Arthur M. Sussman, former UChicago general counsel and vice president, 1942-2016

Arthur M. Sussman served in leadership roles at the University of Chicago for more than two decades, earning widespread admiration and respect as general counsel and vice president for administration and Argonne National Laboratory.

Sussman, 73, died Aug. 10 in Chicago due to complications associated with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

His friends and colleagues across the University community and at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, where he served as vice president for 10 years, remembered Sussman as a reliable and wise leader who could manage complex projects with efficiency and a sense of humor. Even after leaving his leadership position he continued to play an important role in the UChicago community, including membership on the board of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore and serving in 2014-2015 as interim director of the UChicago-affiliated Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

“Art was enormously accomplished, contributing in so many ways to the University of Chicago over the years. He brought not only great intelligence and judgment, but a deep personal engagement and commitment to his work,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “He inspired deep loyalty and made lasting friends everywhere he went. We will miss him a great deal.”

A beloved husband, father, grandfather and brother, Sussman was also an engaged citizen of Chicago and the world, a leader of the city’s cultural, academic, and philanthropic communities, an avid photographer, and a frequent international traveler.

Born to Miriam and Julius Sussman and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Sussman graduated from Cornell University in 1963, where he was an associate editor for the Cornell Sun newspaper and met his wife of 52 years, Rita Padnick. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1966.  Sussman served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps in the Fifth Army headquarters in Highland Park, as an Army captain and later in Washington, D.C. for the secretary of the U.S. Army.  

He worked for the New York law firm of Cahill-Gordon and was a partner in the Chicago law firm of Jenner & Block before serving as legal counsel for Southern Illinois University (1977-79) and then general counsel and vice president for administration and Argonne National Laboratory at the University of Chicago for 22 years (1979-2001). Sussman taught a seminar for many years at the University of Chicago Law School on higher education law.

Former University of Chicago President Hanna Gray remembered Sussman as “much more than a lawyer; he was a wise counselor with a broad understanding of and deep commitment to the University and its mission.” 

Richard Taub, professor emeritus in Sociology, said Sussman was “a force of nature” who left a mark in many areas of the University. “He never really left the University,” Taub said. “He had this unusual energy, warmth and just all-around good judgment.”

As vice president at the MacArthur Foundation (2001-2011), Sussman helped to shape the foundation’s grantmaking in support of human rights and international justice, biodiversity preservation, and arts and culture in Chicago. Former MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton said of Sussman: “His advice and good instincts about people and programs sharpened MacArthur’s work. He was always open to new ideas, new voices and fresh perspectives.”

Sussman cared deeply about Chicago’s vibrant arts and culture sector. He attended theater and music performances regularly, visited museums large and small, generously supported numerous arts groups and served as chairman of the Illinois Humanities Council, encouraging thought and discussion about the important issues that shape our community and society. He served as board chairman for the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.

Erika Schmidt, president of the institute, explained: “Art touched all of us as he brought his wisdom and skill to the role of board chair, supporting our efforts to move forward. I am deeply appreciative of his contributions.” Sussman also served on the board of directors for the Albany Park Theatre Project, the Dramatists and Columbia College. 

He traveled extensively and to seven continents, including Antarctica. He was a Fulbright fellow who studied British higher education while living in London, and he served as a visiting professor at the Law School at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. His pictures of West Africa were presented in a 2012 exhibition at Schoenherr Gallery at North Central College in Naperville, Ill.

Sussman is survived by his wife Rita, son Eric and daughter-in-law Carrie, daughter Johanna Ilfeld and son-in-law Jeff Ilfeld, brother Edward, and six grandchildren: Adin Ilfeld, Nathaniel Ilfeld, Miriam Ilfeld, Hannah Sussman, Grace Sussman and Alec Sussman.

Sussman’s funeral is scheduled for Aug. 14 at 10:30 a.m. at KAM Isaiah Israel,1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd. There will be a private interment following the service. The family will receive well-wishers and sit shiva at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 14 and from 3 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 15 and Aug. 16 at 2440 N. Lakeview Ave., Apt. 18E, Chicago. The shiva minyan (religious service) will be held at 6:30 p.m. on each date. 

Donations in Sussman’s memory or to honor the family should be directed to the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, 122 S. Michigan Ave, Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60603-6184 or online at

This piece was adapted with material from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.