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Education: Chicago Reunion

3 minute read

Two of the smartest, most promising, most ambitious members of Yale’s Class of 1921 were Robert Maynard (“Bob”) Hutchins and William Burnett (“Bill”) Benton. Each was the son of a teacher: Bob Hutchins’ father was president of Berea College in Kentucky, Bill Benton’s was head of the department of Romance languages at the University of Minnesota. In college, where Hutchins ran a tutoring bureau and Benton edited the comic Record, the boys were friends, partners on the debating team. After graduation their paths turned apart. Robert Maynard Hutchins stayed in education, had a quick and prodigious succession of jobs that in 1929 landed him in the presidency of big University of Chicago. Same year William B. Benton and another Yaleman started a Manhattan advertising agency that became successful Benton & Bowles, Inc. Last week two Yale paths abruptly met again as President Hutchins announced the appointment of William Burnett Benton as vice president of the University of Chicago.

Bill Benton’s way to becoming an educational executive was circuitous. He left Minnesota’s Carleton College after his freshman year to enter Yale because his father and grandfather had gone there. His first job after graduation was in National City Bank’s college training department,where a classmate was one Fred Bickel of the University of Wisconsin, now Cinemactor Fredric March. Bill Benton abandoned banking, drove a truck and sold cash registers before he got into the advertising business with Lord & Thomas in 1922. He did so well as an adman, especially during Depression, that his friends began to take seriously his determination to make a fortune and retire. When he did just that last year (TIME, June 29), one of his first acts was to visit the university his classmate Bob Hutchins headed.

Last week Vice President-elect Benton, with his wife, was en route for a vacation in the Orient. When he reports for duty in Chicago Oct. 1, his work will be with public relations and radio broadcasting. A pioneer in the latter field, University of Chicago helped organize the University Broadcasting Council, a co-operative agency which assists colleges in the Chicago area to arrange educational programs. Educator Hutchins can expect sound advice from Adman Benton, whose firm has won fame for its radio shows (Gang Busters, Show Boat, Palmolive Beauty Box).

Upped to another new vice-presidency was the university’s dean of faculties, 58-year-old Emery Thomas Filbey, who has been at Chicago since 1909. Lanky Vice President Filbey, who began work at once, is an expert on the university budget.

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