Since 1890, The University of Chicago has embraced diverse students and faculty, all of whom contribute to a stimulating culture of inquiry. At a time when women predominantly worked in the home and schools were largely segregated, the University opened its doors to all, regardless of the gender, race, or religion of those who entered.

Current president Robert J. Zimmer expressed the necessity behind this inclusiveness: “We have an obligation to see that the greatest variety of perspectives is brought to bear on the issues before us as scholars and citizens. We therefore celebrate our tradition of inclusion and recognize that our success as an institution depends on its ongoing renewal.”

Among the students in the University’s inaugural class was Cora Bell Jackson, an African American woman who graduated in 1896. Twenty-five years later, Georgiana Simpson made national history when she became one of the first three African American women to earn a PhD, in 1921.

By 1943, the University had awarded more PhDs to African Americans—45 in all—than any other university. The recipients included Benjamin E. Mays, AM’25, PhD’35, a civil rights activist who was a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. and president of Morehouse College. The “father of Black History Month,” Carter G. Woodson, also studied at UChicago, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history in 1908.

Faculty members have also been breaking ground from the University’s inception. Influential rabbi and Jewish scholar Emil G. Hirsch joined the first faculty, in 1892, as professor of rabbinical literature and philosophy. Julian H. Lewis, one of the first African Americans to hold both an MD and a PhD, joined the faculty in 1917 as the University’s first African American instructor. In 1942, Allison Davis Sr. became the first African American professor to receive tenure at the University and one of the first at a non-historically-black university. And Marion Talbot, named dean of graduate women in 1895 and professor in 1905, established the Women’s Union in 1901, bringing University women together to promote their common interests.

Diverse Ideas and Opportunities