A former University secretary leaves an unexpected gift.
Longtime Hyde Park resident Patricia Hume led an unassuming life. So when Hume, a former departmental secretary in the dean’s office of the Division of the Social Sciences, died at age 87 in 2014, it was a surprise when several gifts surfaced from her estate. In addition to providing for some family members, Hume included the Social Sciences Division and Vassar College as major beneficiaries in her will.
Born in Connecticut and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Hume graduated from Vassar before settling in Illinois in 1947. For decades Hume, who worked for Nobel Memorial Prize–winning economist George Stigler, PhD’38, lived in a co-op apartment on 56th Street. She regularly attended the opera and had memberships to local museums. Volunteering for 10 years as an assistant librarian and a docent at the Oriental Institute, she also worked on publications and provided office assistance with museum archives.
Hume appreciated that she had an excellent education—at the University High School in Ann Arbor and at Vassar—that subsidies and financial awards made possible. “She often immersed herself in her environment and worked toward some knowledge goal or personal goal,” says her nephew Tom Henze. “That fits very well with what should happen in an academic institution, which is probably why she worked at the University of Chicago for decades.”
Complementing her Oriental Institute work, Hume took several trips abroad, including trips to Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, and Turkey. Along with her interest in travel, she had a passion for bird-watching, wrote and read frequently, and enjoyed films. Her father, Cyril Hume, was a screenwriter, and she was especially proud of his film Forbidden Planet.
Hume was a private person who made a lot of decisions on her own, including one to donate her brain to research at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
She grew her nest egg by living modestly and planning appropriately. “There was an element of amazement that she accumulated a good deal of money in her lifetime,” says Henze, “but she did not spend it lavishly.”
Hume had once casually mentioned to Henze that she planned to include education in her estate plans, but she didn’t elaborate. “She just wanted to make sure she had enough [money] to live out her life the way she wanted,” he says. “Philanthropy was something that she wanted to do when she no longer needed the funds.”
Henze was not surprised at his aunt’s decision to remain silent about her planned gifts. “I don’t know exactly how she felt about personal recognition. I think that she just did it. It was her attitude toward a lot of things—she cared about her own assessment rather than someone else’s. She had her own personal standards and interests and lived by those.”
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