The University of Chicago was founded in 1890 by John D. Rockefeller. Its first president was William Rainey Harper, who agreed to become president on the condition that he be allowed to establish a university that would be unlike any other. He conceived of a university that would emphasize the creation of new knowledge and “make the work of investigation primary.” To this end, the University has always been dedicated to excellence in research and has sought only the most distinguished scholars for its faculty.
Over the years, the University and its faculty have had a major impact on American higher education. Faculty scholarship has shaped several essential disciplines and established important and distinctive “Chicago schools” in such disparate fields as economics, evolutionary biology, sociology, literary criticism, anthropology, and law.
The University is composed of an undergraduate College, four graduate divisions (Biological Sciences, Humanities, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences), six graduate professional schools (Booth School of Business, Divinity School, Law School, Pritzker School of Medicine, Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies and School of Social Service Administration), and the William B. and Catherine V. Graham School of General Studies. The University also includes libraries, research institutes, clinics, museums, theaters, and a university press. The University’s English Collegiate Gothic buildings, built of gray Indiana limestone, were designed to frame shady, green quadrangles. Contemporary campus buildings—designed by Eero Saarinen, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Rafael Viñoly—have been designed in keeping with the original Gothic theme while also drawing from the famous Chicago tradition of great modern architecture.
On July 1, 2006, Robert J. Zimmer became the University’s thirteenth President.