Guided by Principles

Originally from Baltimore, Barbara Stolberg Adelman, AB’70, MBA’76, was deliberate about leaving the East Coast for her education. “I wanted a top school that was different from the Ivies.” Chicago became her obvious choice. “In the late ’60s at the University of Chicago, there was that sense that having fun was incompatible with getting an outstanding education. You had to be intense.”

Adelman could not have predicted how the University would influence her life and philanthropy. “I really learned to think critically and analytically at the College, which shaped learning and decision making for the rest of my life.” A partial scholarship helped fund her education. “I don’t know if I could’ve come without it,” she says. “If you consider that it was a whole lot cheaper to attend back then, it may be a single deciding factor today.” To help current undergraduates, in 2011 she directed a bequest to support Odyssey Scholarships, which convert loans to grants.

Adelman has vibrant recollections of her College years. There were sit-ins and protests. She made her closest friends during orientation, and they remain tight-knit today. She took an elective on astrophysics and geophysics taught by, among others, Tetsuya “Ted” Fujita—Mr. Tornado. “We called it ‘Rocks and Stars,’” she says. “I would think that everybody who took that class remembers it,” she says. Hyde Park was colorful. One Halloween she asked two trick-or-treaters about their costumes. “The first one rasped, ‘I am death.’ The other quipped, ‘Oh, what does it matter?’ Where else on earth would you hear children speak like this?”

She spent several years working in research labs before pursuing an MBA. She then held positions in corporate finance and banking in Chicago, New York, and London. Eventually she entered the financial-advisory services industry and is now a vice president with Morgan Stanley.

She’s given both money and time to the University, most notably by volunteering on the Women’s Board steering committee. The Women’s Board, she says, exposes her “to areas of the University that would take much more time for me to research or discover.” Former chair of the projects committee, she helped fund projects from Court Theatre to student life to medical research. One project struck a personal chord—digitizing University photographs from the late ’60s. “If we don’t preserve these memories,” she says, “they’ll be gone.” Adelman’s bequest also benefits the Women’s Board. “I simply love the Women’s Board and have become friends with the most interesting and devoted women.”

Adelman’s husband, Steven, a professor of chemistry at Purdue University, returns on weekends to their South Loop Chicago home. That’s where Adelman, a docent at the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art for the past 12 years, maintains their art collection, including a carved stone sculpture from remote northern Canada and an ornate wooden panther from Oaxaca, Mexico. Adelman also restored a portrait of her great-grandmother that her great aunt had painted. “After decades spent in a garage, the piece was ripped and in poor shape,” she says. A restorer was able to repair the damage.

Preparing their estate plan, the couple focused on giving a few personally meaningful gifts. “We don’t have children, so whatever is left should represent our values,” Adelman says. “I got a lot from the University, and I still get a lot from the University, which is why the Women’s Board is also included in our estate plans.” With gifts large or small, involvement heavy or light, Adelman believes alumni and friends have an obligation to give back. “You can’t just say, ‘Somebody else will do it.’”

Did You Know?

The evolution of “Rocks and Stars”

  • In 1965 Robert Platzman, SB’37, SM’40, PhD’42, the first master of the Physical Sciences Collegiate Division, asked John Jamieson, SB’47, SM’51, PhD’52, and Peter Vandervoort, AB’54, SB’55, SM’56, PhD’60, to design a core sequence in geophysics and astrophysics to satisfy the College core requirements in the physical sciences. Jamieson was a geologist who specialized in high-pressure/high-temperature studies and Vandervoort an astrophysicist who studied the dynamics of galaxies.
  • To qualify for the course, students required a strong background in high-school chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
  • Physical Sciences 108-109-110 was first offered in 1966-67 and quickly became known as “Rocks and Stars.”
  • In addition to Jamieson and Vandervoort, many other faculty taught the classes, each adding an own individual style and distinction to the process. A few include C. Robert O’Dell, David Schramm, and Eugene Parker.
  • In 1968 Jamieson received the Quantrell Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching for helping to create and manage the series.
  • The College curriculum was revised in the 1990s, and the class is now offered as a two-quarter sequence: Physical Sciences 119-120.

Tell us what you remember about “Rocks and Stars” or other courses that made a lasting impression.

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