Richard L. Chambers, 1929-2016

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations will host a memorial program for Professor Richard Chambers on Friday, Janaury 13 at 4:30pm in Saieh Hall 146. The event will feature a lecture by University of Arizona Professor of History, Linda Darling, entitled, "Richard L. Chambers: A Life in Turkish Studies." Her talk will be followed by a panel discussion with Professor Chambers' former colleagues at the University of Chicago and a reception.

Richard Leon Chambers (Professor Emeritus of Turkish Languages and Civilizations) served as Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies from 1979 to 1985, and he served on the faculty committee that founded the Center in 1965. He was instrumental in building the Turkish and Ottoman studies programs at the University of Chicago. His service to the wider field of Middle Eastern studies included his Presidency of the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT) in 1985-88 and a variety of leadership roles with the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), Turkish Studies Association (TSA), American Association of Teachers of Turkish (AATT), and the International Association of Middle Eastern Studies (IAMES), among others.

Professor Chambers played a foundational leadership role in both expanding the presence and scope of Ottoman and Turkish studies in the US, and in making the University of Chicago a global center for same. In the early 1970’s he not only brought leading Turkish scholars of Ottoman literature, Gunay Kut and Fahir Iz, to Chicago, he also led the project that culminated in the appointment of Halil Inalcik, perhaps the foremost Ottoman historian of the twentieth century, as one of the first University Professors at Chicago. In 1982, together with Ahmet Evin, he established with Department of Education funding the ARIT/BU intensive Advanced Summer Modern Turkish Program, a Turkish counterpart to Arabic CASA that trains US students to this day. In the last years before his retirement, and after that of Professor Inalcik, he worked tirelessly—and successfully to secure endowment for the Kanuni Salesman Professorship in Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies, which has secured in perpetuity the future and prominence of Chambers’ chosen field at UC.

Professor Chambers contributed significantly to both the intellectual and administrative growth of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He was gifted in outreach and development, skills that he leveraged to establish and promote the University’s reputation as a center of Turkish studies. In the late 1960s, Professor Chambers gathered leading Ottomanists on campus for seminars on Ottoman modernization, signaling a commitment to academic program development that would continue throughout his career. Additionally, it was largely due to his efforts that the foundation for instruction in modern Hebrew was laid. His exemplary commitment to public engagement included regular media appearances and participation in public events covering Turkey and the wider Middle East. The Center for Middle Eastern Studies remains indebted and committed to Professor Chambers' legacy of engaged scholarship and service to the profession.