(January 3, 2008) — New College of Florida suffered a deep loss over the holiday break when it was learned that longtime College benefactress and Foundation board member Rhoda Pritzker had passed away on December 23 at her winter home on Casey Key, Florida. She was 93. pritzker_rhoda.jpg
A member of one of Chicago’s wealthiest families, Pritzker will be remembered at New College both for her generosity and for her genuine interest in students and their lives – both inside and outside the classroom.
In a letter to the campus community announcing Mrs. Pritzker’s death, New College President Mike Michalson remembered her as one of the College’s dearest and most enduring friends. “If you ever met Rhoda, you know first hand what a genuine and gracious lady she was. It should be a source of great pride to us all that two buildings on our campus bear her name.”
Born in Manchester, England, Rhoda Pritzker began her career as a journalist, writing for the British Broadcast Corporation and several other news outlets before immigrating to the United States in 1939. While living in New York City and working as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press in the early 1940s, she met her future husband, Jack, who at the time was serving in the Navy. The two married in 1943 and returned to his native Chicago following World War II.
A successful lawyer and businessman, Jack Pritzker helped his family launch the Hyatt Hotel chain during the 1950s while Rhoda continued to work as a freelance journalist and to care for the couple’s son, Nick. It was during this time that Mrs. Pritzker also began her long career of donating her time, ideas and money to a variety of philanthropic pursuits related to education and the arts. In addition to her support of New College, she was a longtime board member of The Theater School at Depaul University and a member of the board of trustees for the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.
Pritzker’s involvement with New College began in 1970, when she and her husband Jack purchased a winter home on Casey Key. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Pritzker began nearly a thirty-year stint as a board member of the New College Foundation, a position she continued to hold in emeritus status until the time of her death.
Over the years, the Pritzkers and their family philanthropic foundation gave nearly $3 million to help support student scholarships and research facilities at New College, including a $2 million gift in 2006 that at the time was the largest in the school’s history.
In honor of their enduring support, two campus buildings bear the Pritzker family name: the Rhoda and Jack Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center, completed in 2001, and Rhoda Pritzker Residence Hall, which opened this past fall.
President Michalson announced that plans are currently underway to hold a memorial service in Mrs. Pritzker’s honor on the New College campus sometime this spring.
At the request of the family, memorial donations in Mrs. Pritzker’s honor can be made to the New College Foundation, 5800 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, FL 34243-2109; PAWS Chicago, 1110 W. 35th St., Chicago, IL 60609; or The Theatre School at DePaul University Development Office, 2135 N. Kenmore Ave., Chicago, IL 60614.