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Remembering Professor Leo Schelbert, 1929-2022

Leo Schelbert, PhD

Professor Leo Schelbert, a historian of American immigration and especially of Swiss migration to the United States, died March 30, 2022, having just turned 93.  Schelbert got his PhD in 1966 from Columbia University, then taught at Rutgers before joining the UIC Department of History in 1971, where he taught for 32 years until his retirement in 2003.  Schelbert edited seven volumes and authored two books, including Historical Dictionary of Switzerland and Swiss Migration to America: The Swiss Mennonites.  In addition to the books, his CV lists more than a hundred articles, reviews, translations, and popular pieces.  While much of his scholarship focused on the Swiss community in the United States, his work also dealt with the experience of the Irish, Jews, Poles, and other migrants. Leo’s work also reflected a heartfelt concern about the often devastating impact such migrations had on America’s indigenous communities.  As a teacher, Schelbert was a three-time winner of the Shirley A. Bill Excellence in Teaching Award (1985, 1990, 1994) and won the 1992 UIC Award for Excellence in Teaching.  He served as chair of the Department twice, from 1977-1979 and from 1981-82.  Widely regarded as an exceptionally kind man, Schelbert is well remembered by the legion of graduate students he mentored and often welcomed into his home.