FIRST IT WAS A LONG-STANDING ISSUE that no amount of dicussion
could resolve. Then it was an ideaa gleam in Jack Gould's eye.
Finally, in 1994, it was real, solid, and shining on the banks
of the Chicago River. The Gleacher Center, the downtown gateway
to the GSB and the University of Chicago, stands both as a symbolic
presence, a hub of academic activity, and a rallying place for
alumni. And on March 4, it was finally dedicated in a style worthy
of the grand accomplishment that it is.
"Your presence here tonight reflects the power of an idea," Dean
Robert S. Hamada told 95 of the building's strongest supporters
who gathered for cocktails and a festive dinner. "The Gleacher
Center stands here because you bought into the idea."
The building opened four years ago , but I said then that I would
not celebrate or dedicate the building until it had a proper name,
Hamada noted. Today, the center is known for an alumnus who willingly
gave his time and money but only reluctantly gave his name to
the buildingEric J. Gleacher, 67.
When Hamada asked for the $15 million pledge that would become
the Gleacher Challenge, "I wasn't really interested in having
my name on the building, explained the chairman of Gleacher NatWest
Inc. Hamada convinced him that it was important that the GSBs
presence downtown should bear the name of an important graduate.
Gleachers gift was both a thank-you to the school that started
him on a path to success and an act of faith. When I agreed to
the gift, I had seen the building but had never been in it. I
have to admit, its an incredible thing. It has really transformed
the presence of the university in the city of Chicago and even
on the international scene.
That was the whole idea, according to John P. Gould, who shared
with the audience the story of the center's long conception and
birth during his ten years as dean. It started out as an issue
of what to do about the 190 building, Gould said. As early as
the 1970s it was apparent that something needed to be done about
the crowded, deteriorating home to the part-time programs.
Within a week of announcing in April 1983 that I would become
dean in July, someone gave me a call to say, Lets get together
and talk about the downtown building, Gould recalled.
Endless discussions ensued, but none of the options proposed seemed
to work. Finally I realized we were asking the wrong questions.
What we really needed to ask was, What should we do to have a
presence in Chicago? What does the GSB and the university need
to move into the future? Then it became obvious that we were
looking at a new building that would serve as a gateway.
It fills that role magnificently, said Hugo Sonnenschein, university
president. He noted that Gould followed the late, great Chicago
architect Daniel Burnhams advice to make no little plans, for
they have no magic to stir peoples blood and probably will not
be realized. Supporters inspired by the GSBs big, bold plans
generously backed them. The result is a structure that will endure
long after weve gone, a monument to those who made it possible
and to the university itself, Sonnenschein said. Tonight were
here celebrating the triumph of high hopes and big plans.
Dedicating a permanent symbol made Gleacher reflect on longevity,
a trait he associates with the university and the GSB. Eugene
Fama and Merton Miller are still teaching the finance course Gleacher
took as a student 31 years before, and its still one of the
most famous and influential courses on earth. Hamada, who joined
the faculty about the time Gleacher enrolled, is entering his
second term as dean. Thats longevity, Gleacher said. I myself
spent a very short time herejust a year and a half, because I
was in a hurry to get on with my lifebut its one of the things
in my life that had a tremendously profound effect on me.
Gleacher started building his own tradition of longevity with
the university almost immediately after graduating, returning
to recruit new investment bankers. Today he is a trustee of the
university with a special reason for pride; his daughter Sarah,
seated beside him at the dedication, is about to graduate from
Pritzker Medical School. Theres something really special when
one of your kids comes here, thrives, and does well. I hope her
kids will too.
Sonnenschein, Hamada, and Gould thanked all the people that made
this idea a reality. Topping that extensive list were former university
president Hanna Gray and the trustees; Dan Tepke and Blair Archambeau,
92, the staff that moved the idea from blueprints to steel to
completion; and many donors, including those in the room. Gleacher,
in turn, said that Gould gets 150 percent of the credit for this
For Gould, Its especially gratifying to me to walk in any time
of day or night and find so many people actively using the place.
Its an idea that has become a real building but its an idea
I still dream about and love.