Lite of the Mind (a light-hearted look at all things Chicago)

The X files


By Brooke E. O’Neill, AM’04
Jesse Jackson photo by Dan Dry; all others Newscom

To many readers it’s a mysterious marker. “Was he an unknown quantity?” wrote Daniel Mann, AB’52, in a June 2004 letter to the Magazine after he noticed a classmate labeled “X’52” in Alumni News. “Was he so wilted after those six-hour comps that he couldn’t even sign his name?”

The X designation is simply explained. It’s short for an ex-student who was accepted into and attended the University but left before completing a degree. And it’s by no means a mark against a person. The X ranks include Oscar winners, Nobel laureates, and Pulitzer Prize recipients. Formerly given to students who had completed at least two courses toward a degree-granting program, the X label, bestowed by the University’s administration, was recently changed to include anyone who has completed one quarter and earned course credit.

Only time will tell what other names get added to the list of Chicago Xs. Here are a few standouts we found. Send more our way at

Find the chart below too small to read? View the hi-res pdf.

Note: We misidentified a photograph of actress Greer Garson as Celeste Holm, X'34, in the print version of the May-Jun/10 issue of the Magazine. The online version has been corrected. We regret the error.