the Chicago Tribune. In 2015, she served as ChicagoMade Ambassador to SXSW.


Len Amato (BA ’75)
Honored at 2:00 p.m., Sunday, May 17

Len Amato is President of HBO Films for Home Box Office and is responsible for overseeing the development and production of HBO Films for the network. Since Amato took the helm in October 2008, HBO Films has garnered numerous awards and accolades. The 1009-14 award seasons produced 39 Emmy Awards and 12 Golden Globes, winning an Emmy for Outstanding Made For Television Movie in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014. With 11 wins and 15 nominations, HBO Films’ movie, “Behind the Candelabra,” was the most awarded program at the 2013 Emmys. Prior to becoming president, Amato served as HBO program executive and executive producer on 2008’s Outstanding Made for Television Movie and multiple Emmy-winning film Recount, starring Oscar winner Kevin Spacey and Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson. Recount garnered Amato his first Emmy Award win and also began his association with director Jay Roach and writer Danny Strong who would later repeat their creative collaboration on Game Change. Prior to joining HBO, Amato was president of Spring Creek Productions. His producer/executive producer credits include: Analyze This and Analyze That; Possession; Deliver Us From Eva; Rumor Has It; The Astronaut Farmer, and the Golden Globe and Oscar nominated Blood Diamond. Prior to his career in the film industry, Amato was a musician and actor, performing at such renowned downtown venues as CBGB’s and La Mama Experimental theatre in New York City. He is a member of the Producers Guild of America.


Chester Gregory (BA ’95)
Honored at 5:30 p.m., Sunday, May 17

Chester Gregory is an award-winning actor, singer and songwriter whose rise to fame began after starring as Jackie Wilson in the national tour of The Jackie Wilson Story. The tour began at The Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago before it landed at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. He made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award-Winning musical, Hairspray as Seaweed and then appeared in the original Broadway casts of Tarzan and Cry-Baby. He later starred in the national tour of Dreamgirls as Jimmy Early before returning to Broadway to star opposite Raven Symone in Sister Act. In 2015, he added an August Wilson play to his resume when he appeared as Sterling in Two Trains Running at the Goodman Theatre. Gregory has received numerous awards for his work, including a NAACP Theater Award, a Joseph Jefferson Award, Audelco Award, Black Theatre Alliance Award and a Black Excellence Award. Since a show centered around the legacy of Jackie Wilson is where it all began, Gregory created a one-man show, The Eve of Jackie, which he’s performed in various cities across the country. Gregory continues to tour nationally with his one-man show, and now resides in Los Angeles, where he is transitioning into TV and film work.



Columbia College Chicagois an urban institution that offers innovative degree programs in the visual, performing, media and communication arts to nearly 10,000 students in 120 undergraduate and graduate programs. An arts and media college committed to a rigorous liberal arts curriculum, Columbia is dedicated to opportunity and excellence in higher education. For further information,