On July 9, 1890, the University’s founders defined what they believed would build an enduring legacy: a commitment to rigorous academics for people of all backgrounds, including “opportunities for all departments of higher education to persons of both sexes on equal terms.”
An initial pledge of $600,000 (more than $25 million in today’s currency) from John D. Rockefeller, along with contributions from the American Baptist Education Society and land from Marshall Field, helped to found the University of Chicago.
William Rainey Harper, the University’s first president, envisioned a university that was “bran splinter new, yet as solid as the ancient hills”—a modern research university that would combine an English-style undergraduate college and a German-style graduate research institute. The University’s first buildings were modeled after the English Gothic architectural style used at Oxford, complete with towers, spires, cloisters, and grotesques. The campus landscape was shaped by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s designs for the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition, which was just a short walk from where the University held its first classes.
Harper recruited the highest quality faculty possible, including several college presidents, who were drawn to the University of Chicago by the idea of a community of great scholars. In his address marking the University’s 1902 decennial, Harper reminded his audience of the University’s most important tradition: “Complete freedom of speech on all subjects,” he declared, “has from the beginning been regarded as fundamental in the University of Chicago. This principle can neither now nor at any future time be called in question.”
By 1910, the University had developed a variety of traditions, including a coat of arms bearing a phoenix emerging from the flames and a Latin motto, Crescat scientia; vita excolatur (“Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched”). In 1894, maroon had become the University’s official color and “the Maroons” its nickname.
In 1907, the University of Chicago’s first Nobel laureate, Albert A. Michelson—the first of many Nobel laureates from the University, as well as the first American to win a Nobel Prize in any of the sciences—was recognized for his breakthrough advancements in measuring the speed of light. Since then, University faculty, scholars, students, and alumni have been recognized with the highest international honors in their fields.
In 2006, current president Robert J. Zimmer said in his inaugural address, “If we take ourselves back to the University in its early years . . . many of us connected to the University feel that we might just as easily have been there.
“Why is this? The University of Chicago, from its very inception, has been driven by a singular focus on inquiry. Everything about the University of Chicago that we recognize as distinctive flows from this commitment.”
Crescat scientia; vita excolatur
Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched
The Laboratory Schools
Because the Laboratory Schools are part of the world-renowned University of Chicago, the importance of intellectual life—of thought and exploration—infuses everything they do across all aspects of their curriculum.
Lab’s history is firmly rooted in experiential learning—an approach that enriches the educational experience for their students and contributes to Lab’s reputation as one of the finest pre-collegiate schools in the world.
All of this starts each morning when the teachers and staff arrive at school committed to giving the children the best possible education. And it ends when their graduates head out into the world with confidence and the knowledge that they are part of an exceptional and unique community.
To choose to be part of the Laboratory Schools is to embrace deeply held and widely shared values:
- They believe in the power of the human intellect and the importance of education.
- They believe that learning is an ongoing process that knows no boundaries, no end point.
- They believe that differences strengthen their community.
- They believe that those around them should inspire, support, and—yes—challenge them to work to their fullest potential.
Theirs is a supportive learning environment that encourages curiosity and creativity, celebrates new ideas, and engages people who possess a broad variety of experiences and backgrounds. Students learn to think independently and critically, to explore challenging ideas, and to celebrate the diversity of the school community.
All around Lab is evidence of a life of learning—students and families who are fully engaged, faculty who would not want to teach anywhere else, and the unparalleled University of Chicago setting that enriches the community and resources in incomparable ways.
The Laboratory Schools are home to the youngest members of the University of Chicago’s academic community. We ignite and nurture an enduring spirit of scholarship, curiosity, creativity, and confidence. We value learning experientially, exhibiting kindness, and honoring diversity.