Margaret Fallers: Packing up her memoriesMargaret Fallers' favorite color surely must be maroon.
Fallers has spent the vast majority of her personal and professional life associated with the University -- first as the daughter of a professor and as a Laboratory Schools student and later as a graduate student, an alumna, a resident master, the spouse of a professor, a teacher at and then principal of University High School, an assistant dean and the mother of a University alumna.
Over the past 14 years, Fallers has been Assistant Provost and then Associate Provost, a position from which she retired on Dec. 31. But when she leaves Hyde Park for North Carolina -- where she plans to work in an adult literacy program and in her spare time study human genetics -- much of the University will go with her, she said, in the memories she has accumulated over the years.
Fallers' long association with the University began with her father, Ernest Chave (A.M.'20, Ph.D.'24), who was Professor in the Divinity School from 1926 to 1961. Fallers grew up in Hyde Park, graduating from the Laboratory Schools in 1939 before going on to Oberlin College, where she received her B.S. in 1943. She returned to the University in 1945 as Resident Master in Gates-Blake Halls, then an all-women's dormitory.
Since that first job, Fallers has made a career of exploring the diversity of the human experience, expanding her academic interests and bringing people together. Fallers attributes a great deal of her success as a teacher and administrator to her training in anthropology.
"Anthropology allows you to think about yourself and your relationship to other cultures in a unique way. It has allowed me to travel and appreciate the overwhelming variety in life while working with a diverse group of extraordinarily talented people. As a result, I've had experiences and friendships I'll never forget," Fallers said.
Fallers received her A.M. in anthropology from Chicago in 1948, and in 1949 she taught a social sciences course in the College. She then married fellow University student Lloyd Fallers (Ph.B.'46, A.M.'49, Ph.D.'53), who was Professor in Sociology and Anthropology from 1960 to 1974.
Shortly after their marriage, the Fallerses began traveling, first to England in 1949 as part of Lloyd Fallers' Fulbright scholarship and then to Uganda from 1950 to 1957. They moved to Berkeley, Calif., in 1957, returning to Chicago in 1960 when Lloyd Fallers joined the University's faculty and Margaret Fallers began teaching at the Laboratory Schools. From 1968 to 1971, she was principal of the high school at the Laboratory Schools. She later taught a social sciences course in the College, and she was Assistant Dean of Students in the Social Sciences from 1974 to 1975.
"I loved teaching high school," Fallers said, "but being a high school principal in the 1960s was a challenge! I really enjoyed being an assistant dean of students because of the students I worked with. I'm still in contact with many of them today."
In 1977, Fallers joined the central University administration as Affirmative Action Officer, and she later accepted additional responsibilities as Assistant Provost and then Associate Provost. In all three roles, Fallers has served as a link between faculty members, senior staff members and Human Resources, acting as ombudsman as well as overseeing University compliance with federal requirements. She also coordinated the affirmative-action and government-compliance policies of the deans' offices and Human Resources.
During her time in the Provost's Office, Fallers has worked for six provosts and two University presidents. Throughout this time, she said, the mission of the University has always been clear.
"The faculty and staff here truly understand what interdisciplinary study is about," Fallers said. "We have many characteristics in which we differ from other universities, and we manage to use our strengths more efficiently. Over the years, we have learned how to effectively balance teaching and strong research. It is the commitment to research that makes things more interesting to students."
Fallers said she will miss her colleagues, but her connection with the University will follow her wherever she goes.
"I've been very fortunate to have had the experiences I've had and to have worked with some truly remarkable individuals who work consistently to keep the University great," she said. "There are many whom I will miss." Undoubtedly the same can be said in return.
-- Charles Whitt