CIFAR mourns the loss of Professor Hugo Sonnenschein, an active member of the CIFAR board of directors from 2009-2021. Sonnenschein passed away on July 15, 2021, at the age of 80.
“Hugo’s warmth, intelligence and empathy were evident in every endeavour and encounter. I feel privileged to have been among those whose work intersected with his, even for a moment,” says Dr. Alan Bernstein, CIFAR President and CEO. “The CIFAR community will greatly miss his counsel, wealth of experience, and friendship.”
Sonnenschein was a distinguished economic theorist whose scholarly work focused on the mathematical structure of market demand functions. He served as the 11th president of the University of Chicago from 1993-2000 and was most recently the university’s Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Kenneth C. Griffin School of Economics.
At CIFAR, he provided visionary leadership as a member of the Board of Directors for more than a decade, as well as the Board’s finance and advancement committees.
“I remember Hugo’s initial enthusiastic embrace of the CIFAR model when we served together on a panel reviewing our Economic Growth program,” says David A. Dodge, former Board Chair, who recruited Sonnenschein to the Board of Directors. “This almost-boyish enthusiasm along with the accumulated wisdom of his years as an outstanding researcher and administrator in Chicago meant we just had to recruit him to our board. He has left an indelible mark on our organization and the work we do. We will miss his friendship and wise counsel.”
Sonnenschein is remembered for his mentorship of CIFAR presidents Bernstein and Chaviva Hošek (2001-2012), for facilitating connections within his international network to advance CIFAR’s priorities, and for being an enthusiastic ambassador for the organization.
“He was so genuinely excited to build relationships with CIFAR staff, especially the executive team,” remembers Dr. Bernstein. “ He enthusiastically took them all out to dinner one evening and remarked to me what a wonderfully talented group of individuals they were. The next day every member of the Executive was so enthusiastic about the experience.”
In announcing his passing, the University of Chicago noted Sonnenschein’s instrumental role in strengthening recruitment of outstanding students and faculty, devoting greater resources to the construction of new facilities and to improving the quality of campus life.
“Hugo’s tireless work led to substantial improvements during his time as president, and set the stage for many of the advances the University has made in the decades since,” wrote Robert J. Zimmer, President, and Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost. “He was a leader of foresight whose achievements will be remembered with deep respect.”
CIFAR offers our sincere condolences to his wife Elizabeth, children, and grandchildren.