Sorting the presidents

It’s easy to picture UChicago presidents at the head table in Hogwarts’ Great Hall. But what house would they have been in?

Sean Carr, AB’90

Since the College’s sorting hat is busy with the Class of 2020, the Core convened its own panel, including Potter scholar John Granger, AB’83, and his daughter Sarah, AB’13.


William Rainey Harper (1891–1906)

“Like Ravenclaw, Harper designed the foundation of the University with wit and ambition,” one judge wrote as evidence. There were votes for Gryffindor (“As a devout Baptist, let’s hope he was chivalrous”) and Hufflepuff (“He looked like a badger”).


Robert Maynard Hutchins (1929–51)

One judge cited dean of the College John W. Boyer, AM’69, PhD’75: “I sometimes get the sense that Hutchins got up in the morning and said, ‘How can I drive the faculty up the wall? What can I do today?’ And a great leader has to have that quality.”


Edward Levi, LAB’28, PhB’32, JD’35 (1968–75)

“The University of Chicago exists for the life of the mind,” Levi once said. “Its primary purpose is intellectual. … The commitment is to the powers of reason.” But as with Harper, judges disagreed, voting for Hufflepuff (valuing justice) or Gryffindor (decisiveness, bold speech, loyalty).


Hanna Holborn Gray (1978–93)

One judge called Gray “Ravenclaw personified: wit and learning.” Another could see her in Gryffindor. John Granger turns to Potter fandom for a way out: the Gryffinclaw, “a bold mix of the heroic and the brilliant.” He adds, “That her painting in Hutchinson Commons moves about makes me wonder if it isn’t due to her having found a magical artist to paint it—or that the Holborns were a family of witches and wizards.”


“You may not think I’m pretty, but don’t judge on what you see. I’ll eat myself if you can find a smarter hat than me!”—The Sorting Hat in Harry Potter and the Philisopher’s Stone (Photo by Denise P.S., CC BY-ND 2.0)