kweintraub.jpgProfessor Karl Joachim Weintraub was such a popular teacher that students at the University of Chicago used to stand in line overnight just to register for one of his classes. The annual event was reported in the student newspaper with the headline: “Waiting for Weintraub.”
Born in Germany to a Jewish father and a Christian mother, Weintraub’s family hid him with a Christian family in Holland during World War II to avoid the Holocaust. After the war, Quakers arranged for him to come to the United States, where he earned a doctorate in history from the University of Chicago.
He joined the faculty in 1954 and spent nearly 60 years teaching Western history and culture at the school. In his courses, Weintraub challenged students to broaden their outlooks by seeing history through the eyes of its major players. Changes in higher education led to the downsizing of many western civilization classes, but those taught by Weintraub and his wife, Katy O’Brien Weintraub, were left intact.
Weintraub won numerous awards during his distinguished academic career, including two Quantrell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the E. Harris Harbison Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Amoco Foundation Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Teaching. He served as the chair of the Committee on the History of Culture and dean of the Humanities Division.
Although Weintraub technically retired in 2001 as the Thomas E. Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in History, he continued teaching for another year without pay. The author of numerous articles, he also penned two books: “Visions of Culture: Voltaire-Guizot-Burckhardt-Lamprecht-Huizinga-Ortega y Gassett” and “The Value of the Individual: Self and Circumstance in Autobiography.”
Weintraub died on March 25 from a brain tumor. He was 79.