Best in class

Students and teachers, a love story.

When I was a junior in college, the late Claire Rosenfield, my professor and BA adviser, let me into her Henry James graduate seminar. The course had a certain unforgiving math to it: five students plus one fat book a week equaled zero places to hide if you hadn’t done the reading.

But what forgave it all, and made you keep up, was our teacher’s way of opening one of those tomes like a Fabergé egg to expose the intricate workings inside. Thirty-five years have not dimmed the sense I had then of gaining new powers.

In spring an editor’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of teachers past—this being the time of year when we fete, with various prizes, people who have taught at the University of Chicago memorably well.

At Alumni Weekend this May, two of those prizes will be handed to senior scholars nominated by their past students when John J. MacAloon, AM’74, PhD’80, and Martha C. Nussbaum receive the Norman Maclean Faculty Award (see representative words about each from their nominators). Shortly thereafter, the University will name the newest recipients of the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the Faculty Awards for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring. The evidence suggests that for these teachers, there are few honors that mean more.

I spoke to MacAloon for this issue about his teaching and, with the Paris Summer Games approaching, his life’s research on the Olympics. At the end of the Q&A he encapsulates what educating students means to him and how he did that important work day to day, student by student. (To find out what and how, read “Light Bearer.”) For his and Nussbaum’s nominators, nobody did it better.

What did your best teacher do like nobody else? Tell us at

Here comes the sun

As of April, Susie Allen, AB’09, is back at the Magazine as senior associate editor extraordinaire. You may remember Susie’s byline gracing our pages often from 2015 to 2023, as well as the issues that she artfully guest edited. Starting with the Summer/24 issue, the light of Susie’s writing will again shine down on all.