|Birth: ||Aug. 17, 1912|
|Death: ||Oct. 22, 1998|
Published in the Chicago Sun-Times (IL) on Oct. 25, 1998:
Oscar Shabat counted himself as lucky. He found a job paying $10 a week when he graduated from Crane Junior College during the Depression and had worked up to $18 a week when he won a scholarship to the University of Chicago.
He wanted other people to have his opportunities, and life gave him a chance to help that happen for tens of thousands of people when he rose through the academic world to become the founding chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago.
In 17 years, he built the system from two colleges to nine, quadrupled enrollment and saw the system start its own continuing education television station, Channel 20.
"That was his big goal, for people to have opportunity," said his wife of 61 years, Ethel Shabat.
Mr. Shabat died at his Lake View home Thursday. He was 86.
"We have lost the quintessential educator and creator of educational institutions in the United States," Chancellor Wayne D. Watson said.
"He built the second largest community college district in the United States," Watson said. "The management, the financial and the contractual tenets that are in place today, were put in place by Oscar Shabat 20 years ago and they're still alive, they're still the foundation on which this district operates."
Mr. Shabat was born in a garret above a two-flat near North and Ashland, the youngest son of immigrant Jews. His father was Russian, his mother Polish. His two older brothers had been born abroad. He grew up poor, the kind of poor where there is no money for lunch, no cake to celebrate a birthday.
The family moved to Logan Square, and Mr. Shabat walked to Crane Junior College on Jackson Blvd. to save car fare. When he worked 66 hours a week for $10, his mother took half and bought postal savings bonds, even though the family was struggling with his father out of work.
In 1936, Mr. Shabat married the girl he had known from grade school and his mother gave him the savings bonds to help them get started. He knew the value of a buck and in all those years of building colleges, never went over budget.
He earned bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Chicago, and in 1937 started teaching social science at what was then the Wilbur Wright Branch of the Chicago City Junior College.
He was drafted into the Army in World War II and rose to become training officer in the adjutant general's office.
After the war he returned to Wright, where he had risen to dean when his brother became ill in 1958. Mr. Shabat took a two-year leave of absence to run his brother's hot water tank business in Erie, Pa. He returned as a professor but was dean again in one month. From 1960 to 1962, he was director of human relations for the Chicago Public Schools.
When the Chicago City Colleges broke away from the Board of Education in 1966, Mr. Shabat became chancellor. He bargained with slumlords and politicians, built seven more colleges and faced down the Cook County College Teachers Union in seven strikes. Union President Norman Swenson went to jail twice for continuing strikes in the face of court injunctions Mr. Shabat obtained.
He always loved teaching. He said his "golden years" were teaching at Wright, when he taught 800 to 900 students at a crack, four times a day, twice a week.
"I loved it," he once said. "You made a difference."
Survivors besides his wife are a son, Michael, and two grandsons, Matthew and Andrew.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Piser Original Weinstein Chapel, 3019 W. Peterson, with burial in Rosemont Park Cemetery, 6758 W. Addison.
Ethel K. Shabat (1913 - 2001)*
Michael Eugene Shabat (1947 - 2000)*
Zion Gardens Cemetery
Plot: Rosemont Park, Section C, Lot 79, Grave 2
Created by: Patti Podboy
Record added: May 30, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 91040286