Hugo Sonnenschein, 11th president of the University of Chicago, 1940-2021


Hugo Sonnenschein, a renowned economist and longtime university administrator who led the University of Chicago through a period of transformation as eleventh president, died on July 15. He was 80 years old.

A member of the academic community for nearly three decades, Sonnenschein was most recently Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics. He was a beloved mentor and scholar who went on to teach undergraduate and graduate courses, having made original contributions on issues of multi-market demand and supply functions in economics. His research helped establish the modern theory of aggregate demand.


As President of UCicago from 1993 to 2000, Sonnenschein strengthened the recruitment of outstanding students and faculty, developed a strategic plan to expand the Undergraduate College, and devoted more resources to building new facilities and improving the quality of life on campus.

“Hugo’s tireless work led to substantial improvements during his tenure as President and paved the way for many of the advancements made by the University over the following decades,” wrote President Robert J. Zimmer and provost Ka Yee C. Lee in a message to the university community. “He was a foresight leader whose accomplishments will be remembered with deep respect. “

Sonnenschein became president of UCicago on July 1, 1993, after serving as dean of Princeton University. In his inaugural campus address in the fall, Sonnenschein warned of “the intellectual, economic and social thickets” that the University would face in the future. “Let us come together courageously, ready to question and question everything we do,” he said.

Sonnenschein raised fundraising expectations among alumni and friends of the University; During his tenure, the University completed a fundraising campaign of $ 676 million, the largest in its history at the time. Sonnenschein also instituted the first campus planning process in 30 years, which led to the eventual construction of the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, a new campus for the Graduate School of Business (now Chicago Booth) and two new residences for undergraduates.


While maintaining the strength of the University’s renowned graduate programs, Sonnenschein launched a program to enhance the College’s attractiveness to undergraduate students. At the same time, the evolution of the curricula, including the faculty review of the famous core curriculum, has given students more opportunities to study abroad and learn foreign languages.

In the spring of 1996, Sonnenschein announced a plan to expand the size of the undergraduate college by 1,000 students over the course of a decade, while reducing the number of compulsory courses in the core – proposals that have led to debate. animated between UCicago faculty members, students and alumni. John W. Boyer, who served as dean of the College for 29 years, including Sonnenschein’s tenure as president, said Sonnenschein’s vision has stood the test of time.

“Hugo Sonnenschein was a remarkable strategic leader who made a huge contribution to the well-being and future success of the University,” said Boyer. “He was a determined and courageous man who helped set in motion models of structural renewal and profound transformation for the University that have endured to our time. His passing is an extraordinary loss to the spirit of the University. His foresight and leadership in a time of great challenges and controversy made possible many dynamic characteristics of the University that we appreciate today.


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