The University of Chicago News Office
August 10, 1998 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

Richard and Barbara Franke endow The Franke Institute for the Humanities

Richard Franke, one of the nation's most prominent supporters of the humanities and a recipient of the 1997 National Humanities Medal, is, with his wife, Barbara, giving $2.5 million to the University of Chicago's Humanities Institute. In recognition of the Frankes' gift and their prior gifts, the University is renaming the Humanities Institute The Franke Institute for the Humanities.

Franke, retired Chairman and CEO of John Nuveen & Co. Inc., was praised by President Clinton for "bringing the pleasure of art and ideas to the people of the great city of Chicago." The Frankes have also been generous supporters of the University of Chicago, especially its Court Theatre and Smart Museum of Art as well as the Humanities Institute. Their gifts to the University's Humanities Institute alone now total $5 million.

Hugo F. Sonnenschein, President of the University of Chicago, said, "Rich and Barbara Franke understand something very important––the humanities, whether Shakespeare or community theater, opera or the blues, is a vital force that helps build communities and encourages us to understand each other and what it means to be human. Their support of the humanities both at the University and in Chicago is unsurpassed. I could not be more pleased that our Humanities Institute and the good work it is doing will forever be associated with their name." Richard Franke is also responsible for creating the Chicago Humanities Festival and is a board member of the Illinois Humanities Council, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Newberry Library and the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

The Frankes were among the first people who recognized the importance of the Humanities Institute at the University of Chicago, according to Philip Gossett, Dean of the Humanities Division at the University of Chicago. Their previous gifts to the Institute have provided support for conferences and lectureships as well as fellowships for professors and graduate students. Additionally, the Frankes endowed a professorship, the Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Chair, intended for the director of the Humanities Institute.

Gossett said, "The establishment of The Franke Institute for the Humanities provides a solid base of support for this institute, which has become a central force in the division and throughout the University for inventive interdisciplinary work. This munificent gift allows us to strengthen and expand the programs in the humanities at the University."

Franke's interest in the humanities began with his study of history as an undergraduate and has endured throughout his life. For more than 20 years, both Barbara and Richard Franke have participated in a book group that explores western civilization; for the past several years, the Frankes teacher has been James Redfield, the Edward Olson Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and Classical Languages & Literatures at the University of Chicago.

"The humanities offer the greatest hope that people will find the ability to understand one another and use that understanding to practice respect and civility toward each other. This capacity is cardinal to life and to the university," Franke said. "It is important that we have a more central, organized way of thinking about and working with the humanities. Right now the Humanities Institute is the place where the University of Chicago is doing this."

Paul Hunter, the director of the Humanities Institute, said "The humanities in general and the University of Chicago in particular are very fortunate to have patrons with the talents, insights and dedication of the Frankes. It is with gratitude and great joy that we recognize their generosity by renaming the Institute in their honor."

Founded in 1990, the newly named Franke Institute for the Humanities is both a physical place for humanistic thinkers to do their work and an initiative to bring together the best current ideas on humanities topics for examination and discussion. The Franke Institute for the Humanities hosts public lectures, symposia, readings and performances; provides a forum for researchers to present their work for questioning and evaluation by their peers; and offers fellowships for humanists to examine their subjects in greater detail. Above all, the Institute is dedicated to supporting the lively intellectual culture of the University of Chicago and extending that culture to a broader audience.
Last modified at 03:51 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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