Adekunle “Kunle” Odunsi, an expert in immunotherapy and vaccine therapy for cancer, will join the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center as its new director beginning March 1. (Photo courtesy Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center)

UChicago news highlights

A selection of the latest headlines from across campus.

Cancer care

Adekunle “Kunle” Odunsi, an expert in immunotherapy and vaccine therapy for cancer, will join the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center as its new director beginning March 1. He comes to UChicago from the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, and will also serve as a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and dean of oncology at UChicago. Odunsiʼs research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of immune recognition and tolerance in ovarian cancer and translating these findings to clinical immunotherapy trials. Odunsi will succeed Michelle Le Beau, the Arthur and Marian Edelstein Professor of Medicine, who has led the Cancer Center since 2004.

Crown family gift

A new commitment to the University of Chicago from James and Paula Crown and their family will support the School of Social Service Administration, which has been renamed the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. This honors the schoolʼs historic legacy and enables an ambitious expansion of its vision to advance a more just and humane society. The name change was also informed by faculty discussion and recommendations. The landmark $75 million gift—the largest ever in support of a school of social work—will support the schoolʼs educational and scholarly mission. It will increase student financial aid, support faculty research and hiring, and strengthen community engagement to address the challenges of inequality and related social problems.

Commemorating MLK

Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson was the keynote speaker at the University of Chicagoʼs 31st annual commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 12. Wilkerson is the author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of Americaʼs Great Migration (Random House, 2010) and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (Random House, 2020), a portrait of systemic inequality that connects the oppression of Black Americans to caste systems in India and Nazi Germany. The commemoration also recognized this yearʼs recipients of the Universityʼs Diversity Leadership Awards: Anita Blanchard, MDʼ90, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UChicago Medicine; Rami Nashashibi, AMʼ98, PhDʼ11, founder and executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network; Jessica Jaggers, dean of students and associate dean of student life at Chicago Booth; Demetrius Johnson Jr., Class of 2022, an economics major in the College; and Nova Smith, AMʼ17, a PhD candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies.

A decade in Beijing

UChicago celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Center in Beijing with a series of virtual events highlighting the Universityʼs deep history of engagement and research partnerships with China. The monthlong celebration culminated in a January 29 virtual event featuring President Robert J. Zimmer; Juan de Pablo, vice president for national laboratories, science strategy, innovation, and global initiatives; and Provost Ka Yee C. Lee. Since its opening, the center has hosted 500-plus events, welcomed over 45,000 visitors, and served more than 2,500 faculty, staff, and students.

Advancing science

Five UChicago professors were named 2020 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for distinguished contributions to their fields: John E. Carlstrom, the Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy and Astrophysics; Anita S. Chong, professor of surgery; Laura Gagliardi, the Richard and Kathy Leventhal Professor in Chemistry and Molecular Engineering; Yamuna Krishnan, professor of chemistry; and Rima McLeod, professor of ophthalmology and visual science and pediatrics. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the worldʼs largest general scientific society and publishes the journal Science.

Theology honor

Jean-Luc Marion, the Andrew Thomas Greeley and Grace McNichols Greeley Professor of Catholic Studies and Professor of the Philosophy of Religions and Theology at the Divinity School, was awarded the Ratzinger Prize by Pope Francis in November, recognizing his lifetime achievements in theology. Marion works at the intersection of Christian theology, the history of philosophy, and contemporary phenomenology—the philosophical study of structures of consciousness. Marionʼs many influential books include God Without Being: Hors-Texte (University of Chicago Press, 1991) and Being Given: Toward a Phenomenology of Givenness (Stanford University Press, 2002).

A victory for unity

The 74th annual Latke-Hamantash Debate, held virtually on December 17, posed a new and radical question in the long-running food fight: Is there hope for reconciliation between the potato and the pastry? In keeping with the theme of unity, the event featured a speaker arguing for the merits and failures of both Jewish treats (Dennis Carlton, the David McDaniel Keller Professor of Economics at Chicago Booth), alongside the customary latke and hamantash partisans (respectively, Kafi Moragne-Patterson, PhDʼ15, director of student civic education at the University Community Service Center, and David Pincus, an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology). The debate concluded with an online poll asking viewers who had won the debate; “everyone” received the most votes—perhaps signaling the dawn of a new, less divisive era.