Remembering Karl Weintraub

By Maroon Editorial Staff

Few professors are as deeply connected to a school as Karl Weintraub was to the University of Chicago. In 56 years he gave each of his thousands of students every bit as much as he demanded from them, which was a great deal. His dedication and intensity were legendary and, with his passing on March 25, the world lost a great teacher.

Weintraub epitomized the “life of the mind” that our University strives to provide. With his intense dedication to well rounded undergraduate education, he was one of the great representatives of the “old” Core. A “lifer,” he received an A.B. (’49), an A.M. (’52), and a Ph.D. (’57) from the University, and in 1954 began teaching the Western Civilizations course, which, in many ways, defines his legacy here. When it began to come under fire several years ago Weintraub was one of its staunch defenders, and after he retired he continued to teach it without taking a salary. He championed the course and continued to teach it until his declining health forced him to stop last spring.

Among his many awards for teaching, Weintraub received the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching twice, (in 1960 and 1986). But this is not the whole story. His undying dedication to his students is legendary. Illustrated in the vignettes on page 4, Weintraub had a profound effect on many whom he taught. He captivated students by bringing them into his home and sharing his personal life—touching students with his sincerity and showing them that he lived by the principles he preached.

Karl Weintraub was the consummate professor, as devoted to the pursuit of knowledge as his students are to his memory. As the University that he so loved moves forward, we should never forget his contributions, his style, or his methods. We should encourage our current faculty to take lessons from Weintraub, and when hiring new professors, we should search for those that embody the integrity and intellectual curiosity that made Weintraub so effective and so respected.

The University has lost a great professor and a great friend. Karl Weintraub will be sorely missed.