Thursday, October 25, 2018

Book: An Academic Life: A Memoir by Hanna Gray

Gray, Hanna Holborn. 2018. An Academic Life: A Memoir. Princeton University Press.

What a delightful book! Hanna Gray was president of the University of Chicago during much of my time there - she handed me my MA in 1987 but not my doctorate in 1996. Her memoirs comprise two main parts. The first part, which reflects her background as an academic historian, concerns growing up as the child of German academic refugee immigrants who came to the US during the 1930s. This part of the book contains a very interesting (and largely new to me) discussion of this broader migration and how it played out in the US. The second part concerns Hanna's own educational and professional progress through a private high school in New Haven, Bryn Mawr, Harvard, and Oxford, and then employment as a professor and then an administrator at Northwestern, Yale and Chicago. I learned a lot about the daily life of a university administrator and about the history of the University of Chicago in particular. Of special interest for me was the short discussion of the history of the Harris School; I worked as a TA, a tutor, and then as a teacher of my own class during the transition from the Committee on Public Policy Studies to the school. Hanna's love of academic life and of historical inquiry shines through the book, as do her wise sense of perspective and dry sense of humor.

Highly recommended.

Princeton U Press webpage.

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