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:: By Mary Ruth Yoe

:: Illustration by Richard Thompson

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In Every Issue ::

Lite of the mind

Pieces of April

For one day each spring “all the news that’s fit to print” takes on fresh meaning, as demonstrated by these bits of reportage culled from late 20th-century issues of the Chicago Maroon (the Maroon by any other name is still the Maroon).

photo:  lite of the mind

(a light-hearted look at all things Chicago)

The April 1, 1987, U of C TODAY cover story went global with a local hook, an-nouncing, “FBI probe links Gray, Castro”:

“I never would have guessed that it was true,” said a secretary in the President’s Office, describing yesterday’s revelation that University of Chicago President Hanna Gray is in reality the mother of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

“I’m shocked and stunned,” said Derek Bok, president of Harvard University, speaking for the Association of University Presidents and Provosts (AUPP). “If it had only been Gorbachev, or maybe Amin, well maybe we could have dealt with the news. But this…(he shrugged).”

The April 1, 1988, Chicago ENQUIRER offered more Gray gossip: “Hanna involved in tryst! And gives high-level post to ‘special friend’.” (The inside story revealed the friend to be presidential spouse and fellow faculty member Charles S. Gray; no wonder “Hanna denys [sic] nothing.”)

In the same issue, reporters Joe Schmitt, AB’91, and Ivan Brunetti, AB’89, presented the results of a “Kiddie Essay Contest”: “We asked a first-grade class at the University Lab School to write a short, well-organized essay of four to five double-spaced typewritten pages on the subject of ‘Why I want to be a University of Chicago Student When I Grow Up (instead of a Fireman or a Football Player Like Real Kids With Real Lives).’ An additional rule was added belatedly: No footnotes.” A few excerpts from the winners: “I have no friends now and I’d like it to stay that way.” “I hear they have a great radioactive biology center.” And, “As Nietzsche stated in Also sprach Zarathustra, ‘Allan Bloom, take his Great Books.’”

“Administration wets campus,” headlined the April First, 1989, Chicago Magenta, reporting that a “controversial change in the alcohol policy, which takes effect next month, is in accordance with the administration’s struggle to encourage the university’s reputation as a ‘fun’ school.” Not everyone was happy with the change: “Some fraternities have expressed anxiety over the new policy, saying that the availability of alcohol on campus will diminish their popularity.”

The March 30, 1990, Maroon hid its bombshell on the sports page, where readers looking for the UAA Basketball All-Association teams learned that Donald Trump, “New York hotelier and prize-fight promoter” (ah, there’s the sports tie-in), had purchased the University: “‘Mr. Trump’s offer was very strong and we could not refuse it in good conscience,’ said a highly placed source at the University, on his way to Aruba.”

Two years later, however, Trump had departed the scene and the University went on its own buying spree, noted the April 1, 1992, Chicago Moron: “U of C to buy Soviet nuclear arsenal.” While President Gray “refused to discuss specifics of the arsenal,” she predicted that the purchase would raise the University’s competitiveness both globally and nationally: “‘For example,’ she continued, ‘we shouldn’t have any trouble knocking Harvard out of the top ten once we get the targeting computers reprogrammed.’”