May 17, 2011

After 75 years at U of C, Alice Chandler dies at 93

Alice Chandler, whose 75-year career at the University began before the construction of the Regenstein library and the birth of University President Robert Zimmer, died last Thursday at the age of 93.

A native Chicagoan, Chandler began working at the University when she was 16 years old, just after graduating from high school. As the decades passed, her role at the University landed her a variety of responsibilities, including positions as the office manager for the President’s and Provost’s offices.

“Her quiet and unshakable dedication to the University inspired all who worked with her and is one of many gifts she has left to us. We will miss her deeply,” President Zimmer said in a May 13 press release.

Executive Assistant to the President Susan Huie said that she could tell that there was something special about Chandler when they first met 12 years ago. Huie said that as the two worked together in the Office of the President, Chandler became a mentor and a close friend.

“She was always someone you could go to. She had an incredible warmth about her,” Huie said.

Even in her later years, Chandler would drive herself to work and arrive before 7 a.m. Associate Provost for Faculty and Student Affairs Ingrid Gould described Chandler as a “mother hen” who cared deeply about the problems of the people she worked with, both inside and outside of the office.

“She was a shining example of how to live well, how to build a community, how to care about people,” Gould said in the press release.

Mary Harvey, associate provost for program development, met Chandler in 1998 when the two worked in the Office of the Provost. Harvey said that Chandler’s long experience at the U of C gave her an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the University, and made her one of the best administrative problem solvers.

“If you needed a problem solved, Alice would pick up the phone and make it happen,” Harvey said.

Over the course of her career, Chandler witnessed the abolition of varsity football and its reinstatement 30 years later, a 1969 protest in which 400 students laid siege to the administration building for two weeks, and the appointment of the University’s first female president.

The University will hold its first Alice W. Chandler Staff Service Ceremony, named in her memory, on June 14.

Chandler is survived by her son Dean.