Tied to detail
Now it’s getting personal.
In recent weeks I’ve found myself
having more and more Blum moments. That’s Blum as in Walter
J. Blum, AB’39, JD’41. Blum, who was the first Edward
H. Levi distinguished service professor in the Law School and who
died in December 1994, was an expert on taxes, insurance, bankruptcy,
and corporate reorganization; a collector and wearer of flamboyant
ties (a small sampling of which appears at right); and someone who
took an extremely personal interest in all the workings of the University.
Blum’s legacy: beyond ties.
His morning walks across campus regularly ended
with a phone call to a dean, an administrator, or the University
president, pointing out something he’d observed that needed
fixing, and the sooner the better. What made the calls more endearing
than infuriating—even when you were responsible for the thing
that needed fixing—was the impetus behind the complaint: his
affection for his alma mater.
I haven’t yet made any matutinal phone
calls to deans or deanlets, let alone President Randel, but I have
started taking Blum’s law into my own hands. I’m the
woman pausing to pull dandelions and errant shoots of crabgrass
from the newly sodded lawns in front of the Chicago GSB Hyde Park
Center (see “Prairie Gothic”).
Or stopping to pick up bits of trash that the grounds crew hasn’t
yet reached. Or inspecting with satisfaction the new landscaping
by the Reynolds Club bus stop, a low masonry wall designed to provide
seating for waitees and eliminate the mud paddies that appear after
Is this the first sign of an obsessive-compulsive
disorder fixated on the physical condition of the quads? It could
be, but I like to think that it’s the natural consequence
of being at a place long enough to take a personal as well as professional
interest in the range of details that contribute to the enterprise.
I know that I’ll never fill Blum’s shoes—to say
nothing of wearing his ties—but I am happy to know that I’ll
continue to stop and weed the campus roses.
Alumni at work
Peer review is a process that many of our readers regularly undergo.
With this issue “Peer Review”
is also the new name for what the Magazine’s editors
know as “the back of the book,” the 20-plus pages devoted
to alumni news and accomplishments. In revamping the class news
we had several objectives, but the most pressing concerned alumni
Chicago graduates overwhelmingly prefer publishing
to perishing, and for the past 25 years we have produced pages and
pages of book notices. We do our best to keep pace—while not
shortchanging other news—but in recent years there has been
a lag of at least four months between our receipt of a book notice
and the day that notice appears in print. The time gap occurs even
though notices are regularly tightened—or, as one author bluntly
put it, “crushed”—into a straitjacketed formula.
So we’ve abandoned our effort to print
notices of every book we receive. Instead we have gone online (magazine.uchicago.edu/books)
with a new department, updated weekly: “In Their Own Words”
lets authors describe their latest work(s) at more length and provide
links to the publisher’s Web site for additional information.
We’ll continue to offer a sampling of alumni books in an expanded
“On the Shelf” department, part of our new “Arts
& Letters” section, designed to showcase a range of creative
activities—from photography to cinematography to painting
We have also marked the start of our 97th year
with a few other changes, details that we hope will make it easier
for you to navigate through the Magazine’s pages.
As always, we hope you’ll let us know what you think.—M.R.Y.