The University of Chicago News Office
March 26, 2004 Press Contact: William Harms
(773) 702-8356

Karl Joachim Weintraub

    Downloadable Photo:
Karl Joachim Weintraub

Memorial Services:
A service for Karl Weintraub will be held at 4p.m., Friday April 30, at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.

Audio Lecture:
Listen to Mr. Weintraub's 1984 Ryerson Lecture, introduced by Hanna H. Gray:
48k mono
96k stereo

Additional Material:
Karl Joachim Weintraub -- Teacher of Culture and Cultural Historian -- 1924-2004
Critic's Choice with Andrew Patner, 98.7WFMT

Karl Joachim Weintraub, one of the most celebrated teachers at the University of Chicago, died Thursday, March 25, in Bernard Mitchell Hospital at the University of Chicago. Weintraub, 79, was a resident of the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Services for Weintraub will be held at 4 p.m., April 30, at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.

A renowned scholar whose research and writing addressed broad historical questions of autobiography and history of culture, Weintraub is well known for his teaching of the Western Civilization course in the College. The course was so popular when Weintraub was teaching it that students had to sleep out on the University’s quadrangle the night before registration to secure a place. His carefully framed questions and demanding expectations taught his students to read critically and pursue complex issues.

Weintraub, the Thomas E. Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in History, also taught in the Committee on Social Thought, the Committee on the History of Culture and the Humanities Division and in the College. Weintraub spent nearly 60 years at the University as a student, a professor and an inspiring mentor to generations of students.

Weintraub’s skill as a teacher earned him two Quantrell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the University (1960 and 1986), as well as the Danforth Foundation’s E. Harris Harbison Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1967 and the Amoco Foundation Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Teaching in 1995. In 2001, he received the Norman Maclean Alumni Award, which recognizes emeritus and senior faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to teaching and to the student experience of life on campus.

For many Chicago students, Weintraub––who also has a reputation for being compassionate and approachable––has been the most important educational influence in their lives. A constant inspiration to students, Weintraub kept in touch and encouraged his students toward excellence even after they had left campus.

“Jock Weintraub (as he was known by colleagues) was infinitely kind and generous toward his students, and for many students, his courses were the high point of their studies at Chicago. He blended energy and lucidity with verve and discernment, and he fostered a lively, no-nonsense engagement on the part of his students with the original historical documents that were at the heart of his courses,” said John Boyer, Dean of the College and the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in History.

“Jock was not only a brilliant teacher in the College, but his extraordinary dedication to liberal education had a broad and deep impact on the lives of his students beyond the classroom,” Boyer said.

Leon Kass, the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, said, “For me and many of my contemporaries, Jock Weintraub has stood for decades as the shining exemplar of everything admirable about the University and the intellectual life: love of books, wide curiosity, immense learning, intellectual probity and courage, respect for each individual, dedication to the university, and, above all, magisterial devotion to his subject and his students. As long as Jock Weintraub was on our faculty, one could be sure that this was still the University of Chicago. We shall not see his likes again.”

Kass’ wife, Amy Kass, Senior Lecturer in the Humanities at the University, had Weintraub as a teacher as an undergraduate at Chicago. She recalled, “Jock Weintraub was the first teacher I encountered, as an undergraduate, at the University of Chicago, and the teacher that inspired me, and so many of his other students, to become a teacher. Of course, we admired his immense learning and his devotion to his subject and to us. But perhaps his influence came, most of all, through his faith in our ability to inquire and to understand, which, in turn, enabled us to have faith and confidence in ourselves.”

Besides being a respected teacher, Weintraub also was an esteemed scholar and was particularly interested in historiography and autobiography. He was the author of numerous articles and book chapters as well as two books, Visions of Culture: Voltaire-Guizot-Burckhardt-Lamprecht-Huizinga-Ortega y Gassett (1966) and The Value of the Individual: Self and Circumstance in Autobiography (1978).

“I can’t think of anyone whose death means as much of a loss of knowledge of the world,” said Wayne Booth, the George Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English Language and Literature at the University. “He knew and had thought about everything—politics, literature, religion and just about everything else.

“His work was terribly important to me and others. His work on Goethe was the best job on Goethe I know. He also did work on various forms of individuality.”

Booth added that Weintraub was an engaging conversationalist who was often the center of discussions at the roundtable frequented by faculty at the University’s Quadrangle Club.

Weintraub held numerous positions of leadership at the University, including serving as Chairman of the Western Civilization course, Chairman of the Committee on the History of Culture and Dean of the Humanities Division. He was a trustee of Knox College and the Art Institute of Chicago and a governor on the Board of Governors of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Weintraub was born in Darmstadt, Germany. His father was Jewish and his mother was Christian and he was sent to a Quaker boarding school in Holland. During World War II, he was hidden by Christians and during that time he did a tremendous amount of reading. After the war, the Quakers arranged for him to go to New York, and people suggested that he should go to the University of Chicago.

He received an A.B. in 1949, an A.M. in 1952, and a Ph.D. in History in 1957, all from the University of Chicago. He began teaching at the University in 1954 as an intern with the College’s Western Civilization program.

Weintraub is survived by his wife Katy O’Brien Weintraub and by his sister, Tatjana Wood. Memorial gifts for Jock Weintraub may be sent to the Karl Joachim Weintraub Memorial Endowment at the University of Chicago Library, ATTN: Director of Development, 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, IL 60637-1596.
Last modified at 10:08 PM CST on Monday, September 25, 2006.

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