Faculty Stories

The College Memory Project: Lorna Straus

The College Memory Project is a series of interviews with long-serving faculty and staff of the University of Chicago.

In this second installment, we sit down with former Dean of Students and Professor Emerita in the Biological Sciences Division, Lorna Straus U-High’49, SM’60, PhD’62. Straus is a UChicago “lifer” like no other considering she was born in the University hospital. Because her father was a Law School faculty member, Straus grew up in Hyde Park and even attended the Lab School, returning to campus to get both her masters and PhD.

In her over 50 years as a faculty member of the University, Straus has taught a wide variety of courses relating to organismal biology and anatomy. Those within the field know that Straus was the best possible teacher to have. She not only taught some of the most popular and most requested classes in any field, but also garnered two Quantrell Awards and a Norman Maclean Award to honor her excellence in teaching.

In addition to teaching, Straus served as Dean of Students in the College from 1967 to 1982, a role she insists should be called Dean “for” Students. Throughout her tenure, Straus worked to improve the quality of life for undergraduates by instituting policies that continue to help students to this day, such as Reading Period, adding withdrawals and incompletes, and College Break Day.

Though now retired, Straus continues to be connected to the UChicago community. Two of her children have attended the College, and her son is a legend in the College for having founded one of the most revered of UChicago traditions, the annual Scavenger Hunt, more commonly known as simply “Scav.” He was inspired by the scavenger hunts his mother set up for him and his siblings when they were kids. Lorna Straus is considered by many to be the “Grandmother of Scav.”  

In this first video, Straus reminisces about her early years at UChicago and the growth of both the student population and the activities and Registered Student Organizations (RSOs).




Straus discusses her experiences as a professor in the College and reflects on her approach to teaching throughout the years.




In this next video, Straus touches briefly on the innumerable policy changes she initiated during her time as Dean of Students, such as Reading Period and College Break Day.




Having seen many different UChicago traditions come and go over the course of her career, Professor Straus reflects on her three favorite traditions: the registration campout, the Lascivious Costume Ball, and the Scavenger Hunt.




In this last video, Professor Straus answers a series of rapid-fire questions ranging from her favorite book to the nicest compliment she's ever received from a student.




Directed by: Max Asaf '16 and Jenzo DuQue '15

Produced by: Valerie Archambeau and Benjamin Chandler ‘04

Interviewed by: William Rhee '17

Edited by: Max Asaf '16

Special Thanks to Lorna Straus and John Boyer