Into the breach stepped Anita McCormick Blaine (Mrs. Emmons Blaine). The daughter of industrialist Cyrus Hall McCormick and his wife Nettie, Blaine, made a substantial gift for a building to house the University Elementary School and University High School on campus—Emmons Blaine Hall.
Moreover, Blaine also provided funds to subsidize the University's programmatic work in education, a welcome expansion of the horizon of philanthropy beyond that of the first cohort of Chicago donors, whose gifts had been mainly directed to building construction.
The cause of improving primary and secondary education deeply interested Anita McCormick Blaine, perhaps a reflection of the minimal education she received as a child. Believing that the existing methods of primary instruction were ineffective, Blaine searched for the right person to be her standard bearer, and she found him in Colonel Francis Wayland Parker. Since the 1870s, Parker had experimented with new teaching methods, rejecting the idea that students learned best by rote memorization. Parker's unconventional opinions (e.g., his rejection of the traditional division of subjects, his emphasis on parental involvement, and his insistence on practical learning) attracted much criticism. Blaine became an ardent and enthusiastic supporter. In 1899, she urged Parker to establish a unique private school on the city's North Side, in which she could enroll her son, Emmons, offering to fund the plan herself.
With Blaine's patronage, Parker opened the Chicago Institute in 1900 in a rented German Turngemeinde, or athletic club, on North Wells Street. Plans had been developed for an impressive new building and elaborate curriculum for the Institute, but when expenses skyrocketed, Blaine and Parker began to consider alternate possibilities. They found a resolution to their dilemma in a plan by William Rainey Harper to incorporate the school within the University of Chicago as a part of its educational program. Blaine then announced that she would transfer her pledged investment of $700,000 in the Chicago Institute to the University of Chicago.
|University of Chicago, Blaine Hall from Scammon Court.
|Anita McCormick Blaine, daughter of Cyrus McCormick,
and her son Emmons Blaine, with their dog, Chicago. 1898
Anita McCormick Blaine died on February 12, 1954, and is buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.