(Photography by Joy Olivia Miller)

Looking back—and ahead

Getting lost in the Magazine’s archives offers a glimpse into the University’s history and inspires a commitment to ensuring its future.

Every so often we get questions from readers that send us into the Magazine’s archives. Heading to the storage closet, where past issues go back to 1907, I feel joy—and trepidation. On one hand, leafing through those pages is an addictive pleasure with rewarding surprises: an article by a faculty giant, an elegantly devastating letter to the editor, a youthful photo of a now famous alum. On the other hand, those maroon volumes will chomp up just as much time as you give them. Whoever put a chair in there was not helping matters.

A recent reward was “Billiards Is a Good Game” (Summer/75), a faculty-giant perfecta, with English professor and A River Runs Through It author Norman Maclean, PhD’40, profiling physics professor and UChicago’s first Nobelist, Albert Abraham Michelson. As a grad student Maclean would watch the enigmatic physicist play billiards alone after lunch each day at the Quad Club. In Michelson’s masterful game, his painting, and his music, Maclean found a key to his genius. It’s a wonderful long read, available at mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/billiards-good-game.

Time heals all wounds, so we can read the harshest reader letters with equanimity now—with admiration, even, for those who wielded the sharpest rapiers. I goggled, then grinned, at a letter from David M. Kinsler, SB’37, AM’39 (Spring/83). “You’ve had some sad issues before,” he slashed, “but this issue drives me to action. It is so very amateurish.”

He wasn’t finished: “I have always been amazed at the doggedness of the book and dismayed by its feeble content and wretched looks.” Kinsler, who had worked in trade magazines, offered his help. Whether it was accepted, we don’t know.

Also in that issue, the Magazine reported a major fundraising effort, the Campaign for the Arts and Sciences, leading up to the University’s centennial. “We mean to go beyond business as usual,” said then-president Hanna Holborn Gray, “and to recreate the University and its role for the future.”

If this issue came to your mailbox, you also received Ensuring an Eminent Future, the inaugural issue of an annual publication that will appear each November during the University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact, publicly launched in October.

In the annual you’ll find University trustee David Brooks, AB’83, interviewing President Robert J. Zimmer about the University’s values and priorities. You can also read in depth about students across campus who have benefited from ambitious investments in financial aid, new opportunities and resources to drive innovation at UChicago, and the UChicago Medicine’s researchers and physicians who are tackling one of the world’s most common diseases, diabetes.

As the campaign and its impact build, you’ll find much more in these pages about how it is transforming UChicago’s future.

A new face

In October we welcomed Helen Gregg, AB’09, as the Magazine’s new alumni news editor. Helen, who has worked for Becker’s Hospital Review and Gotham Books, takes over the Peer Review section. Arriving days before deadline, she jumped in with both feet and wrote Lite of the Mind. We are very happy she’s here.