IMAGE:  December 2002 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 2
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"Now that the joke has been had..."

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 to experience.

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 appear conventional.

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
Cambermere, Ontario

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 the mid-1940s.

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


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