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Fall 2000
Vol. 63, No. 1

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After nearly 20 years as an administrator at some of the nation's most highly regarded universities, including the last seven as president of the University of Chicago, Hugo Sonnenschein '61 is looking forward to being "Professor Sonnenschein" again.

"I've always missed my time as a scholar and a teacher," Sonnenschein says. "As much as I've enjoyed my work as an administrator and as satisfying as that work has been, I've always felt that I wanted to end my career in the classroom."

Sonnenschein, who was named Chicago's 11th president in 1993, officially stepped down June 30 to return to the faculty as the Hutchinson Professor of Economics and President Emeritus.

The move ends an administrative career that began at the University of Pennsylvania, where Sonnenschein was dean of the school of arts and sciences for 10 years. Before being named president at Chicago, he spent two years as provost at Princeton University.

Sonnenschein is spending the 2000-2001 academic year teaching at Princeton and Stanford universities. In fall 2001, he returns full time to the economics faculty at Chicago.

Before jumping back into academia, he spent the summer with his family and took a long-planned late August bicycle ride through Vermont with his wife, Elizabeth Gunn Sonnenschein '61, '62N.

"It's the kind of thing you don't always have time for when you are a president, especially in late August and early September, when a new school year is starting," he says of biking across the Green Mountain State.

His seven-year tenure at Chicago has been a busy time for Sonnenschein, who also serves on Rochester's Board of Trustees.

He's credited with shoring up UC's financial health, enhancing its facilities, and raising its public profile, especially among prospective students.

He established and launched a plan to gradually increase the size of the undergraduate college at the same time that the faculty revised its curriculum, a move that was not without its critics among Chicago alumni.

During Sonnenschein's presidency, the number of applicants doubled while test scores of incoming students rose from about 1350 on the SAT to more than 1400. Two new dormitories are under construction--along with a new athletics center--part of a campus planning program that Sonnenschein initiated.

The university also completed a $676 million fundraising drive geared toward student aid, research, and facilities, and the endowment grew from $1.2 billion in 1993 to about $3.7 billion this year.

"We accomplished quite a lot," Sonnenschein says. "We made an attractive place even more attractive, putting a good deal of attention on the quality of student life.

"Most important, we continued to attract the very best students," he says. "I always saw my job at Chicago as doing what I could to make the university the first choice for the most able and serious students."

As a student himself, Sonnenschein arrived at Rochester planning to major in engineering, but switched to mathematics. As an upperclassman, he took economics classes, studying with Lionel McKenzie, now the Wilson Professor Emeritus of Economics.

Sonnenschein went on to earn his Ph.D. in economics from Purdue University. He wasn't planning a career in administration until the opportunity arose at Penn.

He found that he enjoyed his new role, and the different perspective it afforded him.

"At the end of the day, what's really terrific about the great universities--and I count Chicago and Rochester among the great universities--is that they are places where wonderful work is being done and where bright and able people come together to study the important and eternal questions," Sonnenschein says. "And to be not just in the middle of that, but to be asked to guide it and shape it and make it the best that it can be--that is an enormous privilege."

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