Since 1973, Columbia College Global has benefited graduates like Cleo DeGraffenreid ’76 (above) through educational partnerships with the U.S. military and meeting the needs of nontraditional students nationwide.

A theme emerges during the creation of each issue of Affinity magazine that earmarks this time in the college’s history. As you read through these pages, you’ll sense the courage that comes with hard work and an unwavering commitment to higher education.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Columbia College Global. What began with one small request to educate military recruiters in 1973 quickly evolved into a full-scale academic program for adult learners. As needs continue to change, the college is prepared to meet military and civilian students where they are in life.

Last fall we had the pleasure of meeting 93-year-old Cleo DeGraffenreid, a 1976 graduate of Columbia College Global in Kansas City. As she shared tidbits from her professional journey over lunch, it was clear DeGraffenreid is someone our readers should know.

DeGraffenreid defied the odds for a young Black woman in the 1950s, forging a successful nursing career that led to military service in the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Army National Guard. Coincidentally, she studied at Columbia College alongside famed Tuskegee Airman Brig. Gen. Charles E. McGee ’76. This issue’s cover story is a fitting tribute to her tenacious personality.

And perhaps the most inspiring individuals are the four recipients of the 2023 Alumni Awards. We are honored to shine a spotlight on Jolene Marra Schulz ’61, Dr. Terry Smith, Bill Seibert ’09 and Michael Garver ’03 ’13. Each is a dedicated member of the CC community with a selflessness that enriches the world around them.

When you visit to read the digital edition, you may also subscribe to the print magazine. Your voluntary subscription gift will support CC students in pursuit of their academic goals.

Happy reading,

Carolyn Preul is the editor of Affinity magazine, published by the Columbia College Division of Advancement. Readers are encouraged to share story ideas and feedback with the production team. Please send comments to the editor at