The companionship of scholars and the thrill of continuous learning are two wonderful aspects of a life in science,” Robert W. Fogel wrote in a short autobiography when he won the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. “When one is engaged with students who are both very curious and very bright, it is never quite clear who is teaching whom.”
That passion for engaging with students stood at the core of the Fogel Dinner, one of the enduring legacies of the late Nobel laureate and longtime Booth professor, and his wife, Enid M. Fogel, the onetime associate dean of students at Booth. Together, they hosted the first Fogel Dinner in 1982 to welcome minority students at Booth to the school and the Hyde Park community. Each fall for the next three decades, Bob—as he was known to colleagues and students—and Enid opened the doors of their brownstone on University Avenue. After his wife’s death in 2007, Fogel continued the tradition until he passed away in 2013.
Now, each fall, Chicago Booth carries on the legacy of this remarkable couple. The 34th annual Fogel Dinner will be held at Gleacher Center on October 4, 2016, for African American, Hispanic American, and Native American Booth students and alumni. “The spirit of the Fogel Dinner is to share the remarkable story of Enid and Bob, and to celebrate our community and our accomplishments while welcoming incoming students to the Booth family,” said Jessica Jaggers, director of diversity affairs and student life at Booth.
“Enid and Bob really loved each other. They were an incredible team,” said Stacey Kole, PhD ’92 (Economics), the deputy dean for alumni, corporate relations, and the Full-Time MBA program and clinical professor of economics. Kole came to the University of Chicago to do a PhD in its top-ranked Economics department, largely because of Fogel. As an undergraduate, she had studied at the University of Rochester with Stanley Engerman, Fogel’s coauthor for the groundbreaking and controversial 1974 book, Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery. “The Fogel Dinner is about embracing people for who they are,” Kole said. “Bob and Enid opened their home to the students to let them know that the university was their home.”
As an interracial couple starting out in the mid-20th century, the Fogels faced discrimination just going about the quotidian pursuits of life, which Bob recalled in a 2007 interview with Chicago Booth Magazine.
“Enid and I knew we were flying in the face of convention,” Fogel told CBM. “New York [where Fogel was raised, attended school, and met his wife] still had a lot of racial segregation when we got married. There were restaurants that would not seat blacks. . . . When we sat in the New York subway trains holding hands, everybody would look at us, black and white alike; it was so unusual.”
At the dinner, Enid made sure the penurious student guests got a hearty meal, served despite the cramped quarters on the family china. “Enid felt very close to the minority community at Chicago, and she was passionate about bringing in strong minority students to the program,” said Eddie Pulliam, senior associate director of admissions, who attended the dinner over the years and worked with Enid Fogel at Booth. “Bob loved to meet people and understand why they wanted to get an MBA,” Pulliam said. After her husband gave a welcome speech, Enid had one especially cherished tradition. “After Bob spoke, that was her sign to ring a little glass bell,” Pulliam recalled. “It added a touch of elegance to the evening.”
The Fogel Dinner tradition continues this fall, complete with a dinner bell. “It’s a great opportunity for students to see that the diversity community is a much larger group than the current classes,” Jaggers said. It also reinforces Bob and Enid’s amazing legacy. “They were both very accomplished folks, able to forge ahead regardless of roadblocks,” Pulliam said. “You cannot think about what they went through and not recognize the potential that you have to do something that can be as great.”
—By Sam Jemielity