A Tribute to Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph

The Committee on Southern Asian Studies marks with sadness the passing of Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph, noted scholars of India and beloved members of the University of Chicago community. Members of the UChicago faculty since 1964, the Rudolphs were known for co-teaching courses and even co-lecturing until their retirement as professors emeritus in 2002. The Rudolphs’ close professional partnership, which led to the co-authoring and editing of many deeply influential publications, began when they met as graduate students at Harvard in the early 1950s. They married in 1952. Their work in Indian politics and history, spanning more than five decades, earned them the Padma Bhushan Award, conferred by the president of India for distinguished service to the nation, in 2014.

Susanne and Lloyd joined the University of Chicago faculty in 1964. At the time of their retirement forty years later, they had sat on the defense committees of approximately 300 graduate students. In addition to their remarkable scholarship, the Rudolphs served the University and academic community in many leadership capacities. Lloyd as chair of the Committee on International Relations and the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences as well as chair of concentrations in political science, public policy, international studies and South Asian studies in the College. Susanne served as Director of the South Asia Language and Area Center for eighteen years beginning in 1980, Chair of Political Science and as president of the American Political Science Association and the Association for Asian Studies. Colleagues remember Susanne as an important role model for women struggling to balance their academic ambitions with the desire to have a family at a time when few women became professors.

The Rudolphs were recognized individually and together for their teaching, and celebrated for co-leading courses in which they often lectured together. Susanne received the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and Lloyd received the Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. In 2002, the Rudolphs co-delivered the University’s Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture, during which they reflected on their intellectual lives and work together. In addition to the Bhushan award, they also jointly received the Norman Maclean Faculty Award from the UChicago Alumni Association in 2014.

Remembering the impact of the Rudolphs, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College, stated, “When it comes to thinking about contemporary India, one misses political analysts of the caliber of Lloyd and Susanne. They undertook their scholarly work in a true spirit of generosity. They were almost proud of what they saw as the achievements of Indian democracy while being critical of what they saw as its shortcomings. They, unlike many other external observers, did not make Indians feel defensive about their nation, and that was one reason why they were deeply respected by Indian leaders and scholars.”

Of Susanne’s impact at the University of Chicago, Matthew Kapstein, Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies in the Divinity School noted, “The U of C was graced then, as it has continued to be, with many of the outstanding figures in South Asian Studies in the U.S. Susanne did much to define an ethos of common purpose that ensured that the field at Chicago was something more encompassing than the sum of its particular excellences. She has my gratitude for that.”

James Nye, the Regenstein Library’s Bibliographer for Southern Asia, wrote of Susanne: “Many people have known and will continue to learn of Susanne through her astonishing publications, the results of research (Lloyd and Susanne) so often engaged in together. Certainly, I am among those deep admirers and beneficiaries of her scholarship. It has been an enduring delight and inspiration, in addition, to have enjoyed Susanne’s wonderfully rich human spirit in person. It was such an honor to work with Susanne and learn from her about the academic leadership required for our South Asia Language and Area Center. Grace, integrity, insight, and commitment are characteristics that always come to mind when I think of Susanne’s long and productive Directorship of SALAC. As I took on those responsibilities, it was wonderful to hear spontaneous and enthusiastic statements from her Title VI colleagues on campus, at other universities, in the Department of Education, and in Congress of their respect for her and her leadership in international education. She left behind impossibly ‘big chappals’ to fill in area studies.”

Longtime colleague Ralph Nicholas, William Rainey Harper Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Institute of Indian Studies, reflected on his more than 30 years of working with the Rudolphs: “After years of working with the Rudolphs in both South Asian Studies and the Social Sciences, it is difficult to know where to begin consideration of their unparalleled contributions. Much has been said about their influential books and their long project editing the diary of Amar Singh. Day-in and day-out they were the best kind of colleagues, with well-formed views on many issues yet always willing to listen and ready to engage in an intellectually rewarding exchange. Their partnership was unique: they were interested in the same problems and they brought complementary intellectual powers to bear on them. Lloyd was a never-ending source of ideas to which Susanne was unfailingly able to lend coherence. Their dedication to India was unswerving; the friends and the experience they collected there over almost 60 years were extraordinary. Each of us has his or her own India; theirs looked a lot like Rajasthan. Jaipur was as much home for Sue and Lloyd as was Chicago . . . or Barnard, Vermont, or, latterly, Berkeley. Their generosity was renowned, nowhere more than among their very numerous students. And wherever they were at home, the Rudolphs’ hospitality was calibrated on the Indian scale.”

Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, warmly recalled an encounter typical of the Rudolphs: “My last memory of the Rudolphs in many ways captured the essence of the many, many moments I shared with them over more than half a century, beginning from my freshman days at Radcliffe in 1958, when Susanne was already teaching political science at Harvard and deeply inspired me with her glamor and brilliant energy. Our final meeting was in Jaipur, in January of 2009, when I was invited to speak at the Jaipur Literary Festival. They found out about my visit and wrote to me before I had time to write to them; they invited me to dinner at their wonderful home there, a cross between the Musée Guimet and an apartment at the Plaza. They made sure to invite all sorts of people whose company I would enjoy that evening and who would also be useful to me later, both during that time in Jaipur and still later in my work back in Chicago. The evening was both festive—with a beautifully set table—and informal, with vivid and warm human interactions. Susanne was elegant and quick as lightning; Lloyd was mellow and wise. Their warm and happy affection for one another was palpable, and made the rest of us like one another more than we might otherwise have done. The food was gorgeous and served in an apparently endless, unbroken flow of exquisite dishes served by attentive, friendly servants on exquisite plates. The liquor flowed constantly though discreetly. I found myself taking notes at several points, as people were saying very interesting things about subjects I was writing about. I can see the whole thing vividly in my mind’s eye as I write. It is the way I will always remember them.”

Further tributes to the Rudolphs may be found here: