Life on the Quads: A Centennial View of the Student Experience at the University of Chicago

Undated photograph of University of Chicago students
Campus fashion: letter sweater and furs, undated

This catalogue accompanies the second in a series of exhibitions offered in conjunction with the University's Centennial celebration. "Life on the Quads" is a natural successor to "The University of Chicago Faculty: A Centennial View." Appreciating the activities, curricular and extracurricular, that constitute the student experience at the University of Chicago is essential to the Centennial story, for students, together with the faculty, play a formative role in defining the nature of an educational institution. "Life on the Quads" explores the elements of creating a sense of community for and by students at the University of Chicago.

The pattern of student life at the University suggests that the unique educational environment of the institution by no means inhibited more familiar collegiate activities. Students at the University of Chicago engaged in social, cultural, creative, and athletic pursuits with all the intensity they brought to their educational program.

"Life on the Quads" also reveals that the past one hundred years have been marked by an ongoing search for the appropriate balance between academic and nonacademic activities. Curricular reforms brought with them corresponding shifts that affected student life outside the classroom. Social clubs, performing arts groups, humor, literary and collegiate publications, as well as sports were all influenced by the prevailing administrative perspective on the role of extracurricular activities. The student experience was also shaped by forces external to the University, including wars, depression, McCarthyism, and the anti-establishment mood of the 1960s.

Evoking the spirit of student life at the University of Chicago, with its blend of scholarly and social pursuits, is the goal of "Life on the Quads." Each alumnus will find a particular memory brought to life; and all readers can share the exuberance with which students at the University of Chicago have pursued the fullest range of activities to extend and complement classroom learning. Taken together, these activities constitute the distinctive culture of the institution.

This exhibition, as others in the Centennial series, received support from the Office of the President. Ron Kim, a graduate student in the Department of History, prepared the text of "Life on the Quads." Jean M. O'Brien conducted the preliminary research. Kim Coventry was responsible for the design and production of the exhibition and supervised the publication of the catalogue. Richard Popp provided assistance during the development and editing of the text. Daniel Meyer guided the project at every stage of development and served as editor of the catalogue. His many contributions to this Centennial exhibition are acknowledged with appreciation.

 -Alice Schreyer, Curator, Department of Special Collections