August 14, 2008
Vol. 27 No. 20

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    Former Special Events Coordinator Frances Stutzman, 96

    Frances Thornton Stutzman, whose 35-year career at Chicago included serving as an assistant to University administrators and welcoming foreign dignitaries, died Wednesday, May 28 at the age of 96.

    In a time when few women were entering the work force, Stutzman was an administrative assistant to Sen. William Benton, a former Vice-President of the University, and Lowell Coggeshall, a former Dean of the Biological Sciences Division. She began working at the University in 1937 and retired in 1978, having taken a few years off to raise her two sons and to accompany husband King Stutzman to New York during World War II.

    During her tenure at the University, Stutzman became Coordinator of Special Events, a position created especially for her by a former University Public Relations director. In that role, she planned and organized special dinners, conferences and open houses and greeted prominent individuals and foreign dignitaries, including the emperor of Japan, Prince Charles of England and the king of Sweden. Also under her aegis were the Robie House, where she was a guide, and campus tours, which she helped organize.

    “To me, Mrs. Stutzman was the model professional woman. She was always very kind but very businesslike,” said Robin Charleston (A.B., ’75), who helped with tours and orientation for the Office of Special Events while she was a Law student. “I really admired her for the way she ran the office and presented herself. I learned a lot from her, and she was someone I tried to emulate.”

    In a commemorative book presented to Stutzman at her retirement in 1978, the late Norman MacLean (Ph.D., ’40), who taught English at Chicago for 40 years, wrote: “For a long time, I have known that great institutions like the Forest Service and the University of Chicago are run by five or six women behind the scenes. For an even longer time, I have known that you have been one of the five or six running the University of Chicago. What a great job you have done.”

    “She was an extraordinarily gentle and humane person, who accomplished her work with grace and respect for all with whom she came into contact,” said Duel Richardson, Director of Neighborhood Relations and Education, who was Stutzman’s former colleague. “She was a wonderful representative for the University.”

    Upon retiring, the Stutzmans moved to Wilmette, where they lived for the past 27 years.

    Stutzman was actively involved in the University of Chicago Service League, the Wilmette Chapter of the Board of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and continued taking French classes until her death.

    Surviving Stutzman are her husband of almost 72 years, King; sons Peter and Timothy (Martha) of Wilmette; and grandchildren Molly (Jorge) Miranda of Cambridge, Mass., Kenneth Stutzman of Wilmette and Gene Stutzman of Wheeling, as well as numerous nieces and nephews. A brother, Joseph Thornton, sister, Iona Eggleston, and nephew, Jesse Thornton, preceded her in death.

    Memorial contributions may be made to the University of Chicago Service League, c/o Clairan Ferrono, President, 5432 S. Dorchester Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60615.