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Kimpton shaking hands with Daley, 1956

Chancellor Kimpton shaking hands with Mayor Richard J. Daley at a meeting of the South East Chicago Commission, 1956. Photograph by Stephen Lewellyn.




Groundbreaking for Woodward Court

Glen A. Lloyd, Lawrence A. Kimpton, and Edward L. Ryerson, groundbreaking for Woodward Court, June 14, 1956. Planned as a residence hall for women, Woodward Court provided the first new student housing in 25 years.

Lawrence A. Kimpton


Kimpton had returned to the University of Chicago because of Hutchins and was disappointed to find out he was leaving. But, as chancellor, Kimpton immediately became aware of the problems that Hutchins was leaving behind. The College bachelor's degree was suspect; donations were drying up because many of the University's corporate sponsors had been alienated or neglected; and deterioration of the neighborhood made it increasingly difficult to attract both faculty and students. Quick action was required, and Kimpton saw himself as the one who must act to ensure the University's survival.

Kimpton's administration achieved many of its budgetary objectives. The University had run deficits nearly every year since the depression hit. Three years of budget cuts and stringent review under Kimpton, however, brought the budget into the black by 1954. A development campaign was launched in 1955 which raised badly-needed funds for building and endowment while increasing awareness and support in the Chicago business community and strengthening bonds with alumni. As a result, annual expenditures doubled, while 15 new buildings were constructed and others renovated. Between 1955 and 1960, faculty salaries were raised 30 percent.

The neighborhood was another concern. Housing stock in Hyde Park, most of which was built between the 1890s and 1920s, had not been maintained during the depression and war years. Older houses had been divided into smaller apartments, swelling the population and causing problems with sewers and traffic. Racial tensions increased as African-Americans moved from the old "Black Belt" areas into Englewood, Woodlawn, Kenwood, and Hyde Park itself. Crime increased. More and more faculty members chose to live in the suburbs, raising fears that the University would become a commuter campus.

Some Hyde Park activists criticized the University's approach for overshadowing community efforts begun some years earlier. Others, however, recognized that the University's power, money, and prestige were crucial in pulling together the government and private resources needed for redevelopment. Once the University committed itself, things happened quickly, sometimes more quickly than the community expected. Chancellor Kimpton's personal attendance at weekly and even daily meetings with community leaders persuaded them that cooperation was possible and necessary. Reflecting fifteen years later, Kimpton acknowledged that the urban renewal program did not solve the problems of the city's slums-only that it had saved the University.

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