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Edward J. Sparling

Photo credit: Roosevelt University Archive
Roosevelt University founder Edward J. Sparling with Eleanor Roosevelt, who spoke at the school’s dedication. Photo credit: Roosevelt University Archive
Photo credit: Roosevelt University Archive
Edward J. Sparling (at right, with unidentified person) in front of the Auditorium Building. Photo credit: Roosevelt University Archive

In a city like Chicago, it’s not only the people who build things, but also the people who save them, who deserve our gratitude.

Edward J. Sparling did both. In 1945, he and 62 faculty members resigned from Chicago’s Central YMCA College to do something revolutionary: they started a new college open to all students, regardless of race, class, sex, or age. The school was named for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt just after his death in 1945, and to this day, Roosevelt University advances a mission of social consciousness.

That’s what Sparling built; what he saved was a Chicago architecture masterpiece that has housed the school since its earliest days: the Auditorium Building. The university’s restoration of the building and theater, led by architect Harry Weese, is one of the great preservation success stories of the 20th century.