University Research Administration

In Support of Research: Administration for Research in the First One Hundred Twenty-Five Years of The University of Chicago

Andre L. Walker

"125th" Departmental Histories Fellow, The University of Chicago



Looking back over the 125-year history of the University of Chicago, the enduring focus on research is readily evident.  During that time, many different organizational units have arisen to support research. On campus today “Research Administration” is commonly understood to be the grants office or the sponsored programs office, and its main activity is to function as the business office for external research funding.  However, a much broader definition may be applied. Indeed, lower-case research administration can be said to comprise any activities “that will help research flourish in a university,”[i] which might include cultivating donors and securing funding, husbanding research resources, maintaining physical plant  to provide spaces for investigation and teaching, and dissemination of results.   


In this holistic view of research administration (borrowing a manufacturing metaphor), it is the infrastructure for the input (existing knowledge and raw materials), production (investigations), and output (teaching and publication) of new knowledge.  There are many examples in the University today, including activities such as award accounting, information technology, intellectual property management, libraries, and an academic press.  Their antecedents appear throughout the history of the University, some dating as far back as the institution’s founding.


The variety and diversity of research administrative activities at the University of Chicago seem neither an accident, nor coincidence.  Rather, they appear to grow out of the institution’s singular focus on scientific research as the wellspring for new knowledge.  Unlike most other institutions of the time, The University of Chicago was built largely from scratch starting in 1890.  Though it claimed its name, some faculty and alumni from financial ruins of the old University of Chicago, the new University’s founding was a purposeful break to shed the stigma of the prior institution.[ii] It was defined in large measure in opposition to prevailing institutional models of the day, blending the English undergraduate college with the German research institute and elevating scientific inquiry as its main mission. Unencumbered by tradition and empowered by the generosity of its benefactor, John D. Rockefeller (the “Founder”), it could evolve in a purposeful fashion guided by President William Rainey Harper’s overarching idea: “Research [is] salutary not only as a way of advancing new knowledge, but as a way of demonstrating the imagination, the creativity, and the professionalism of the [institution].”[iii]


That is not to say that research was the only purpose.  A 1943 dissertation by Chicago Ph.D. student William James Haggerty argued for multiple purposes for the University, but with research chief among them.  He goes on to say that “if the purposes of a university are to be meaningful they should be sanctioned by official publication.”[iv] Liberally interpreting “publication” as speech, one would thus expect to find the institution’s research ethos regularly reinforced by pronouncements from its top leaders and to find an inspired University community seeking new ways to enact the ethos in their daily routines.  However, one hundred twenty-five years is an uncomfortably long time for a single period of analysis.  So, following Goodspeed’s example[v], an analysis using twenty-five-year increments would allow one to more manageably trace the entire history of University.  In each smaller period, one could then identify the presidential statements reifying research and the organizational structures arising or changing to more ably support research.  In the text that follows, this strategy is employed to pair Presidential affirmations with organizational innovations.  The resulting coincident occurrences are far too anecdotal to demonstrate any causality, but they do suggest a fresh trail with interesting landmarks for navigating the University’s history.


I: 1890–1915


 “time for that work which in a university must be recognized as higher than instruction–the work of production”[vi]

William Rainey Harper, 1894

President, 1891-1906


 “The University is…here for the common purpose of attainment in a high intellectual life, with the common purpose of adding to knowledge by research.”[vii]

Henry Pratt Judson, 1906

President, 1907-1923



The cultivation of donors and patrons, collectively “Development,” is an indispensable activity for any not-for-profit institution.


The operation of a university, particularly a research institution in an expansionary mode, requires funding.  It is, therefore, not surprising that the University leaders were focused on fundraising from its earliest days.  However, it is interesting how it came to be.  The University’s benefactor, John D. Rockefeller, made his initial and later gifts on the condition that matching gifts be found among local Chicagoans.  This stemmed from his belief that “it is far better that the University be supported and enlarged by the gifts of many than by those of a single donor.”[viii]  President William Rainey Harper (1891-1906) and Board of Trustees Chairman Martin Ryerson were ever-ready to extol the virtues of the institution and equally prepared to describe its needs in detail to any willing listener.   Ryerson in particular, according to Goodspeed, “knew every need… and where and when giving would do the most good.”[ix] Lastly, Rockefeller insisted upon fiscal discipline—not out of tight-fistedness, but rather to promote a sense of financial stability that would encourage other donors.  He likely also sought to avoid the financial mismanagement that brought down the old University of Chicago.[x]  In relaying Rockefeller’s concerns, Frederick T. Gates declared that “instead of inviting funds, debt and deficit, if known, are the most certain means of destroying confidence and repelling funds.”[xi] Together, the triumvirate of Founder, President, and Board Chair employed a well-used tactic:  challenge grants.[xii]  To this they added detailed plans educate potential donors about specific projects and a track record demonstrating fiduciary responsibility to earn their trust.  With this combination, they found success, and the model survives to the present day.  Commenting on the University’s successful establishment and growth, Rockefeller expressed that “in the variety and extent of original research, in the valuable contributions to human knowledge, …my highest hopes have been far exceeded.”[xiii]


Campus Master Plan

In addition to funding, the physical facilities of a university are also keys to enabling research.


This idea was foremost in the physical design of the campus.  The founders of the University of Chicago were presented with a unique opportunity: a clean slate.  Not only were they presented with a spacious undeveloped parcel of land, which Land Grant Institutions of the time could similarly claim, but they also had financial resources to dream big.  They were able to prepare a purposeful design to maximize the usefulness and beauty of the space, rather than expanding by seemingly random accretion as had been the practice up to the that time.[xiv]  Guided by the research imperative, they developed a plan for a physical space that would support investigation and collaboration.  The resulting Campus Plan set the standard for integrated campus designs; facilitating not only more efficient space usage, but also more effective construction planning in capital campaigns.


Aside from the act of planning, the specific choices made also had a far-reaching impact.  The choice of Gothic as the architectural style provided a surprising amount of flexibility within a consistent style, and it inspired the fashion of “collegiate gothic” buildings around the country.  According to Martin Ryerson, Chair of the Board of Trustees, it was “beauty, simplicity, and stability.”[xv]   The style also lent an instant sense of permanence to the fledgling institution.  This image was of the utmost importance, because as Neil Harris notes, in his foreword to The Uses of Gothic, “until physical expression suited good taste and testified to permanence and cultural commitment, [any American] institutions would be limited in their power”[xvi] to truly compete against the leading European institutions.  Harry Ashmore similarly notes that “the illusion of antiquity associated with the more notable seats of learning” helped President Harper overcome would-be donors’ inferiority complex about Chicago, city and University, relative to east-coast rivals.[xvii] Finally, though the locations itself was not the result of the planners’ choices, Hyde Park location immeasurably benefitted their project, because as Boyer notes as it helped to permanently dispel any remaining bad memories of the old University.[xviii]


University Press

A university press is an integral part of the knowledge creation process.  It is an outlet to the wider academic community and society at-large.


The University Press, today the oldest continuously operating university press, was an expression of President Harper’s vision of academic organization.  In his day, it was novel to include a press within a university.  However, earlier in his career, he had established a successful printing operation, and he understood the value of a press for disseminating new works.  In Harper’s view, the ideal University of Chicago professor would be an investigator and publisher of ideas, as well as a teacher.  So, a proper outlet to make results known to the public was essential. He thus included the Press among the five original divisions in his organization plan for the University.[xix] In the midst of the organized chaos on the campus, the Press was up and running, and publishing several departmental journals, all within three months of the University’s opening.[xx]  Beginning with the Journal of Political Economy in 1892, the Press’ publication grew to sixteen journal titles by 1906, and it ultimately proved itself as more than a novelty or an expensive luxury. [xxi]  As President Ernest DeWitt Burton (1923-1925) would later say, “Knowledge demands publication, as truly as discovery.  Hence, we must maintain an agency of publication, our journals and our press.”[xxii]


II:  1916-1940 

“Research and publication have always been an essential feature in our faculty life.

…nearly every member of the staff is engaged in the active prosecution of his field,and the number of articles in scientific periodicalsand books annually produced is very large.”[xxiii]

Henry Pratt Judson, 1916

President, 1907-1923


“These two notable [Harper and Judson] administrations have themselvesprepared the way and created a demand for a periodof which they key words shall be discovery and betterment—discovery of truth in every field, betterment of every phase of our work.”[xxiv]

Ernest DeWitt Burton, 1925

President, 1923-1925


 “I think that there is no other institution anything like the magnitude of this University,which in its component parts is so wonderfully unified, in spirit of performanceand in direction of purpose.”[xxv]

Max Mason, 1927

President, 1925-1928


 “The record of the University of Chicago shows that it can be relied upon to manage funds well—as a Commentator has said, to get the most B.T.U.s of education and research out of a dollar.”[xxvi]

Robert Maynard Hutchins, 1939

President, 1929-1945

Chancellor, 1945-1951


University Library

The library is the cornerstone of the research university, providing the ready store of existing knowledge that forms the basis for new discoveries. 


In his history, Goodspeed noted that the University could never have too many books.  At its opening, the University’s library, comprising the library of the Baptist Union Theological Seminary, the library of the Old University of Chicago, and the so-called “Calvary Library” (personally purchased by Harper in Berlin in 1891),[xxvii] was among the largest and best in the country.[xxviii]  It was also part of President Harper’s original plan that, in addition to the General Library, each department have its own library and reading room.[xxix]  In its first ten years, the number University libraries grew to nineteen.[xxx]


After the initial burst of growth, President Harper was convinced of the need of a new central library building to support the development of the University, but it was his untimely death that brought the building to reality.  Rockefeller and the Trustees determined that the best way to honor him would be in the form of a library memorial, and so they raised subscriptions to construct the Memorial Library.  It was dedicated in June, 1912.[xxxi]


Even with the new Memorial, organization of a multiplying number of books and the topics contained therein became a concern.  As Director of the Libraries, future-President Burton brought order to the sprawl, making the collection more accessible.  He not only consolidated the multiple collections, he (with the help of J. C. M. Hanson from the Library of Congress) also introduced a central catalog using the Library of Congress classification system.[xxxii]  Thus, items that may have been held in a department collection became discoverable and potentially usable by the entire University community.


Beyond its administrative interest, the University also elevated the academic interest in libraries.  As Donald Davis notes in The Path Before Us, “Doctoral research in the field of library science, beginning at the University of Chicago and first coming to fruition in the 1930s, has produced the lion’s share of academic library historiography during the past fifty years.”[xxxiii] It set a standard for libraries and library education and empowered research more broadly.  The greater the number of well-organized libraries, the greater the discoverable pool of prior knowledge and research resources available to all. 


Office of the Comptroller

As with any organization, sound financial control is critical for the successful operation of a university.  Housed in an “Office of Comptroller” or similar, it encompasses the activities including accounting, auditing, and reporting that enable a university to meet its fiduciary responsibility, confirming for itself and attesting to its funders that financial resources have been put to their intended use.


From its founding, the University was blessed with deep financial acumen on its Board of Trustees[xxxiv] and with visionary Presidents who anticipated the needs of a research-centered institution. In one example, President Henry Pratt Judson, arguing in 1919 that research funds must be earmarked or they risk diversion to other uses, said “when funds are not set aside for special purposes they must be used for general purposes.”[xxxv]  Later under the administration of President Robert Maynard Hutchins, the University consolidated its formerly separate operating budgets under a single University Budget, matching the concurrent reorganization of the divisional structure of the institution.[xxxvi]  Moves such as these added clarity to budgeting process, strengthening it as a means to empower research.


The University was also an advocate for effective financial reporting, given its history as an exemplar.[xxxvii]  It was among the contributors to the university reporting standards put forth by the Association of College and University Business Officers (ACUBO) and the General Education Board (GEB) in the early 1930s.[xxxviii]  The GEB, a Rockefeller foundation, spearheaded an effort to standardize university accounting so that institutions might more effectively control their operations and that donors might more easily understand them.   The University’s participation was not surprising given its status as a leader in university finance and its long association with GEB and ACUBO.  Trevor Arnett, President of GEB, was a recognized authority in university finance, former Auditor for the University, and architect of the University’s accounting system.  Like Arnett, University Comptroller Nathan Plimpton was also considered an authority on university financial management,[xxxix] and he was active in ACUBO.  While not especially beneficial to its own operations, given their already high-level function, the University’s support for reporting standards helped to make universities in general less risky places for donor grants.


III:  1941-1965


“…the conception of a dedicated community, which must be free because its purpose is independent thought, and the members of which reach fulfilment through participation in it—this conception…can be defended.”[xl]

Robert Maynard Hutchins, 1951

President, 1929-1945

Chancellor, 1945-1951


“The second part of our tradition has been the unity and oneness of the University.  This expresses itself administratively that it may flourish academically….The University is organized so that ideas, no matter how diverse, may be exchanged by men, no matter how specialized.”[xli]

Lawrence A. Kimpton, 1952

Chancellor, 1951-1960


“We began with excellence of an order not previously known in this country,

to provide a major demonstration of the university concept….

we still have…a free-swinging, daring, and experimental spirit of willingness

to try anything promising.  That is a spirit we must cherish.”[xlii]

George W. Beadle, 1962

Chancellor, 1961

President, 1961-1968


Business Office

“Business Management” was a catch-all term at the turn of the twentieth century.  As businesses grew in scale and complexity, parts of the Business Manager’s responsibility grew into functions in their own right.  This trend was mirrored within universities of the time.


There was no Business Office in the University at its founding, but a Business Manager was appointed soon thereafter in 1894.[xliii] From the start, the office and the position had a jack-of-all-trades quality.  As Goodspeed notes of the early years, “as the funds of the University increased and the management of its business affairs became very important a Business Manager was appointed, and later an Auditor; and the work of the Registrar, being largely financial, was merged in that of the business office.”[xliv]  The Office was involved in disparate activities from supervising janitors and firemen[xlv] to making clandestine land acquisitions for John D. Rockefeller.[xlvi] This model was common among peer institutions.[xlvii]


In the run-up to World War II, “government contracts” commanded an increasingly large share of the Business Manager’s attention.  William Harrell, appointed Business Manager in 1938, saw his staff expand over the course of the war, as workloads shifted.  Toward the end of the War, he found that his title had been appended with “Special Projects,” which was more a reflection of growing focus on government contracts rather than a return to the catch-all nature of the early days.


Following the War, the office of the Business Manager began to resemble a “grants office.”  The more informal process of funding requests before the war, which often consisted simply of a letter from a faculty member to a prospective sponsor, was replaced by a formal internal approval process with the Business Manager as the final approver and official signatory.[xlviii] Harrell also supported a similar national trend toward formalized funding processes by hosting the first meeting of the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA).[xlix]



Though they are ubiquitous today, computers in the mid-century period were exotic, massive in size, and expensive to own and operate.    Thus, their financing and management quickly became a focus of administrative attention.


The University’s first computer was AVIDAC which began operation in January 1953; thought, technically, it belonged to Argonne.[l]   After that, things moved quickly, driven by new research uses and obsolescence.  The next year Enrico Fermi proposed to acquire a machine for the campus.[li]  Argonne built its last “homemade” computer, GEORGE, in 1957,[lii] and later that year it purchased an International Business Machines (IBM) 704, one of the largest commercial machines of the time.[liii] In 1958 Chancellor Kimpton accepted the gift of a UNIVAC I computer from his former Manhattan Project colleague turned Sperry Rand (computer) executive General Leslie Groves (ret.).[liv]  In his acceptance speech, Kimpton noted that the University was already hard at work on another machine to complement the UNIVAC.


In this period computers evolved rapidly, from very-expensive, one-off, custom-made machines to somewhat-less-expensive, commercially-available equipment.  At the same time research uses expanded.  However, this state of technological flux was problematic for researchers.   As Enrico Fermi noted in a 1954 proposal to the Atomic Energy Commission, “the art of computation is still [moving] so rapidly that the usual advantage of purchasing commercial equipment is not as applicable…”[lv] Up to that time, all computer construction had been financed by the Department of Defense or the Atomic Energy Commission.  However, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) held a joint conference to explore grant funding of computers for non-defense scientific research (February 1960).[lvi]  Shortly thereafter, President Kimpton commissioned the Computer Activities Policy Committee to advise his administration on a matter felt to be of University-wide importance.  It became the first “information technology” body on campus, investigating technical specification, utility and physical plant needs, and financing.  Later, the Board of Computing Activities and Services, founded under the Levi Administration, continued and expanded on the mandate of Computer Policy Committee to include administrative uses of computing.[lvii]


Argonne National Laboratory

National laboratories are the formalization of “big science,” presenting an opportunity for university researchers to access expensive and exotic equipment that would otherwise be out of reach for an individual institution to obtain.


Argonne National Laboratory, the first National Laboratory, evolved from a War Department contract to the University, prior to the Unites States’ entry into World War II. 


Due to behind-the-scene work by Physics Department Chair Arthur Holly Compton, the University won a contract from the U.S. Government to investigate self-sustaining nuclear fission in April 1941.[lviii]  Following the Pearl Harbor attack, the United States’ effort to build an atomic weapon, known as the Manhattan Project, began in earnest.  The University’s commitment to the war effort was unquestioned.  In a speech delivered just one month after Pearl Harbor, President Robert Maynard Hutchins’ declared the University “an instrumentality of total war.”[lix]  The Metallurgy Lab or “MetLab” was created at the University to conduct uranium experiments and, at Compton’s urging, all chain-reaction research was consolidated in Chicago (initially on campus).  Echoing President Hutchins’ sentiment, University Vice President Emery Filbey reportedly told Compton in 1942, “We will turn the University inside out if necessary to help win the war…Victory is much more important than survival of the University,” when university officials agreed to manage the laboratory.”[lx]  The MetLab achieved the first controlled, sustained nuclear chain reaction on December 2, 1942.    


Following the success of the Manhattan Project and the War’s end, the scientists and government executives sought an ongoing role for the massive wartime investment.  An advisory committee investigating the issue in November 1945 felt that a post-war role should incorporate the facility into the local academic research ecosystem.  They noted, “the laboratory’s mission should include basic research that [does] not duplicate work at Midwestern universities, but rather [supplements] the programs of these institutions.”[lxi]  A second advisory group meeting in March 1946 recommended “that national laboratories should engage in unclassified basic research requiring the “use of piles and other expensive large-scale equipment” too expensive for universities or private laboratories.” [lxii]  Despite a number of logistical and legislative hurdles, Argonne’s path was cleared following passage of legislation on June 26, 1946 to establish the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).  The legislation had been drafted in part by University Law Professor (and future University President) Edward Levi.[lxiii]  Five days later, on July 1, 1946, the MetLab became Argonne National Laboratory, the first national laboratory under the AEC.[lxiv]


Since its founding, the Argonne has been managed by the University under contract with the Department of Energy, as the original example of the “federally-owned, privately-operated” model.  In that time it has provided countless opportunities for experimentation and collaboration among university faculty that would have been otherwise unavailable.  It has been a prototype for other national laboratories and laboratory management ventures across the country.

IV:  1966-1990 

“If this University loses the ability to deliver as a pioneer on the top intellectual level,then except for a kind of momentum which might tide it over short periods of dullness, it will be through.”[lxv]

George W. Beadle, 1966

Chancellor, 1961

President, 1961-1968


“The emphasis on research was a declaration of faith in the power of the individual mind.  It carried with it a profound conviction of the importance of freedom for the mind to inquire, to know, to speak.  John D. Rockefeller set the tone through a policy of noninterference…. The sharing of the new learning gave Chicago its interdisciplinary stamp and its sense of unity.  It was one university.”[lxvi]

Edward Levi, 1967

President, 1968-1975


     “Private higher education has passed rapidly from a stage where a lack of funding posed the greatest threat to its continued existence to a stage wherein the greatest pressures toward its demise arise from the biggest source of money — the federal government.”[lxvii]

John T. Wilson, 197x

President, 1975-1978


“Of course you will see changes over time, but if these are the changes required to sustain rather than repudiate or transform its essential ethos, that will be a sign of health and strength, not of decline.”[lxviii]

Hanna Holborn Gray, 2000

President, 1978-1993


Technology Transfer

Institutions have been patenting inventions and licensing those patents to industry since the early part of the twentieth century.  However, the active commercialization of university patents, “Technology Transfer,” emerged as a significant outlet for new university knowledge broadly in the 1980s.


Though some observers believe a trend was already underway in the 1970s[lxix], this activity could be said to have begun in earnest following a series of federal policy changes.  These culminated with the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 and the creation of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 1982, which specialized in patent law.[lxx]  Under the Act, universities could claim (and patent, then license) the intellectual property produced under research projects sponsored by the federal government.  It spurred entrepreneurial activity as a legitimate output/outlet of the university knowledge-creation process.  In the process, university investigators who had always been intellectual entrepreneurs for their ideas were encouraged to move those ideas into the literal marketplace.  


Organized patent activity has existed in some institutions (mainly among engineering schools) since at least the 1920s,[lxxi] and in the 1930s, the National Research Council encouraged academic patenting.[lxxii]  Chicago faculty have patented their work since at least the 1918,[lxxiii] but the University’s first foray in technology transfer came in 1970s with a company called University Patents Inc. (UPI), founded at the University of Illinois by alumnus Robert E. Merriam.[lxxiv]  UPI billed itself as “a new concept in patent management and marketing,”[lxxv] and its marketing materials identify campus representatives at the University of Chicago.  At least one faculty member (Roland Winston) had a patent (for a solar panel design) successfully marketed by UPI.[lxxvi] However, UPI was not a profitable enterprise[lxxvii], and one finds few concurrent mentions of UPI with the University in the historical record.  So, its relationship with the University was probably short-lived. 


The University brought technology in-house in 1986 with the formation of ARCH. Taking its name from Argonne and Chicago, ARCH was created as a mechanism for the University and Argonne National Laboratory to jointly commercialize inventions. In its first ten years, ARCH formed 18 companies, signed a number of licenses, and received revenue of more than $20 million from licensing and equity returns.[lxxviii] In 1995 ARCH became ARCH Development Corporation, when part of the operation split off from the University to become an independent company (ARCH Venture Partners).  This split allowed ARCH Development Corporation to focus on patenting and licensing.  Terri Wiley, an ARCH Vice President at the time, spoke of this focus in a speech to the Association of University Technology Managers in 1998: “If we are good at what we do, we will understand the university well enough to assist the companies and the companies well enough to assist the university.  We act at a critical interface.”[lxxix]  In a move to strengthen its alignment with the University and its mission, ARCH Development Corporation was reorganized in 2001 as the Center for Technology Development & Ventures (“UCTech,” later “UChicagoTech”) and located within the Office of the Vice President for Research and National Laboratories.  In its first five years, under the leadership of Director Allan Thomas,  UChicagoTech helped faculty transform discoveries into 396 patents, 167 license agreements, and over $28 million in license revenue.[lxxx]  It continues to disseminate new ideas and generate revenue for research and education.



Science is a search for truth, but the search must be ethically guided.


In Alvin Weinberg’s 1978 analogy, science is its own country with one overriding qualification for citizenship:  one “is not much as a scientist unless he is responsible.”[lxxxi]  However, infamous incidents of irresponsibility, such as the Nazi medical experiments recounted during the Nuremburg trials, have led to international agreements and government mandates to ensure the ethical conduct of research and treatment of research subjects.  The Nuremburg Code was the result of the tribunal and it identified subject consent as the central requirement for ethical human experimentation.  It was followed in 1964 by the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki which classified requirements for the therapeutic and non-therapeutic human research.  Following the Nuremburg Code and the Helsinki Declaration, the U. S. Public Health Service issued its Memorandum of February 1966, which required “prior review of the judgement of the principal investigator or program director by a committee of his institutional associates” of research projects and tied funding to compliance.[lxxxii] It was the first regulation requiring institutional review.  The Institutional Review Board (IRB) system followed in a series of regulations, including the 1974 DHEW (Department of Health, Education, and Welfare) regulation 45 CFR 46, which required institutional review, the 1981 FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulation at 21 CFR 56, which defined IRB roles in food and drug research, and the 1991 multiple agency adoption of 45 CFR 46, which became known as the “Common Rule.”[lxxxiii]


Similarly, two key pieces of legislation were enacted for animal research.  The 1966 Animal Welfare Act authorizes the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to regulate the transportation care and use of animals.[lxxxiv]  The 1985 Health Research Extension Act delegates to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), acting through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), authority for the responsible use of animals in biomedical and behavior research.[lxxxv]  Further, DHHS Public Health Service (PHS) Policy states that institutions receiving PHS funding must develop and implement their Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) practices based on the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (the “Guide”).[lxxxvi]


Though it has adhered to government rules for human subjects and animal research, Chicago’s expertise and practice have often been ahead of the regulation.    The University established its own IRB in response to the mandates.  However, human subject research at the University had been evaluated by the Clinical Investigation Committee in 1970s (which later became the IRB), by the Committee on Clinical Research in the 1960s[lxxxvii], and by the Trustee’s Council on Medical and Biological Research in the mid-1950s.[lxxxviii]    The University similarly established its IACUC to comply with government requirements for animal studies.  And, as with human subjects, University activities in animal research preceded government mandates.  In 1937, at the request of the American Medical Association, Professor E.M.K Geiling of the Department of Pharmacology and Professor Paul R. Cannon of the Department of Pathology investigated a case of drug toxicity.  Their final report recommended preclinical therapeutic testing of drugs in animals, and it became the basis of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1938, which empowered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate clinical drug studies.[lxxxix]  Later, in the 1940s, the University hired its first veterinarian to manage the research animal colonies on campus.  The vet, Dr. N. R. Brewer, also led an informal group of Chicago-area peers at Northwestern University, the University of Illinois, and Hektoen Institute for Medical Research.[xc] His group appears to have formed the nucleus of the Animal Care Panel (founded in 1961)[xci] which drafted the first Guide and provided the basis for subsequent federal rules on animal use in research. 


V:  1991-2015


 “When our culture is coupled with the resources necessary to support the very best work, this university is without peer….We are able to conceive and develop the most outstanding programs. And the learning and discovery that follow are extraordinary."[xcii]

Hugo Sonnenschein, 1997

President, 1993-2000


“A number of words and phrases recur through the eleven administrations and 108 years since that first faculty meeting. They speak of the primacy of research, the intimate relationship of research to teaching….At no other university is a such a spirit so deeply and widely shared among faculty, students, and alumni.”[xciii]

Don Michael Randel, 2000

President, 2000-2006


 “The University of Chicago, from its very inception, has been driven by a singular focus on inquiry…. Everything about the University of Chicago that we recognize as distinctive flows from this commitment.”[xciv]

Robert J. Zimmer, 2006

President 2006-Present


Arete – A Research Accelerator


As the forefront of knowledge advances, the problems in science become increasingly complex and frequently require multi-disciplinary team investigation.  However, in the current, densely-interconnected world, it can still be surprisingly difficult to bring together and coordinate researchers of different disciplines to work on a single problem. 


Multidisciplinary research projects are inherently difficult coordinate.  Not only are there intellectual barriers to overcome between disparate fields of study, but there are organizational barriers to overcome among different departments and schools, let alone institutions.  This realization was the genesis for Arete, whose name comes from the ancient Greek word for excellence in the fulfilment of human potential.  It was the inspiration of Professor John Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology.  In 2008, Cacioppo along with Matthew Christian, then of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, and Ken Olliff, then of Foundation Relations, created Arete to jumpstart big projects by bringing together faculty with complementary expertise and by providing administrative support for proposal development and project startup.[xcv]  As a “research accelerator,” Arete has sought to catalyze collaborations that might have been otherwise hindered under formal organizational structure.  Following its founding, Arete found a permanent home in the Office of the Vice President for Research and National Laboratories, and there it has compiled an impressive record of successful projects crossing departmental, divisional, and institutional lines.  Its initiatives have built on the University’s long tradition of interdisciplinary research and elevated it for the twenty-first century.[xcvi]


Joe and Rika Mansueto Library

Along with its many benefits, the internet has presented existential challenges to the traditional library.  When resources are available online, what is the need for the physical book and the facilities to house them?  The answer, of course, is that many resources, particularly at an institution like Chicago, are not available online.  The time-honored method of browsing the stacks is as relevant today as ever.  Successful research will combine sources from all media.[xcvii] 


The University’s gothic campus potently reinforces the link between higher education and a priestly devotion, and the new domed Mansueto Library fits right in.  It is nothing less than a cathedral in honor of the book.  It is also a recognition that while many things can be found online, many can’t. Up to 80% of a library’s holdings may not be in public domain.[xcviii]  Even among peers that similarly embrace physical collections, Chicago has gone a step further, doubling down on the physical book, in the belief that off-site storage is a poor substitute for having materials close at hand.  Such a reduced access would hinder the investigation of students and faculty alike.  According to former Librarian Judith Nadler, “by not providing ready access to materials, we de facto reduce their value, and we impact research in ways we wouldn’t want.”[xcix]  To achieve the twin goals of access and efficient storage, Mansueto relies on an ingenious underground robotic storage system with the capacity to store 3.5 million books.  It also includes facilities for preservation and digitization.   According to Nadler, “the genius of Mansueto is in its beauty and functionality; its power is in its enabling features.”[c] When it opened in May 2011, the Mansueto Library added 22 years of growth capacity to the on-campus library system.[ci]


Research Computing Center

With the arrival of “Big Data,” a more thoughtful approach to computing technology is necessary to achieve its potentially enabling effects in research.


High-performance computing (HPC) systems, machines using dozens to tens of thousands of processors, have become ubiquitous, and nowadays they are used in every scientific discipline.  However, it is becoming increasingly inefficient for every investigator to invest in their own equipment and expertise.  Further, with rapid advances in technology, combining the right skills on a project team presents an ongoing challenge.  According to H. Birali Runesha, Assistant Vice President for Research Computing and director of the RCC, “…computing plays a critical role in research, …it will have a profound and transformative effect on literally all disciplines and divisions on campus.”[cii]  RCC provides not only hardware and software support and so-called condominium equipment options, but also disciplinary expertise to understand how computing technology may be gainfully employed in a particular research project.  Numerous publications attest to the value RCC has brought to projects as diverse as exoplanet modeling and data analysis (Astronomy), protein modeling (Chemistry and Molecular Biology), error prediction and correction (Computer Science), brain imaging (Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience), and climate simulation (Physics).[ciii]  Its impact can only be expected to grow.



As these snapshots have illustrated, the University’s core focus on research has informed its administrative development in many different ways over the past one hundred twenty-five years.  Some elements were by design, while others emerged as adaptations to the times. On the surface, different organizational elements may appear to have little to do with one another, for example Buildings and Grounds and Information Technology.  Such activities perform different kinds of work and reside in different organizational homes.  However, they are all of a piece, and all have been touched and guided by the research ethos.  Each is one part of an overall structure that empowers research at the University.


Many of the events noted are well-known in University lore.  However, viewing them as a collection, through the prism of research, sheds new light.  The grouping illustrates the many ways that the University of Chicago ethos has emerged to further research on campus.  It demonstrates how the original idea has survived and thrived over the past one hundred twenty-five years.


Given the breadth of activities and the 125-year timespan, an essay of this length has inevitably omitted items of relative importance.  Likewise, the items included are only superficially explored, as each could easily form the topic of an extended discussion.  However, the goal has not been an exhaustive history, but rather a collection of snapshots illustrating some of the many ways in which the singular ethos of the University of Chicago has and continues to infuse administrative activities on campus. 


As the University of Chicago celebrates its 125th Anniversary, it remains a singular institution in pursuit of new knowledge.  Peering into the future, we should expect that University leaders will continue to proclaim the core value of research, and we should expect to see in response a continued succession of imaginative and novel administrative structures to support it. 


[i] Raymond J. Woodrow, Management for Research in U.S. Universities (Washington, DC: NACUBO, 1978).

[ii] John W. Boyer, The University of Chicago: A History (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2015), 38, 51.

[iii] Ibid., 62.

[iv] William James Haggerty, “The Purposes of the University of Chicago” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1943).

[v] Thomas Wakefield Goodspeed, A History of the University of Chicago: The First Quarter Century (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1972).  Goodspeed focused on the first twenty-five years of the University’s existence.

[vi] Goodspeed, A History of the University, 318-19.

[vii] William Michael Murphy and D. J. R. Bruckner, The Idea of The University of Chicago: Selections from the Papers of the First Eight Chief Executives of the University of Chicago from 1891 to 1975 (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1976), 11.

[viii] Goodspeed, A History of the University, 291.

[ix] Ibid., 273.

[x] Boyer, The University of Chicago, 38.

[xi] Goodspeed, A History of the University, 286-287.

[xii] Boyer, The University of Chicago,50-51, 60.

[xiii] Goodspeed, A History of the University, 292.

[xiv] Jean F. Block, The Uses of Gothic: Planning and Building the Campus of the University of Chicago, 1892-1932 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1984)

[xv] Ibid., 13.

[xvi] Ibid., xi.

[xvii] Harry S. Ashmore, Unseasonable Truths: The Life of Robert Maynard Hutchins (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1989), 69.

[xviii] Boyer, The University of Chicago, 61.

[xix] Goodspeed, A History of the University, 136.

[xx] Ibid., 266.

[xxi] Ibid., 155.

[xxii] Murphy and Bruckner, The Idea of the University, 383.

[xxiii] Ibid., 90.

[xxiv] Ibid., 273.

[xxv] Ibid., 32.

[xxvi] Robert Maynard Hutchins, “State of the University Address, September 15, 939.” University of Chicago. Office of the President. Hutchins Administration. Records, [Box 362, File 6], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

[xxvii] Robert Rosenthal, “The Berlin Collection: A History,” Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library, (accessed November 9, 2015).

[xxviii] University of Chicago, An Historical Sketch: Showing the progress of the University from its organization until its formal opening, October 1, 1892 (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1899), 22.

[xxix] Goodspeed, A History of the University, 135.

[xxx] Haggerty, “The Purposes of the University,” 61-62.

[xxxi] Goodspeed, A History of the University, 423-425.

[xxxii] Ibid., 366-67.

[xxxiii] Donald G. Davis Jr. and John Mark Tucker,  “The Past Before Us:  The Historiography of Academic Librarianship, Past and Future,” in Building on the First Century: Proceedings of the Fifth National Conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 5-8, 1989, ed. Janice C. Fennel, 70 (Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 1989).

[xxxiv] Goodspeed, A History of the University, 384.

[xxxv] Roger Geiger, To Advance Knowledge: The Growth of American Research Universities, 1900-1940 (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2006), 76.

[xxxvi] University of Chicago, Report of the Comptroller, 1933-34, University of Chicago. Office of the President. Hutchins Administration. Records, [Box 58, File 12], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library. 15.

[xxxvii] Goodspeed, A History of the University, 386.

[xxxviii] National Committee on Standard Reports for Institutions of Higher Education. Suggested Forms for Financial Reports of Colleges and Universities. Champaign, IL: Flanigan-Pearson Co., 1931.

[xxxix] Charles Richard Sattgast, The administration of college and university endowments (New York, NY: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1940).

[xl] Murphy and Bruckner, The Idea of the University, 132.

[xli] Ibid., 44.

[xlii] Ibid., 56.

[xliii] Goodspeed, A History of the University, 382.

[xliv] Ibid., 148-151.

[xlv] Ibid., 386.

[xlvi] Jean F. Block, The Uses of Gothic, 88.

[xlvii] H. L. Wells, “Functional Organization of the University Business Office, By H. L. Wells, Business Manager, Northwestern University,” in Minutes of the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting of the Association of University and College Business Officers, May 16, 1935,  86-94.

[xlviii] University of Chicago, “Federal Grants and Contracts at the University of Chicago: Report of an ad hoc Committee appointed by Presidents George W. Beadle and Edward H. Levi,” H. L. Anderson Papers, [Box 163, Folder 2], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

[xlix] Kenneth L. Beasley, “The History of Research Administration,” in Research Administration and Management, ed. Elliot C. Kulakowski and Lynne U. Chronister, 9-29 (Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2006)

[l] Jack M. Holl, Richard G. Hewlett, and Ruth R. Harris, Argonne National Laboratory, 1946-1996 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 123.

[li] Herbert L. Anderson and Enrico Fermi, “Proposal to the Atomic Energy Commission for High Speed Electronic Computer,” Enrico Fermi Papers [Box 16, Folder 10], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

[lii] Holl et al, Argonne National Laboratory, 125.

[liii] Ibid., 125.

[liv] Lawrence A. Kimpton, “Acceptance of UNIVAC I System, May 21, 1958,” Lawrence A. Kimpton Papers, [Box 15, Folder 42], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

[lv] Anderson and Fermi, “Proposal to the Atomic Energy Commission for High Speed Electronic Computer.”

[lvi] Lawrence A. Kimpton Papers, [Box 88, Folder 2], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

[lvii] University of Chicago. Office of the President. Levi Administration. Records, [Box 111, Folder 6], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

[lviii] Holl et al, Argonne National Laboratory, 5.

[lix] Robert Maynard Hutchins, “The University at War, Speech to Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees, January 7, 1942” University of Chicago. Office of the President. Hutchins Administration. Records, [Box 358, Folder 2], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

[lx] Holl et al, Argonne National Laboratory, 8.

[lxi] Ibid., 39.

[lxii] Ibid., 40.

[lxiii] Ibid., 43.

[lxiv] Ibid., 46.

[lxv] Murphy and Bruckner, The Idea of the University, 57.

[lxvi] Ibid., 242.

[lxvii] Richard L. Popp, The Presidents of the University of Chicago: A Centennial View (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Library, 1992), 50.

[lxviii] Hanna Holborn Gray, “Getting the Third Degree,”(460th Convocation Address, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, June 9 and 10, 2000). 

[lxix] David C. Mowery,  Richard R. Nelson, Bhaven N. Sampat, and Arvids A. Ziedonis, Ivory Tower and Industrial Innovation:  University-Industry Technology Transfer Before and After the Bayh-Dole Act in the United States (Stanford, CA: Stanford Business Books, 2004), 9-13.

[lxx] Elizabeth Popp Berman, Creating the Market University: How Academic Science Became an Economic Engine (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012)

[lxxi] Mowery et al, Ivory Tower and Industrial Innovation. 14-21.

[lxxii] Jane Robbins, “Shaping Patent Policy:  The National Research Council and the Universities from World War I to the 1960s” in Perspectives on the History of Higher Education, Volume 25, ed. Roger Geiger (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2006)

[lxxiii] University of Chicago. Office of the President. Harper, Judson and Burton Administrations. Records, [Box 67, Folder 9], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

[lxxiv] Robert E. Merriam Papers, Box 101, Folder 1, University of Chicago, Special Collections Research Center

[lxxv] University Patents, Inc.,  Marketing Brochure (University of Chicago, Special Collections Research Center, Robert E. Merriam Papers, Box 101, Folder 1)

[lxxvi] University Patents, Inc.,  Annual Report 1977 (University of Chicago, Special Collections Research Center, Robert E. Merriam Papers, Box 101, Folder 2)

[lxxvii] Edmund Andrews, “Patents; University Patents Unit is Acquired by Maxwell,” New York Times, 08/20/1988

[lxxviii] Teri Willey, “Workshop on Overcoming Barriers to Collaborative Research,” National Academies, March 23-24, 1998, 34.

[lxxix] Ibid., 27.

[lxxx] Office of Technology and Intellectual Property (UChicagoTech), “Bringing Innovation to Life:  Five Year Report,” University of Chicago, 2006, 1.

[lxxxi] Alvin Weinberg, "The obligations of Citizenship in the of Science" Minerva, 16:1-3, 1978

[lxxxii] William H. Schneider, “The Establishment of Institutional Review Boards in the U.S. – Background History,” 

[lxxxiii] Bruce Gordon and Ernest Prentice, “Protection of Human Subjects in the United States: A Short History,” Journal of Public Health Management Practice, 6, no. 6 (2000): 1-8.

[lxxxiv] Nicholas H. Steneck, Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research (Washington, DC: Office of Research Integrity, 2005), 53.

[lxxxv] Ibid.

[lxxxvi] Ibid., 54.

[lxxxvii] University of Chicago, “Ad Hoc Committee on Federal Grants and Contracts,”

[lxxxviii] University of Chicago, Telephone Directory, December 1955

[lxxxix] Philip C. Hoffmann and Alfred Heller, “E.M.K. Geiling, 1891-1971” in Remembering The University of Chicago: Teachers, Scientists, and Scholars, .ed Edward Shils, 147-156 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1991)

[xc] Bennett J. Cohen, “The Evolution of Laboratory Animal Medicine in the United States,” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Volume 135, no. 3 (1959): 161-164.

[xci] Applied Research Ethics National Association and Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee Guidebook (Bethesda, MD: OLAW-NIH, 2002): 5.

[xcii] Hugo Sonnenschein, “Vision for the University,” (Address, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, February 2, 1997).

[xciii] Don Michael Randel, “Inaugural Address,” (462nd Convocation Address, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, November 2, 2000).

[xciv] Robert J. Zimmer, “Inaugural Address,” (487th Convocation Address, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, December 7, 2006).

[xcv] UChicago News Center, “Arete Initiative draws Faculty from across Disciplines to Examine Big Problems,”

[xcvi] Office of the Vice President for Research and National Laboratories, “Research Development (Arete) Annual Report,”

[xcvii] The University of Chicago Library News, “A library born in the age of Google: books and technology at the heart of campus,”

[xcviii] Angela Watercutter, “Robots Retrieve Books in University of Chicago’s New, Futuristic Library,” Wired, May 11, 2011,

[xcix] UChicago News Center, “Mansueto Library creates new space for thought,”

[c] The University of Chicago Library News, “Mansueto Library: Where from here?”

[ci] Scott Carlson, “A Library Addition at U. of Chicago Keeps Books Close,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 12, 2008,

[cii] Research Computing Center, “Director’s Welcome,”

[ciii] Research Computing Center, “Publications,”