Robert Streeter, former Dean of the College and Dean of Humanities and an important figure in the development of the University's curriculum, died at his home in Danville, Pennsylvania Saturday at the age of 85.
Streeter, an alumnus of Bucknell College and Northwestern University, began his academic career at Bucknell. After a brief tenure at Seoul National University in Korea, the University acquired Streeter's expertise in American literature and in rhetoric by hiring him as an assistant professor of English in 1947.
Four years before becoming a full professor, Streeter was named Dean of the College in 1954, just after the departure of Robert Maynard Hutchins. The Hutchins era famously brought a focus on general education in the classics to the College, at the expense of more focused and empirical study. Hutchins left Chicago in 1951, and the decade would see a turn towards the program of concentrations that the College is based upon today under the leadership of Lawrence Kimpton. Streeter played a vital role in this transition, leading a 1955 review of the curriculum that was central to Kimpton's recasting of Hutchins's project.
Streeter's success in leading the University through the 1950s has been credited in part to his sense of humor. Revels, the faculty-led musical and comedy revue that has seen a comeback this year, saw its golden years during the same decade, with Streeter as a chief participant and writer. Edward Rosenheim, Professor Emeritus in English Language and Literature and a Revels teammate of Streeter, said of him in a 2000 Chronicle article, "I've seen a lot of talent on campus over the years how often can you speak of someone like Bob Streeter, a former dean of the University's Humanities Division, as a musical comedy writer?"
After a term as Dean of the College, Streeter became a full professor in 1958. He served two terms as Dean of the Graduate Division of Humanities. His ear for language and experience teaching in Korea were central to the division's exploration of linguistics and Asian cultures; the Linguistics and South Asian Languages and Civilizations departments both expanded during Streeter's tenure. His influence has also been cited in the creation and success of Critical Inquiry during the 1970s. Janel Muller, who now fills Streeter's shoes as Dean of the Graduate Division of the Humanities, told the Sun-Times that "he was actually a kind of comparative literature person before his time."
He is survived by two children and six grandchildren.