image: University of Chicago Magazine - logo

link to: featureslink to: class news, books, deathslink to: chicago journal, college reportlink to: investigationslink to: editor's notes, letters, chicagophile, course work
link to: back issueslink to: contact forms, address updateslink to: staff info, ad rates, subscriptions

  Interviews by
  Charlotte Snow

  Photography by
  Dan Dry


  > > Coming of age
  > > Positively medieval
  > > Elements of style

  > > Gift trapped

Ten Chicagoans master the art of growing older

image: "Coming of Age" headlineMarian Aschuler Despres, 90, and Leon Despres, 91  In the evenings before dinner, the Despres enjoy one of their anti--aging secrets--a margarita in the summer, a manhattan in the winter. They also recommend staying involved with longtime interests: Marian Alschuler Despres, PhB'30, PhD'36, continues to lead preservation efforts at Henry Hobson Richardson's Glessner House, where her family funded the restoration of the library. Meanwhile, each weekday morning, former Chicago alderman Leon Despres, PhB'27, JD'29, catches the Jeffrey Express in front of their South Stony Island Avenue co--op. He gets off downtown at the University Club for a swim, then heads over to his law office.

image: Marian Alschuler Despres, 90Marian: "We've influenced each other. I've learned about politics from him, and he has learned about art from me. Chicago has changed a lot culturally during our time here. It's much more of a cultural center with all of the plantings, the Cows on Parade public--art display, and the growth of the theaters, particularly the community theaters. In the '20s, Chicago was a cowtown in a different sense. It's really flourishing culturally today.

"I grew up in Winnetka. When I was 16, I felt that I had had a privileged childhood, and I decided that the best way to give back was to become a teacher. I used my experience teaching for a number of years to help develop the docent program for the Glessner House on Prairie Avenue. I've been involved in preserving the house for some 25 or 30 years.

"When I was 20, I went to a church convention and someone said that if you want a good old age you have to prepare for it in your youth. I thought that was ridiculous, but it's true. Establish your interests when you're young and pursue them."

image: Leon Despres, 91Leon: "As I've grown older, my goals have been trimmed. I have come to terms with the fact that the world cannot achieve perfection. I think there are lots of things you can do, and it's a disgrace not to try. But I thought it might happen--perfection. I lived through World War I to make the world safe for democracy, and then along came World War II. I thought that now we would have an organization to stop conflicts, but just awful things have happened. Even so, life is also much easier. We have medications now for some of the things we were afraid of when we were young, and the changes caused by computers are just overwhelming.

"Both of us have felt that our lives should be useful, and that hasn't changed. Polonius advised, 'To thine own self be true.' Though Polonius wasn't true to himself--he was a pretentious and hypocritical old fool--you do have to follow your inclinations."

link to: Alexander Coutts link to: top of the page link to: "Coming of Age" link to: Catherine Dobson


  > > Volume 92, Number 2

  > > Class News

  > > Books
  > > Deaths

  > > Chicago Journal

  > > College Report

  > > Investigations

  > > Editor's Notes

  > > Letters
  > > Coursework
  > > Chicagophile



uchicago ©2000 The University of Chicago Magazine 1313 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637
phone: 773/702-2163 fax: 773/702-2166