Robert Ashenhurst
Norman Maclean Faculty Award

Robert Ashenhurst, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, has had a unique impact on the life of the University. Besides pioneering a new scientific discipline, he has enriched the University’s ceremonial and musical life.

When Mr. Ashenhurst arrived at the University in 1957, computer use was generally limited to advanced graduate students in the sciences or business. But, one former student recalls, “when computers were considered the realm of a narrow elite, he boldly and carefully enabled Chicago undergraduates to learn more,” teaching the fundamentals of computer science in the College. In 1965 the University founded the Committee on Information Systems (CIS), a predecessor of today’s Department of Computer Science. Mr. Ashenhurst served as the committee’s chair until it became part of the Department of Mathematics in 1972. Under his tenure, the CIS built the Minicomputer Interface Support System—the first computer network on campus—in 1969. He retired in 2000 after 43 years on the Chicago faculty.

In 1968 Mr. Ashenhurst took on the duty of University marshal, the University’s ceremonial officer. As marshal, Mr. Ashenhurst was responsible for the smooth flow of the awarding of degrees at convocation, as well as dinners for Nobel laureates. He was Chicago’s longest-serving marshal, holding the position for 32 years.

As much as students and colleagues appreciate the high quality of Mr. Ashenhurst’s teaching and his enthusiasm for his field, they equally value his remarkable creative contributions to University life. “[He is] a witty, talented writer of music who has done so much to bring joy and laughter to our ‘gray city,’” writes one acquaintance. During the past 50 years, he has worked with University Theater and the Blackfriars, has written original songs for the Faculty Revels and Alumni Weekend, and has directed the annual productions of the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company, which he cofounded in 1960.

Norman Maclean Faculty Awards

Norman Maclean Faculty Awards were given for the first time in 1997. Named for Professor Norman Maclean, PhD’40, who taught English at the University for 40 years, the awards recognize emeritus or very senior faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to teaching and to the student experience of life on campus.

related reading

"Ashenhurst, Yu Receive Maclean Faculty Awards"
Chicago Chronicle
June 11, 2009