Founded Committee on Social Thought

The innovative, interdisciplinary Committee on Social Thought was established at the University of Chicago in 1941. Not centered on any specific topic, it instead draws together noted academics and writers to “foster awareness of the permanent questions at the origin of all learned inquiry.” Distinguished members have included Hannah Arendt, Saul Bellow, J. M. Coetzee, T. S. Eliot, François Furet, Friedrich Hayek, A. K. Ramanujan, Paul Ricoeur, Charles Rosen, Harold Rosenberg, and John U. Nef, for whom the committee is now named.

Political theorist Hannah Arendt


Members of the University of Chicago Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GALA) take part in the 1991 Chicago Pride Parade.

Founded influential gay liberation organization

In 1969, UChicago students formed the University of Chicago Gay Liberation Front, establishing one of Chicago’s first gay liberation organizations. The group helped organize the city’s first Pride Parade in June 1969 and was instrumental in the passage of the 1988 Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, which protects lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation.


Launched interdisciplinary research into race, politics, and culture

In 2004, scholar and activist Cathy Cohen began the Black Youth Project, a national research project devoted to examining the attitudes, resources, and culture of African American youth. Cohen’s major contributions linking academics with activism earned her the University of Chicago’s inaugural Faculty Diversity Leadership Award in 2014.

Cathy Cohen, the David and Mary Winton Green Professor in Political Science


Theaster Gates, Professor and Director of Arts + Public Life

Demonstrated art’s ability to transform

Artist Theaster Gates received the Artes Mundi prize in 2015, a major honor for contemporary artists. The prize, among the world’s largest, honored Gates for his piece “A Complicated Relationship between Heaven and Earth, or When We Believe.” The judges praised Gates as an activist, urbanist, facilitator, and curator. The professor of visual arts and director of arts and public life at the University is an innovator in using art to reshape and revive formerly neglected neighborhoods. His Dorchester Projects created small-scale artist residencies throughout Greater Grand Crossing in Chicago.