"Now that the joke has
A Forgotten great?
One of the pleasures of being a U of C alum is reading
articles like George McElroy's "Great
Men of the Great Books" (August/02). It not only
regenerates nostalgia for the College but envy and regret
for missing those moments that McElroy was privileged
Since it was the uniqueness of the
Hutchins College that lured me to Chicago, and for better
or worse created the U of C stereotype which persists
today in the public perception, one of the troubling nonpleasures
is the realization that Hutchins has become a nonperson
in the College hagiography. Where is he commemorated on
campus? How is he honored? Bookkeeper Lawrence Kimpton
is more often mentioned for "saving the College"
than educator Hutchins is lauded for creating it.
It is telling that over the years more
and more traditional colleges have tried to emulate what
the Hutchins College pioneered while our own leaders have
been laboring more and more to make Chicago's College
Perhaps because Hutchins-era graduates
are now so rapidly becoming the lost battalion, any reference
to Hutchins is consigned to the "memory hole."
So it goes.
Herbert L. Caplan, AB'52, JD'57
Your August/02 issue-containing George McElroy's "Great
Men of the Great Books," the "Investigations"
pieces on Muslims "adapting" Islam to U.S. culture
and Candace Vogler's astonished discovery of Aquinas (obviously
not converted but avowedly fascinated), and John Jay Berwanger's
obituary (for the name alone)-was altogether a priceless
flashback into the incredible U of C days of Hutchins
and Adler, just when absolute values and absolute truth
were about to give way to relativism, situationalism,
and of course tolerance as undisputed queen of all virtues.
What stark contrast is all the above
to Edward Siskel's tribute to Supreme Court Justice John
Paul Stevens, in which he quotes John Dewey (1932): "The
business of reflection in determining the true good cannot
be done once and for all, as, for instance, making out
a table of values arranged in hierarchical order of higher
and lower. It needs to be done, and done over and over
and over again, in terms of the conditions of concrete
situations as they arise. In short, the need for reflection
and insight is perpetually recurring."
Am I being simplistic in thinking how
explicitly the above items illustrate a very basic difference
between the U of C then and the U of C now?
Blanche Mary Lepinskie, AB'39
I took much pleasure from George McElroy's
article on the rare privilege he shared with a few other
high schoolers of regular discussions with Chancellor
Hutchins and "the Great Bookie." His reminiscences
from the late-1930s reminded me why I was sent here in
Growing up in Kansas I assumed, with
little if any thought, that I would go to KU (now styled,
I believe, as the University of Kansas at Lawrence). However,
as the time approached, I was applied (yes, that is grammatically
idiosyncratic) to the U of C. My father said, vis à
vis Robert Maynard Hutchins, "I have met the man.
He's an arrogant young pup, but I think he's running a
good school." My father was right on both counts.
The arrogant young man ran a good school, and he was my
first of the leaders of a superb school to which I shall
ever be grateful.
Charles F. Custer, AB'48, JD'58