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Nov. 30, 2005 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
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Edward Rosenheim, 1918-2005

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Edward Rosenheim, 1997

Edward Rosenheim, 1996
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Audio Remembrance: This comical monologue, written and performed by Edward "Ned" Rosenheim, debuted at a fundraiser for Barbara Flynn Currie in 1978. It was performed again in 2003 at a Quad Club Revels show, with sound effects by Bob Ashenhurst. (Production by Elliott Brennan)

Edward “Ned” Rosenheim, an internationally recognized authority on 18th century satire and Jonathan Swift, and highly regarded teacher at the University of Chicago, died Monday in his home in San Francisco. He was 87. Rosenheim, the David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor Emeritus in English Language & Literature, dedicated more than half a century to serving the University of Chicago.

Rosenheim, who holds three degrees from the University, was the author of numerous articles on topics ranging from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels to modern broadcasting, as well as two books, What Happens in Literature (1961) and Swift and the Satirist’s Art (1963). He also edited Selected Prose and Poetry of Jonathan Swift (1961).

“He was a much beloved teacher and, more than anyone I knew, caught what was ironically funny about Swift,” said David Bevington, the Phyllis Fay Horton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English Language & Literature, who worked with Rosenheim for many years.

“He was a huge contributor here to the culture of the University, especially the witty side,” he said, noting Rosenheim’s work as chief writer for the faculty comedy troupe, the Revels.

Rosenheim was the recipient of numerous teaching awards including the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1953, the University’s highest honor for teaching undergraduates, and in 1962, he was among the first University faculty to win the Willett Faculty Fellowship to support undergraduate teaching. From 1967-1968, he was a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow.

In 1977, he began his tenure as leader of the National Humanities Institute, a program aimed at enriching teaching at undergraduate colleges and universities, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1985, he was elected chairman of the Illinois Humanities Council, charged with overseeing programs to boost economic development and cultural awareness in the state, and running summer institutes for high school teachers and other educators. He continued to teach classes even after his retirement in 1988.

In 1968, Rosenheim was named editor of Modern Philology, a journal founded at the University of Chicago in 1903 with the purpose of printing articles on “research, investigation and discovery of literary matters” from medieval to modern times. The journal covers several Western languages besides English, including French, Spanish and German. He also served as chair of the faculty board for the Center for Continuing Education from 1979 to 1987.

Though Rosenheim leaves behind a long resume of accomplishments, it is his teaching and the joy with which he worked in the classroom that is perhaps his greatest legacy. According to Janel Mueller, the William Rainey Harper Distinguished Service Professor Emerita in English Language & Literature, Rosenheim was one of the University’s “all-time greats.”

“Ned did every aspect of teaching attentively,” said Mueller. “He gave witty, spellbinding lectures; he thoughtfully guided class discussions; he wrote reams of comments on student papers; and he was always available for office consultation. He truly had amazing capacities as an undergraduate teacher.”

A lover of satire and theater, Rosenheim also co-wrote about two dozen musical plays for the University’s Quadrangle Club Revels, a faculty group that spoofs University of Chicago life. The 100th anniversary show last year was the last one scripted by the team of Rosenheim and Bob Ashenhurst, Professor Emeritus in the Graduate School of Business. Rosenheim was also a founding member of the Society of the Fifth Line, a group of Chicagoans who convened annually to trade sardonic limericks.

“One of my favorite’s is a song Ned wrote for the Revels about a couple falling in love in the grocery store. All of the refrains were about a box of Tide. It was a terrific, charming song,” Bevington said. “He was a lovely, lovely man.”

Bernard Brown, associate professor emeritus in the Divinity School and College knew Rosenheim for 55 years. It was Rosenheim, during a visiting lecture in North Dakota in 1950, who convinced Brown and his soon-to-be wife to come to the University for graduate work.

“It’s been friendship ever since. He gave me the confidence to try. We just all have a great amount of thanks for him,” he said. “He had a very lively mind and terrific sense of humor. I saw him recently and he was just so alive.”

Rosenheim grew up in Winnetka, Ill. and graduated from New Trier High School. He earned an A.B. from the University of Chicago in 1939 before he became a Captain in the U.S. Army Infantry, serving from 1941 to 1946. Upon his return to Chicago, Rosenheim earned an A.M. from the University in 1946 and a Ph.D. in 1953.

From 1947 to 1952, he was Instructor and then Associate Professor in the Humanities. He edited The Journal of General Education from 1953 to 1956, and was Director of Broadcasting for the University from 1954 to 1957. In the later role, he moderated and produced the National Broadcasting Company’s “University of Chicago Round Table,” among other programs. In 1962, he became Professor in English.

He was a visiting professor at the University of Oregon, University of Washington and Duke University.

In a 1997 interview, Rosenheim recalled one of his most fond memories of the University, team-teaching a class with his wife Peggy called “Dependency and Disrepute,” about hostility toward poor people.

“To have shared this unique experience with my wife for more than a half-century — and to have shared the joy of teaching here — has been the happiest part of my tenure in Chicago. It has been a rare privilege,” Rosenheim said.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret; sons Daniel, James and Andrew; three grandsons; two granddaughters; and a sister, Elizabeth Hepner. Margaret Rosenheim is a lawyer and the Helen Ross Professor Emerita in the University’s School of Social Service Administration.
Last modified at 12:23 PM CST on Monday, December 05, 2005.

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