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The Presidents of
the University of Chicago

A Centennial View
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Lawrence A. Kimpton, Vesta Hutchins, Marcia Kimpton, and Robert M. Hutchins at the inauguration dinner for Chancellor Kimpton, October 18, 1951.

Lawrence A. Kimpton, Vesta Hutchins, Marcia Kimpton, and Robert M. Hutchins at the inauguration dinner for Chancellor Kimpton, October 18, 1951. Photograph by Stephen Lewellyn.

 

William Benton, Robert M. Hutchins, and Mortimer Adler with a presentation copy of Great Books of the Western World for Queen Elizabeth II, April 15, 1962. Hutchins served as editor of the 54-volume series.

Robert Maynard Hutchins

1899-1977

The purpose of the university is nothing less than to procure a moral, intellectual, and spiritual revolution throughout the world.

Robert Maynard Hutchins

 

While Hutchins was best known for his statements on undergraduate education, one of his most enduring reforms at the University was the organization of the graduate departments into the four academic divisions of the biological sciences, humanities, physical sciences, and social sciences, with a separate College which unified all undergraduate work under one dean.

The one thing which drew more attention than any other, of course, was his elimination of varsity football. Hutchins heaped scorn upon schools which received more press coverage for their sports teams than for their educational programs, and a run of disastrous seasons gave him the trustee support he needed to drop football in 1939. The decision was hailed by many, but few other schools followed Chicago's lead.

The Hutchins administration spanned both the Great Depression and World War II, trying times for higher education and the nation as a whole. Funds raised in the 1920s and continuing support from the Rockefeller Foundation gave the University a cushion many other institutions did not have, especially in the early years of the depression. When war threatened, Hutchins opposed it, but after the attack on Pearl Harbor he offered the government the resources of the University.


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