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Lawrence A. Kimpton

Lawrence A. Kimpton, n.d. Photograph by Stephen Lewellyn.





Document, "A Program for the University of Chicago," 1955

"A Program for the University of Chicago," 1955.

Lawrence A. Kimpton


Chief administrative Officer,
Metallurgical Laboratory
Dean of Students 1944-1946
Professor of Philosophy and Education 1944-1946
Vice-President and Dean of Faculties 1946-1947
Vice-President in Charge of Development, 1950-1951
Professor of Philosophy 1950-1960
Acting Chancellor 1951
Chancellor 1951-1960

Standing six feet two-and-a-half inches tall, barely 40 years old, Lawrence Kimpton seemed the natural successor to Robert Hutchins, who had passed 50 by the time he resigned. With his PhD in philosophy and teaching experience at an elite junior college, Kimpton seemed likely to carry on the Hutchins traditions with little change, even if his philosophy drew more from Kant than from Aristotle. Kimpton grew up in Kansas City and attended college at Stanford. After completing his doctorate at Cornell in 1935, he took a job teaching English, German, and philosophy at Deep Springs College in California. Deep Springs was an experimental school with about 20 students and the same number of teachers situated on an isolated 250-square-mile ranch with 1000 head of cattle. Students studied in tutorials and small discussion groups and worked half of each day on the ranch. Kimpton became dean and director of the college, which involved rounding up steers and catching rustlers as well as more routine educational duties.

In 1941 Kimpton moved to Nevada to operate a ranch for a year, and then accepted a position at the University of Kansas City as dean of the College of Liberal Arts. When the Manhattan Project office in Chicago needed an administrator, Kimpton's name was offered by chemists who had taught at Deep Springs while they were graduate students at Caltech. He moved to Chicago in 1943.

A vacancy in the dean of students office led to Kimpton's first meeting with Robert Hutchins. He later recalled Hutchins's questions: Don't you think the University is lousy? Don't you think the great books are great? And isn't the function of an educational institution to educate? Kimpton assented to these propositions, so Hutchins asked, do you know anything about student personnel administration? Kimpton replied, not a thing. At this, Hutchins arose, shook his hand, and congratulated him on being the new dean of students.

In 1947 Kimpton moved to Stanford University to become dean of students there. After three years, Hutchins invited him back to the University of Chicago, this time as vice-president in charge of development. By the end of the year, though, Hutchins announced his intentions to resign. Kimpton contemplated returning to Stanford, but within a few months the Board of Trustees announced that he was their choice to replace Hutchins as chancellor.

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