University benefited from Rosenheimís decades-long legacy
Edward “Ned” Rosenheim, an internationally recognized authority on 18th-century satire and Jonathan Swift, and a highly regarded teacher at the University, died Monday, Dec. 5, 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.
Rosenheim held three degrees from the University and 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 Quadrangle Club Revels.
Rosenheim was the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including the University’s highest teaching honor, the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, which he received in 1953, and a Willett Faculty fellowship to support undergraduate teaching, awarded to him in 1962.
From 1968 to 1988, Rosenheim was the editor of Modern Philology, a journal founded at 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.
In 1977 to 1980 he served 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.
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 life at the University. Last year’s 100th anniversary show was the last Revels production Rosenheim scripted with his co-writer Bob Ashenhurst, Professor Emeritus in the Graduate School of Business.
“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 the College, knew Rosenheim for 55 years. It was Rosenheim, who, during a visiting lecture in North Dakota in 1950, 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 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 latter role, he moderated and produced the National Broadcasting Company’s “University of Chicago Round Table,” among other programs. In 1962, he became a full professor.
In a 1997 interview, Rosenheim recalled one of his fondest memories of the University, team-teaching a class with his wife Margaret 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.
Rosenheim’s wife, Margaret; sons Daniel, James and Andrew; three grandsons; two granddaughters; and a sister, Elizabeth Hepner, survive him. Margaret Rosenheim is a lawyer and the Helen Ross Professor Emerita in the School of Social Service Administration.