Herman Sinaiko, teaching since 1954

By Peter Kauffman

This year marks Herman Sinaiko’s 50th year teaching at the University of Chicago. He currently teaches Greek Thought and Literature, and has taught Form, Problem, Event and Human Being and Citizen in years past.

Sinaiko was an undergraduate at the college from 1943 to 1947. He began teaching in 1954 and received his Ph.D seven years later in 1961.

Sinaiko studied under two well-known American intellectuals, Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss. Arendt taught at the University of Chicago after escaping from Nazi-occupied France in 1941. She wrote books such as Origins of Totalitarianism, in which she criticized the abuses of power in the actions of Hitler and Stalin, which she claimed paralleled each other. Leo Strauss taught at the University of Chicago from 1949 to 1973 after becoming the chair of the political science department.

Despite Sinaiko’s impressive résumé and academic awards—the Amoco Award in 1994 and the Quantrell Award in 1963—he prefers to teach courses in the core. Using his “old-fashioned” teaching style, he likes to help students master the arts of tact, subtlety and sophistication, rather than teaching them to understand a particular theme or author. This is also why he continues to teach the same full-year Greek Thought class, as opposed to switching after a quarter or a year like other professors.

One of the most exciting aspects for students finishing Sinaiko’s class is his year-end barbecue, where students are invited to his house for food and conversation. While there, they are free to wander around the impressive art collection in his house, ranging from original Chinese scripts to an original work by Pablo Picasso.