Learning Community from a Nobel Laureate

Last month, I attended the 36th Annual Fogel Dinner, along with scores of students, alumni, and staff from across the Chicago Booth community. Named in honor of the professor and Nobel laureate Robert Fogel, the Fogel dinner has become a time-honored tradition and a symbol of diversity and inclusion at Booth. Professor Fogel was an advocate for building community at the University of Chicago, especially for the under-represented and marginalized groups, such as African Americans.

The Fogel dinner tradition started in 1974, when Robert Fogel and his wife Enid invited students of color into their home as a safe space for individuals facing discrimination and racism. As an interracial couple in the 50s and 60s, the Fogels were all too familiar with hostility from strangers and neighbors alike. They opened their home—and their hearts—demonstrating that the best way to overcome hatred or indifference is by building community.

Why would a Booth professor and Nobel laureate focus on community? As I enjoyed dinner with my diverse classmates and alumni, I pondered this question. Community is a group of unified individuals interacting for a common purpose, vision, or mission. At Booth, we have a built-in community of ambitious, talented individuals who work to create knowledge and challenge insights. We should cherish our community, work to improve our interactions, and value every individual in our community.

Secondly, I asked myself why community is important? The Fogels fostered community to improve their quality of life and the quality of life of those around them. If I want to maximize my happiness utility (for those econ nerds), I too should encourage community.

Thank you, Robert and Enid Fogel, for leaving a legacy of community. May we uphold it with the integrity it deserves.

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