Dear Alumni and Friends,

As I prepare to step down as dean at the end of this academic year, I have been reflecting on the central role of the Humanities Division at UChicago.

Through scholarship and artistic creation, our faculty and students contemplate what human beings have said and thought and written; they likewise produce innovative new works in many disciplines of the arts. For more than a century, their research and creativity have immeasurably broadened and deepened our understanding of the human condition.

To be sure, our efforts as scholars and creators have needed strong support to launch and sustain this work. This support includes outright funding for professorships and postgraduate teaching fellows, vital fellowships for graduate students, and prestigious awards that recognize and motivate faculty and students. With this backing, our humanists have conceived and deployed new programs from master’s degrees in digital humanities to courses in paleography and the history of the book to an ensemble for the performance of new music. The division has likewise fostered multifaceted diversity among faculty, students, and staff that continues to reshape our perspective on the humanities.

These indispensable foundations enable research and creation in the division: articles, books, and artworks that scrutinize, expand, and preserve the treasures that humans have produced. Recent accolades—for the work of Philip Bohlman on sonic encounters at sacred borderlands, of Allyson Nadia Field on race and representation in cinema, of Theaster Gates on space theory and land development, of Jonathan Lear on the philosophical understanding of the human psyche, and of Larry Norman on the creative conflict between ancient literature and early-modern ideals—highlight the astonishing range and variety of our scholarship and creativity in the humanities.

This exceptional work, along with that of the entire faculty, constantly clarifies the place—past, present, and future—of human beings in the world. Two UChicago visionaries, Joe Neubauer, MBA’65, and Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer, stressed this guiding aspect of the humanities at the end of the Campaign for Inquiry and Impact when they said that discovery in science and technology must be led by humanistic thinking about “where we should go next.”

These past seven years have given me the most stimulating moments of my nearly four decades at UChicago. It has been a privilege—indeed, a joy—to lead the Humanities Division during a time of such significant productivity and rapid change. Our loyal alumni and supporters have time and again enabled us to carry out our work through your unfailing generosity. For this and so much else, I am more grateful than I can fully express.

Anne Walters Robertson
Dean, Division of the Humanities
Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Music

Photo Creds: 
Photography by John Zich