University of Chicago

University of Chicago

Chicago, University of, at Chicago; coeducational; inc. 1890, opened 1892 primarily through the gifts of John D. Rockefeller. Because of the progressive programs and distinguished faculty established under its first president, William R. Harper (1891-1906), the Univ. of Chicago immediately achieved prominence in American education. Under Robert M. Hutchins (1929-51) it established a unique program of admitting students to the undergraduate division after only two years of high school and granting B.A. degrees at the age of 18 or 19. Survey courses were developed and comprehensive examinations were substituted for regular course requirements. However, under Lawrence Kimpton (1951-60), this program was largely abandoned. Significant among the university's graduate and research facilities are the Pritzker School of Medicine; the Enrico Fermi Institute and the Enrico Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; the Argonne National Laboratory; the Yerkes Observatory, at Williams Bay, Wis.; the Oriental Institute; and the former school of education (closed in 1997).

The University of Chicago is a private university located principally in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Founded by the oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, the University has traditionally dated its establishment to July 1, 1891, when William Rainey Harper became President and the first member of the faculty. The University of Chicago held its first classes on October 1, 1892. Chicago was one of the first universities in the United States to be conceived as a combination of the American liberal arts college and the German research university. Known for its rigorous devotion to academic scholarship and intellectual life, the University of Chicago is sometimes jokingly referred to as the school "where fun comes to die.

Affiliated with 82 Nobel Prize laureates, the University of Chicago is widely regarded as one of the world's foremost universities. Historically, the university is noted for the unique undergraduate core curriculum pioneered by Robert Hutchins in the 1930s, and for influential academic movements such as the Chicago School of Economics, the Chicago School of Sociology, and the Law and Economics movement in legal analysis. The University of Chicago was the site of the world's first man-made self-sustaining nuclear reaction. It is also home to the Committee on Social Thought, an interdisciplinary graduate research program, and to the largest university press in the United States.


Hyde Park campus

The University of Chicago is principally located seven miles (11 km) south of downtown Chicago, in the Hyde Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods. The campus is bisected by Frederick Law Olmsted's Midway Plaisance, a large linear park created for the 1893 World's Fair. While the bulk of the campus is located north of the Midway, some of the professional schools are located south of the Midway. The quadrangles of the main campus feature a botanical garden and neo-Gothic buildings constructed mostly out of limestone in the late 19th century. The tallest building is Rockefeller Chapel, designed by Bertram Goodhue. Buildings of the original quadrangles were deliberately patterned after the layouts of Oxford University and Cambridge University. Mitchell Tower, for example, is a smaller-sized reproduction of Oxford's Magdalen Tower, and the University Commons, Hutchinson Hall, is a duplicate of Oxford's Christ Church Hall.

Contemporary buildings have attempted to complement the style of the original architecture. Notable examples include the Laird Bell Law Quadrangle by Eero Saarinen, the School of Social Service Administration by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and the Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright. The largest modern addition is the Regenstein Library, designed by architect Walter Netsch and constructed on the grounds of the former Stagg Field, the site of the world's first nuclear reaction.

The Hyde Park campus is also home to the Oriental Institute, an internationally renowned archeology museum and research center for ancient Near Eastern studies. The Institute is housed in an unusual Gothic and Art Deco building designed by the architectural firm Mayers Murray & Phillip. The Museum has artifacts from digs in Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Notable possessions include the famous Megiddo Ivories, various treasures from Persepolis, the old Persian capital, a 40-ton human-headed winged lamassu from Khorsabad, the capital of Sargon II, and a monumental statue of King Tutankhamun.

Across the street from the Oriental Institute is the Seminary Co-op bookstore, located in the basement of the Chicago Theological Seminary. The Co-op stocks the largest selection of academic volumes in the United States.

A recent two billion dollar campaign has brought unprecedented expansion to the campus, including the unveiling of the Max Palevsky Residential Commons, the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, a new hospital and a new science building. The Jules and Gwen Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery, a ten-story medical research center, as well as further additions to the medical campus are currently under construction. In the next stage of its campaign, the university plans to revamp and consolidate residence halls, some of which are far from campus and aging poorly. A new residence hall south of the midway is expected to open in September 2009.

Satellite campuses

The University of Chicago also maintains a number of facilities apart from its main campus. The university's Graduate School of Business maintains campuses in Singapore, London and in downtown Chicago, while the Paris Center, a campus located on the left bank of the River Seine in Paris, hosts various undergraduate and graduate study programs.

The university's Yerkes Observatory, constructed in 1897 and located in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, is the home of the largest refracting telescope ever built. The Yerkes Observatory claims to have been the first to determine the spiral structure of the Milky Way Galaxy and the first to observe carbon in stellar spectra. As of 2006, the University of Chicago is in the process of consummating a controversial proposed sale of the property to a real estate development firm, under plans which would preserve the historic building while devoting most of the land to homes and a resort complex.


Much of the information below is adapted from the University of Chicago's official website


The University of Chicago was founded by the American Baptist Education Society and oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, who later called it "the best investment I ever made." The land for the university was donated by Marshall Field, owner of the Marshall Field and Company department store chain. The University's founding was part of a wave of university foundings that followed the American Civil War. Incorporated in 1890, the University has dated its founding as July 1, 1891, when William Rainey Harper became its first president. The first classes were held on October 1, 1892, with an enrollment of 594 students and a faculty of 120, including eight former college presidents. Earlier references to University of Chicago rise from the incorporation of the "first" University of Chicagoa school Senator Stephen A. Douglas started with an 1856 grant.

Westward migration, population growth, and industrialization had led to an increasing need for elite schools away from the East Coast, especially schools that would focus on issues vital to national development. Though Rockefeller was urged to build in New England or the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, he ultimately chose Chicago. His choice reflected his strong desire to realize Thomas Jefferson's dream of a natural meritocracy's rise to prominence, determined by talent rather than familial heritage. Rockefeller's early fiscal emphasis on the physics department showed his pragmatic, yet deeply intellectual, desires for the school.

Though founded under Baptist auspices, the University of Chicago has never had a sectarian affiliation. The school's traditions of rigorous scholarship were established primarily by Presidents William Rainey Harper and Robert Maynard Hutchins. Chicago opened its door to women and minorities from the very beginning, a time when they seldom had access to other leading universities. It was the first major university to enroll women on an equal basis with men, as well as the first major, predominantly white university to offer a black professor a tenured position, in 1947.

Unlike many other American universities at the time (with the notable exception of Johns Hopkins University), the University of Chicago revolved around a number of graduate research institutions, following Germanic precedent. The College of the University of Chicago remained quite small compared to its East Coast peers until around the middle of the 20th century.

As a result, the graduate population of the university dwarfs the undergraduate population 2:1 to this day, while the university's undergraduate student body remains the third smallest amongst the top 10 national universities. The student-to-faculty ratio is 4:1, one of the lowest amongst national universities, and all faculty members are required to teach undergraduate courses.

Presidency of Robert Hutchins

During his presidency, Robert Maynard Hutchins met with the president of academic rival Northwestern University to discuss the future of the two institutions through the Depression and the looming war. Hutchins concluded that, in order to secure the future of both universities, it was in the best interest of both for the two campuses to merge as the "Universities of Chicago", with Northwestern's campus serving as the site for undergraduate education and the Hyde Park campus serving as the graduate studies campus. President Hutchins' vision for what he hoped would become the preeminent university in the world eventually faltered amidst opposition from several groups, most notably Northwestern’s medical faculty. Hutchins called the episode "one of the lost opportunities of American education."

Starting in the 1930s, the university conducted a more successful experiment on the college. To make the university a preeminent undergraduate academic institution, administrators decided to implement President Hutchins' philosophy of Secular Perennialism. This led to the innovation of the common core, an educational strategy in which students read original source materials rather than textbooks, and discuss them in small groups using the Socratic method rather than a lecture approach. The common core is still an important feature of Chicago's undergraduate education. In addition to pioneering this new undergraduate curriculum, the university took steps to eliminate "distractions" such as varsity sports, fraternities, and religious organizations. This attracted free-thinkers such as Carl Sagan and Kurt Vonnegut to the university. The university succeeded in eliminating all varsity sports for 20 years and all but five fraternities (Alpha Delta Phi, Delta Upsilon, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Gamma Delta, and Psi Upsilon), although three of the eliminated fraternities were re-chartered in the 1980s (Alpha Epsilon Pi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, and Sigma Phi Epsilon).

Science at Chicago

In addition to its contributions to higher education, the University of Chicago made significant contributions to 20th century science. In 1909 Professor Robert Millikan performed the historic oil-drop experiment in the Ryerson Physical Laboratory on the university campus. This experiment allowed Millikan to calculate the charge of an electron and paved the way for the theory of quantum mechanics in the 1940s. The American Physical Society now designates Ryerson Laboratory a historic physics site.

As part of the Manhattan Project, University of Chicago chemists, led by Glenn T. Seaborg, began to study the newly manufactured radioactive element plutonium. The George Herbert Jones Laboratory was the site where, for the first time, a trace quantity of this new element was isolated and measured in September 1942. This procedure enabled chemists to determine the new element's atomic weight. Room 405 of the building was named a National Historic Landmark in May 1967.

On December 2, 1942, scientists achieved the world's first self-sustained nuclear reaction at Stagg Field on the campus of the university under the direction of professor Enrico Fermi. A sculpture by Henry Moore marks the spot, now deemed a National Historic Landmark, where the nuclear reaction took place. Stagg Field has since been demolished to make way for the Regenstein Library.

In addition to its groundbreaking work in physics, the University of Chicago is recognized for numerous other important scientific discoveries. These include

Arts at Chicago

Although the University of Chicago is better known for its academic and scientific achievements, its students and faculty have also made significant contributions to the arts. In 1955, the University of Chicago became the birthplace of improvisational comedy with the formation of the undergraduate comedy troupe, the Compass Players. In 1959, alumnus Paul Sills, who many consider the father of improvisational theater, founded The Second City along with Bernard Sahlins, also a graduate of the University. Since its founding, The Second City Theater has inspired other comedy troupes such as Saturday Night Live, as well as serving as an incubator for artists such as Alan Arkin, Mike Nichols, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Steven Colbert, Tina Fey, and Steve Carell.

In 1964, Professor Ralph Shapey founded the University of Chicago Contemporary Chamber Players, one of the oldest and most successful professional new music groups in the nation. The Contemporary Chamber Players, also known as "contempo," has given over eighty world premieres of established and emerging composers.

While teaching on the Committee on Social Thought, Professor Saul Bellow wrote several best-selling novels, including Herzog in 1964 and Humboldt's Gift in 1975, for which he was awarded the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and Nobel Prize in Literature.

The University of Chicago also founded The Renaissance Society in 1915, which is devoted to the exhibition of contemporary art. The Society's 1934 exhibition of Alexander Calder's "mobile" and its 1936 survey of paintings and drawings by Ferdinand Leger were the first solo exhibitions of these artists in the United States.


In the early 1950s, student applications declined as a result of increasing crime and poverty in the Hyde Park neighborhood. In response, the university became a major sponsor of a controversial urban renewal project for Hyde Park, which profoundly affected both the neighborhood's architecture and street plan. For details of this urban renewal effort, see Hyde Park.

In 1959, the university’s literary journal the Chicago Review, edited by Irving Rosenthal and Paul Carroll, published excerpts from William S. Burroughs’ experimental novel Naked Lunch. The material appeared in the Spring 1958 edition. The university was criticized for publishing fiction deemed obscene by a columnist in the Chicago Daily News and suppressed the Winter 1959 issue, which contained more material from the Naked Lunch manuscript. The university administration fired Rosenthal and Carroll, who regarded the university's attempt at suppressing Naked Lunch as censorship.

The University experienced its share of student unrest during the 1960s, beginning in 1962, when students occupied President George Beadle's office in a protest over the University's off-campus rental policies. In 1969, more than 400 students, angry about the dismissal of a popular professor, Marlene Dixon, occupied the Administration Building for two weeks. After the sit-in ended, when Dixon turned down a one-year reappointment, 42 students were expelled and 81 were suspended, the most severe response to student occupations of any American university during the student movement. A few months later, junior professor and SDS founder Richard Flacks was attacked in his office by an unknown assailant, and nearly beaten to death.

In 1978, Hanna Holborn Gray, then the provost of Yale University, became President of the University of Chicago, the first woman ever to serve as the president of a major research university.


In 1990, the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) was created after the passage of the Chicago School Reform Act that decentralized governance of the city's public schools. Researchers at the University of Chicago joined with researchers from Chicago Public Schools and other organizations to form CCSR with the imperative to study this landmark restructuring and its long-term effects. Since then CCSR has undertaken research on many of Chicago's school reform efforts, some of which have been embraced by other cities as well. Thus, CCSR studies have also informed broader national movements in public education.

In 1999, then-President Hugo Sonnenschein announced plans to relax the university's famed core curriculum, reducing the number of required courses from 21 to 15. When The New York Times, The Economist, and other major news outlets picked up this story, the university became the focal point of a national debate on education. The National Association of Scholars, for example, released a statement saying, "It is truly depressing to observe a steady abandonment of the University of Chicago's once imposing undergraduate core curriculum, which for so long stood as the benchmark of content and rigor among American academic institutions." The changes were ultimately implemented, but the controversy led to Sonnenschein's resignation in 2000.

In 2006, the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute became the center of controversy when U.S. federal courts ruled to seize and auction its valuable collection of ancient Persian artifacts, the proceeds of which would go to compensate the victims of a 1997 bombing in Jerusalem that the United States believes was funded by Iran. The ruling threatens the university's invaluable collection of ancient clay tablets held by the Oriental Institute since the 1930s but officially owned by Iran.

In 2007, the University of Chicago received an anonymous alumni donation of $100 million. The donation will be used as the cornerstone of a $400 million undergraduate student aid initiative. Beginning in the fall of 2008, students will be eligible for enhanced financial aid packages called Odyssey Scholarships, which hopes to eliminate student loans entirely among students whose annual family income is less than $60,000 and to eliminate half the student loan packages among students whose annual family income is between $60,000 and $75,000. The College expects nearly a quarter of the entire College population to benefit from the program.

In 2008, the University of Chicago announced plans to establish the Milton Friedman Institute. Friedman, a Nobel Laureate in economics, received his M.A. in economics from the university in 1933 and was a professor at the University of Chicago for over thirty years. The institute will cost around $200 million and occupy the buildings of the Chicago Theological Seminary.


Specific programs

The University of Chicago's economics department is particularly well-known. In fact, an entire school of thought (the Chicago School of Economics) bears its name. Led by Nobel Prize laureates such as Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, George Stigler, Gary Becker, Robert Lucas, James Heckman, Robert Fogel, and Roger Myerson, the university's economics department has played an important role in shaping ideas about the free market. The Chicago School of Economics is also famous for applying economic principles to every aspect of human life, as demonstrated by University of Chicago Professor Steven Levitt in his best-selling book, Freakonomics.

The university is also known for creating the first sociology department in the United States, which later gave birth to the Chicago School of Sociology. Scholars affiliated with this school are considered pioneers in the field and include Albion Small, George Herbert Mead, Robert E. Park, W. I. Thomas, and Ernest Burgess.

The university is home to several committees for interdisciplinary scholarship, the most famous of which is the Committee on Social Thought. One of several Ph. D-granting committees at the university, it was started in 1941 by University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins along with historian John U. Nef, economist Frank Knight, and anthropologist Robert Redfield. The committee is interdisciplinary, but it is not centered on any specific topic. Since its inception, the committee has drawn together noted academics and writers to "foster awareness of the permanent questions at the origin of all learned inquiry". Members of the committee have included Hannah Arendt, T. S. Eliot, David Grene, Leo Strauss, Allan Bloom, Friedrich von Hayek, Leon Kass, Mark Strand, Wayne Booth, Joseph Rutherford Hicks, and J.M. Coetzee.

The Council on Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences and Humanities administers over seventy interdisciplinary workshops, which provide a forum for graduate students, faculty, and visiting scholars to present scholarly work in progress. The council is composed of faculty from the Social Sciences and Humanities divisions and the Divinity School who set policy for the council and approve new workshops for funding. The focus of the workshops varies depending on the interests of the student and faculty participants, but tend to focus on a thematic, geographic, temporal area of study.

In 1983, the University of Chicago implemented the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, a comprehensive mathematics program for students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Today, an estimated 3.5 to 4 million students in elementary and secondary schools in every state and virtually every major urban area are now using UCSMP materials.

The University of Chicago, as of 2009, offers undergraduate instruction in at least 47 foreign languages, ancient and modern.

Divisions and schools

The University of Chicago currently maintains twelve units: the College, four divisions of graduate research, six professional schools, and the Graham School of General Studies. The University of Chicago also operates the Library, the Press, the Lab Schools, and the Hospitals.

Faculty and students at the adjacent Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago also collaborate closely with the university. Although formally unrelated, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) is also located on the campus, and many faculty members and graduate students hold research appointments at NORC.

The university also operates the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (from day care through high school, founded by John Dewey and considered one of the leading preparatory schools in the United States), the Hyde Park Day Schools (for the learning disabled of otherwise exceptional ability), and the Orthogenic School (a residential treatment program for those with behavioral and emotional problems). The university also administers four unaffiliated public charter schools on the South Side of Chicago.

The University of Chicago Press is the largest university press in the country. It publishes a wide array of scholarly and academic texts, including the influential Chicago Manual of Style, as well as several academic journals, including Critical Inquiry.

The University of Chicago's library system is also one of the largest in the country. The university's Regenstein Library is committed to providing physical, "browsable" access to print books in a single location, rather than relying on offsite storage as many libraries do. In 2005, funding was approved for the construction of a addition to the library to accommodate an expansion of its collection. When the expansion is complete, the Regenstein will contain the largest browsable collection of print volumes in the United States. The university expects to finish construction by winter of 2009. The "Reg", as it is commonly called by students, is noted for its exceptional breadth and depth of material. In its 2007 rankings, the Princeton Review ranked it among the top college libraries in the country.

The John Crerar Library is recognized as one of the best libraries in the country for research and teaching in the sciences, medicine, and technology and maintains more than 1.3 million volumes in the biological, medical and physical sciences as well as collections in general science and the philosophy and history of science, medicine, and technology. Students in the College have access to all of the university’s special libraries, including the D’Angelo Law Library, Yerkes Observatory Library for astronomy and astrophysics, the Social Service Administration Library, and the Eckhart Library for mathematics and computer science.

Chicago also operates a number of off-campus scientific research institutions, including the Argonne National Laboratory, part of the United States Department of Energy's national laboratory system. The university also owns and operates the Oriental Institute and has a stake in the Apache Point Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico. It is also a founding member of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation.

In February 2006, the University of Chicago announced its bid for a U.S. Department of Energy contract to obtain complete management rights to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, which maintains the Tevatron, the world's highest-energy particle accelerator. Fermilab is currently one of the world's preeminent centers for research in the fields of elementary particle physics and astrophysics. On November 1, 2006, the Department of Energy announced that the Fermi Research Alliance, LLC (FRA), led by the University of Chicago, would manage Fermilab for five years starting January 1, 2007. The FRA is a partnership between the Universities Research Association (URA) and the University of Chicago. Based on its performance, the FRA may be entitled to renew this contract without competition for up to 20 years.

Undergraduate college

The College of the University of Chicago grants Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 52 majors and 14 minors in the biological, physical, and social sciences, as well as in the humanities and interdisciplinary areas. A major may provide a comprehensive understanding of a well-defined field, such as anthropology or mathematics, or it may be an interdisciplinary program such as African and African-American studies, environmental studies, biological chemistry, or cinema and media studies. A full list of offered majors and minors is available within the college's main article.

Undergraduate students must undergo a rigorous core curriculum, the goal of which is to impart an education that is both timeless and a vehicle for interdisciplinary debate. Students must take courses designed to foster critical skills in a broad range of academic disciplines, including history, literature, science, mathematics, writing, and critical reasoning. Core curriculum classes at Chicago contain no more than 25 students and are generally led by a full-time professor (as opposed to a teaching assistant). Currently, 15 courses are required in addition to tested foreign language proficiency if no Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate examinations are used for exemption (a reduction of six quarter credits may be achieved via this method).

While the science curriculum has largely followed the intellectual evolution of its respective fields, the requisite humanities and social science sequences now have several variants that encompass non-Western, non-canonical, and critical theory texts. The majority of undergraduate courses are small, discussion-based seminars, and undergraduate students routinely take their upper-level courses alongside graduate students.

First-year students are assigned to one of 38 houses through the university's house system. House sizes range from 25 to 100 members but typically consist of no more than 70 students. The house system serves as the focal point of university life, and each house offers amenities such as kitchens, common areas, and study rooms. A significant portion of the undergraduate student body, however, lives off-campus, and relocation amongst the houses is not uncommon.

Rankings and reputation

The University of Chicago has long been ranked as one of the best universities in the world. Comprehensively, the University is ranked: 9th among world universities and 8th among universities in North America by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 7th among world universities and 4th in North America by the Times Higher Education Supplement on the basis of peer review, and the 20th most "global" university by Newsweek on the basis of scholarly achievements and "international diversity".

Undergraduate college

The 2009 edition of U.S. News and World Report ranks the undergraduate program 8th among national universities (tied with Columbia University and Duke University). Meanwhile, in its 2007 publication, "The Best 361 Colleges", the Princeton Review ranked the University of Chicago 1st in the country in the category of "best overall academic experience for undergraduates," the ranking being retired in 2008. Such performance, measured over time, has led Newsweek to note that the College is viewed as a "powerhouse" amongst the old guard of elite schools According to the University, 85 percent of undergraduates attend graduate school within five years, the highest rate in the nation, and with more going on to doctor of philosophy programs than at any other university affiliated college

In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked the University of Chicago's undergraduate program the 4th best in the country after Harvard, Yale, and Princeton based on post-graduation achievements and student evaluations. In 2008, Forbes also named the University of Chicago a "billionaire university," ranking the university as the 7th most successful university in the country for producing billionaire alumni.

Specific programs

The University is known for its internationally reputable professional programs. In the 2007 U.S. News and World Report rankings, the Graduate School of Business ranges from 5th in the country to 1st in the world. US News ranks the School of Law 7th (tied with the University of Pennsylvania), the Harris School of Public Policy 7th in policy analysis as well as 7th in social policy, the School of Medicine 15th in the country, and the School of Social Service Administration 3rd. The University of Chicago Divinity School, which offers both academic and ministerial training, is ranked #1 in faculty quality out of all U.S. doctoral programs in religious studies by the National Research Council

According to the National Research Council the school was ranked within the United States at: 8th in “arts & humanities,” 11th in “biological sciences,” 7th in “physical sciences and mathematics,” and 5th in “social and behavioral sciences. ” In aggregate, 18 programs ranked in the top ten in the nation, the 7th strongest showing

The university operates the University of Chicago Medical Center, which was ranked the 14th best hospital in the country by U.S. News and World Report. It is the only hospital in Illinois ever to be included in the magazine's "Honor Roll" of the best hospitals in the United States. The University is also ranked first among colleges with fewer than 5,000 students for sending students to the Peace Corps. .

According to David Rothkopf, the University of Chicago is one of the top three elite universities in the world (along with Harvard University and Stanford University) to produce members of the new global "Superclass.

Faculty and alumni


For each president, the University of Chicago commissions a large portrait that is hung in Hutchinson Commons, located in the Reynolds Club, one of the university's central buildings. The presidents of the University of Chicago have been:

  1. William Rainey Harper, 1891-1906
  2. Harry Pratt Judson, 1906-1923
  3. Ernest DeWitt Burton, 1923-1925
  4. Max Mason, 1925-1928
  5. Robert Maynard Hutchins, 1929-1951
  6. Lawrence A. Kimpton, 1951-1960
  7. George W. Beadle, 1961-1968
  8. Edward H. Levi, 1968-1975
  9. John T. Wilson, 1975-1978
  10. Hanna Holborn Gray, 1978-1993
  11. Hugo F. Sonnenschein, 1993-2000
  12. Don Michael Randel, 2000-2006
  13. Robert J. Zimmer, 2006-present

Notable faculty and alumni

According to the Nobel Foundation, there have been 17 Nobel Prizes awarded to persons pursuing research or on faculty at the university at the time of the award announcement, placing the university behind only Harvard University(31) and Stanford University(18). For details, see the official listing maintained by the Nobel Foundation

In addition, many Chicago alumni and scholars have won the Fulbright awards and, since its inception in 1904, 44 have matriculated as Rhodes Scholars.

Notable faculty and alumni of the University of Chicago include: political theorist Hannah Arendt; former U.S. Attorneys General John Ashcroft, Ramsey Clark, and Edward H. Levi; current U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL); former Vice President of Taiwan and the Kuomintang Lien Chan; current Governor of New Jersey and former U.S. Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ); current judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, and Douglas Ginsberg; current U.S. Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and John Paul Stevens; former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and former head of the World Bank Paul Wolfowitz; Nobel Prize-winning economists Gary Becker, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Robert Lucas; Nobel Prize-winning writers Saul Bellow and J.M. Coetzee; novelists Kurt Vonnegut, Ralph Ellison, Philip Roth, and Thornton Wilder; Nobel Prize-winning modernist poet and dramatist T. S. Eliot; essayist, award-winning novelist, film maker, poet, and activist Susan Sontag; Nobel Prize-winning physicists Albert Michelson, Robert Millikan, Arthur Compton, and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar; Nobel Prize-winning physicist and developer of the first nuclear reactor Enrico Fermi; astronomer and pioneer of physical cosmology Edwin Hubble; astronomer and highly successful science popularizer Carl Sagan; prominent philosophers Allan Bloom, Martha Nussbaum, Robert Pippin, Rudolph Carnap, Leszek Kolakowski, Paul Ricoeur, Jean-Luc Marion, and Leo Strauss; writer Tucker Max; influential philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey; philosopher, mathematician, and Nobel Prize-winning writer Bertrand Russell; mathematician André Weil; Nobel-prize winning molecular biologist and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA James Watson; dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham; science fiction writer Cyril M. Kornbluth; composer Philip Glass; historian Francois Furet; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh; New York Times columnist David Brooks; Academy Award-winning film director Mike Nichols; Drs. Julie Mennella and Gary Beauchamp of the Monell Chemical Senses Center; Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert; Surgeon and author Dr. Hampar Kelikian; balloonist and priest Jeannette Piccard; banker and internationalist David Rockefeller; influential anthropologist Marshall Sahlins. Further, the university has also been an incubator for several prominent business ventures, with the world’s first management consultancy, McKinsey & Company, software giant Oracle, and the United States first international corporate law firm, Baker and McKenzie, all having been founded by University of Chicago alumni.

Notable fictional faculty and alumni of the University of Chicago include: Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), who studied at the University under Abner Ravenwood; Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) and Dr. Charles Nichols (Jeroen Krabbe), 1973 medical graduates, in the 1993 film The Fugitive (1993 film); Harry Burns and Sally Albright (played by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan) of the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally...(which begins at the University of Chicago); [Robert and Hal (played by Anthony Hopkins and Jake Gyllenhaal) of the 2005 film Proof, which takes place at the University of Chicago; Jack McCoy (played by Sam Waterston), one of the two main characters in the long-running television series Law & Order; Nathan Zuckerman, Pulitzer-prize winner Philip Roth's literary alter ego; Dr. Josh Keyes (played by Aaron Eckhart) of the 2003 film The Core; Eddie Kasalivich (played by Keanu Reeves) of the 1996 film Chain Reaction; and Brandon Shaw and Philip Morgan (played by John Dall and Farley Granger) of Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film Rope, based on the infamous University of Chicago duo Leopold and Loeb; Michael Armstrong, played by Paul Newman in the 1966 Hitchcock film "Torn Curtain." Dr. Lawrence Green (played by Jeremy Piven) of the 2003 film "Runaway Jury"; Bryan Woodman (played by Matt Damon) of the 2005 film Syriana; Kate Forster (played by Sandra Bullock) of the 2006 film "The Lake House;" and Gil Grissom (played by William Peterson), the lead forensic scientist in the CBS television series CSI. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book by Robert Pirsig, Phaedrus pursues a graduate degree in philosophy, as Pirsig did in actuality; Chicago student Ann Varrick played by Lara Harris in No Man's Land; Chicago student Dan Lynch played by George Newbern who states that Elizabeth Shue is the best looking girl on campus in Adventures in Babysitting.


Chicago's sports teams are called the Maroons, and their colors are maroon and white. They participate in the NCAA's Division III as members of the University Athletic Association (UAA). At one point, the University of Chicago's football teams (nicknamed the Monsters of the Midway at the time) were among the best in the country, winning seven Big Ten Conference titles from 1899 to 1924, including a national championship in 1905 while playing at the old Stagg Field. The University is also one of only a few schools to be undefeated in football against the University of Notre Dame. Against the undefeated University of Michigan in 1905, Coach Stagg's Maroons beat the Wolverines with a two point safety, ending Michigan's legendary 2,281 to 42 point overall margin of victory against opponents in the previous 5 years. In 1935, Chicago's Jay Berwanger was the winner of the first-ever Heisman Trophy, now on display in Ratner Athletic Facility. Reportedly, Berwanger had used the trophy as an indoor door stop until its transfer to Ratner. The following year, Berwanger also became the first player to be drafted by the National Football League, although he decided not to play professional football.

However, the university, a founding member of the Big Ten Conference, de-emphasized varsity athletics in 1939 when it dropped football and withdrew from the conference altogether, in 1946. The University maintains an academic affiliation with the Big Ten schools through the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium of one Northeastern and eleven Midwestern research universities. In 1969, Chicago reinstated football as a minor Division III team, resuming playing its home games at the new Stagg Field. The Maroon football team has won the University Athletic Association (UAA) championship in 1998, 2000, and 2005. Having founded the UAA with Washington University in St. Louis, the Chicago football team has an intense rivalry with the Wash U football team for the traveling trophy known as the "Founder's Cup". There are several other prominent athletic teams at the University, among them swimming and track have performed excellently.

The school's mascot is the Phoenix, chosen in honor of the city of Chicago's rebirth after the Great Chicago Fire, and also in honor of the Old University of Chicago, which dissolved due to financial reasons (making the current University of Chicago the second university to carry the name). The gargoyle has become an unofficial mascot of the university, because of the ubiquitous statues of gargoyles that adorn many of the buildings on the campus. Chicago's fight song is Wave the Flag, written in 1929.

Student organizations

Notable extracurricular groups include the University's Model United Nations Team, one of the top two teams on the college circuit and the most successful of the University's academic teams. In addition to competing, the team also hosts its own college-level conference, ChoMUN, and a high school level conference, MUNUC. University of Chicago College Bowl Team, which has won 118 tournaments and 15 national championships, leading both categories internationally. The Chicago Debate Society has had a top four team at the American Parliamentary Debate Association's National Championship tournament for four out of the past five years. In addition, the college Mock Trial Team has placed in the top ten nationally five out of the past six years and is currently ranked 7th among all programs nationally by the American Mock Trial Association.

The Chicago Society, an undergraduate student organization that brings world leaders to speak on campus, is the University's spearhead organization in bringing major speakers to campus. Chicago Society's most famous event titled "China and the Future of the World" held in the spring of 2006 consisted of a two-day symposium on China's rapid political, economic, and social development and its impact on the world. For the symposium, Chicago Society brought in numerous high-ranking American and Chinese government officials including Wang Guangya, the Chinese ambassador to the UN; Christopher Hill, head of the American delegation in the North Korea six-way talks; and Peter Rodman, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.

The university's independent student newspaper is the Chicago Maroon. Founded in 1902, the newspaper is published every Tuesday and Friday. An independent arts-and-features alt-weekly, the Chicago Weekly, is published every Thursday and profiles events in Hyde Park and surrounding South Side communities. Chicago Business, published by students in the Graduate School of Business, was founded in 1978.

The University of Chicago's University Theater is one of the oldest student-run theatre organizations in the country, involving as many as 500 members of the university community, producing 30 to 35 shows a year, and selling on the order of 10,000 tickets. It also operates Occam's Razor and most notably Off-Off Campus, one of the University's improv comedy troupes, started in 1986 by Bernard Sahlins, one of the founders of Second City.

About 8-10% of the undergraduate student body participates in Greek life. There are many fraternities and sororities that have established histories with Chicago, including Alpha Delta Phi, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Delta Upsilon, Lambda Phi Epsilon, Lambda Upsilon Lambda, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Gamma Delta, Psi Upsilon, and Sigma Phi Epsilon (fraternities), as well as Alpha Omicron Pi, Delta Gamma, and Kappa Alpha Theta (sororities). In addition, Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed national community service fraternity, exists on campus.

During the school year, Greek organizations usually throw house parties every weekend, and Alpha Delta Phi hosts "Bar Night" every Wednesday. Along with large parties held off-campus by such groups as the ultimate frisbee team, the Greek organizations are an important part of the school's party scene.

There are many recognized cultural student organizations on campus, which include: Asian Students Union, African & Caribbean Student Association, Chinese Undergraduate Students' Association, Japanese Club, Korean Student Organization, PanAsian Solidarity Coalition, Polish American Students Association, Puerto Rican Students Organization, Samahan, Singaporean and Malaysian Students Union, South Asian Students Association, Thai Students Association, and more.

WHPK, a student-run and University-owned radio station, broadcasts out of the Reynolds Club on the university campus. DJ "JP Chill" has had a rap and hip hop show on WHPK since 1986. It was one of the earliest rap shows in the country and the first in Chicago.

The University of Chicago also features a vibrant a cappella community consisting of 10 groups including Voices In Your Head, Soul Umoja, The Ransom Notes, Men In Drag, Unaccompanied Women, Make a Joyful Noise, Rhythm & Jews, and the recently established glee club, Chicago Men's A Cappella. Many of the professional schools on campus also feature their own a cappella groups including Say Ahh! from the Pritzker School of Medicine, The Scales of Justice from the Law School, and The Gross Prophets from the Graduate School of Business.

The University of Chicago Folklore Society has sponsored an annual Folk Festival each February featuring traditional music since 1960. They also run a weekly radio show of traditional music on the campus radio station (WHPK at fm 88.5), sponsor contra dances and put on a fiddlers festival in the spring. Folklore Society

The Law School is home to one of the three founding chapters of the conservative Federalist Society, and to the 'Antient and Honourable Edmund Burke Society', a conservative debating organization. It is also home to the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic and a large chapter of the progressive American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.


  • Summer Breeze - The university's annual summer carnival and concert. Past musicians who have performed at Summer Breeze include The Roots, Spoon, Wilco, Eminem, Kanye West, Run DMC, Cake, Andrew Bird, They Might Be Giants, Method Man, Moby, Fuel, Nas, Jurassic 5, U2, Sonic Youth, Talib Kweli, The Violent Femmes, OK Go, Mos Def, and George Clinton.
  • Shake Day - Milkshakes sell for only one dollar every Wednesday at the Reynolds Club. The Einstein Bros. Bagels franchise was allowed to open on campus only after agreeing to adhere to this tradition.
  • Midnight Breakfast - A midnight breakfast is held during every "finals week" of the academic year, attracting students and faculty members alike.
  • Track Team Streak - At 10:00 p.m. on the Sunday night before "finals week" of the winter quarter, the University of Chicago track team streaks through the Regenstein Library.
  • O-Week - Every year since 1934, the University of Chicago has set time aside before classes begin to provide an introduction to the University for all new students.
  • Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko - A festival celebrating Chicago in the winter. Often referred to as Kuvia, it entails a variety of events, including ice sculpting, hot chocolate get-togethers, musical performances, faculty fireside discussions, and a rigorous program of early morning exercise (kangeiko, a Japanese tradition of winter training) that culminates in a yoga-influenced "salute to the sun", performed outdoors in freezing temperatures just before the sun rises.
  • The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate - Annually since 1946, a debate is held, mainly between faculty members, not (but nearly) all of whom are Jewish, about the relative merits of latkes and homentashn, the Jewish delicacies associated with Hanukkah and Purim, respectively. The lectures are a great opportunity for ordinarily serious scholars to crack jokes in a mock-serious tone. The best were collected in a book edited by Ruth Fredman Cernea.
  • Virginio Ferrari's Dialogo and May Day. On May Day, students and residents of Hyde Park assemble near Pick Hall to watch the shadow cast by Virginio Ferrari's sculpture. Student legend holds that a hammer and sickle, like that of the flag of the former Soviet Union will be cast on the sidewalk at noon on this date. In fact, the shadow produces a sickle very much like that of the flag and also an object in the position of the hammer but whose shape is not quite so loyal a copy of the flag.
  • Polar Bear Run - Every year a group of students select the coldest day of the winter quarter and volunteers run, preferably naked, from one end of the college campus (Harper building) to the gates in front of the Regenstein Library.
  • Campus folklore - According to a common superstition among university students, stepping on University Seal (located in the main lobby of the Reynolds Club) as an undergraduate will prevent the student from graduating in four years. Another common myth about the university is that nearly 50% of its students marry each other. Finally, if two students kiss on the bridge over the pond inside the main gates of the campus, it is said they will be destined to be wed to each other.

Doc Films

Doc Films, founded in 1932 (originally the Documentary Film Group), is the oldest student film society in the country. In Vanity Fair's "Film Snob's Dictionary", Doc Films is described as: "Hard-core beyond words and lay comprehension, the society is populated by 19-year olds who have already seen every film ever made, and boasts its own Dolby Digital-equipped cinema and an impressive roster of alumni that includes snob-revered critic Dave Kehr.

During the school year, Doc Films screens a different film on every night of the week. Foreign films and documentaries are typically screened on weekdays, while recent, mainstream selections are shown on weekends. Occasionally, Doc Films screens works that have not yet been released to the general public, such as American Gangster, Corpse Bride and Brokeback Mountain.

Doc Films has hosted many Hollywood luminaries as guests, including Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho, Vertigo, The Birds), Fritz Lang (Metropolis), and Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Manhattan). In November 2005, director Ang Lee and producer James Schamus visited the University of Chicago to screen the film Brokeback Mountain a month before its American debut, and to participate in a question-and-answer session with students. In January 2007, film director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Pi) presented a screening of his film The Fountain to students and afterwards, likewise, participated in a question-and-answer session. Most recently, Robert Redford screened Lions for Lambs and held a question and answer session after the screening.

Scavenger Hunt

The annual University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt is a multi-day event in which large teams compete to obtain all of the notoriously esoteric items on a list. Held every May since 1987, it is considered to be the largest scavenger hunt in the world. Established by student Chris Straus, the "Scav Hunt", as it is known among University students, has become one of the university's most popular traditions and has typically pushed the boundaries of absurdity.

Each year, the scavenger hunt list includes roughly 300 items, each with an assigned point value. The items vary widely and may involve performances, large-scale constructions, and long-distance travel. Teams are generally expected to fall well short of completing half of the list and instead compete for total points earned. The more difficult and time-consuming items earn more points. Notable past items include: a passport stamped by all members of the axis of evil, a nuclear reactor, a Calvinball tournament, a ninja muffin and a cell phone marching band. For more information regarding the Scavenger Hunt, see its official website



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