November 22, 2011

University remembers Herman Sinaiko

Courtesy of Jamie Manley

Family, friends, former students, and colleagues gathered at Bond Chapel on Friday to celebrate the life of Humanities professor Herman Sinaiko (A.B. ’45, Ph.D. ’61).

Sinaiko, who taught in the College for 57 years and also served as Dean of Students from 1982 to 1986, died of lung cancer on October 5 at the age of 82.

Throughout the service, the speakers noted Sinaiko’s diverse contributions to the U of C community.

A self-proclaimed “Hutchins Baby,” Sinaiko strived to make argument an integral part of the U of C education, his son Jesse said.

“If he disagreed, he was more than willing to argue about it—passionately,” Jesse Sinaiko said.

Herman Sinaiko’s former student and colleague Arthur Devenport (A.B. ’68, A.M. ’76) praised Sinaiko’s signature teaching style, which earned him the 1964 Quantrell Award for Undergraduate Teaching. Devenport read from letters submitted by other former students, which highlighted Sinaiko’s devotion to intellectual inquiry.

“Herman didn’t push. He pulled. He would question you, pull you forward from initial judgments,” one student wrote.

Sinaiko, who taught the Core classes Greek Thought and Literature and Human Being and Citizen, won the Amoco Award in 1994 and the Norman Maclean Faculty award in 2003. He was also slated to teach The Organization of Knowledge this spring.

Associate Dean of Students Jean Treese (A.B. ’66), one of Sinaiko’s former students, described Sinaiko’s work as Dean of Students to create more support programs for students, particularly for those with mental issues and special needs.

Sinaiko’s goal, said longtime friend Donald Levine, the Peter B. Ritzma Professor Emeritus of Sociology and the College, was to “make students happy because happier students make more engaged students in a demanding curriculum.”

As the first faculty advisor for University Theater (UT), Sinaiko worked with several campus arts organizations, including Fire Escape Films. The RSO earned its name when its first meeting was held on the fire escape outside of Sinaiko’s office, according to Bill Michel (A.B. ’92, M.B.A. ’08), the former director of UT and current executive director of the Logan Center for the Arts.

Sinaiko’s son David mused that even in his father’s last days, he gave impromptu lectures from his hospital bed to anyone who would listen.

Sinaiko is survived by his wife Susan Fisher, five children, and four grandchildren.