Henry Winkler, President Emeritus of U. of Cincinnati, Dies at 96

Lisa Ventre, U. of Cincinnati

Henry R. Winkler
January 07, 2013

When Henry R. Winkler retired from the presidency of the University of Cincinnati, in 1984, he told his son, a fellow historian, that he had some unfinished business to return to.

A research project he had shelved three decades earlier, as he climbed the administrative ranks at Rutgers University and Cincinnati, beckoned.

His two children, who at times had chafed under his strict tutelage in the benefits of clear, crisp prose, took out their red pens "with the sense that it was payback time," says Allan M. Winkler, a professor of history at Miami University, in Ohio, who worked on the book with his sister, Karen J. Winkler, an editor at The Chronicle.

The collaboration led to two books at the end of an academic career in which Mr. Winkler made his name as a historian of 20th-century Britain, a civic activist, and a university president.

Mr. Winkler, president of Cincinnati from 1977 to 1984, died on December 26. He was 96.

He led the university during its transition from a city institution to a comprehensive state university, and was the first Cincinnati alumnus to serve as president.

When Mr. Winkler arrived at Cincinnati, the university was nearly bankrupt, and its shift to state-university status, already under way, was key to its survival, he said in a 1982 magazine interview. "I took the university when it was in turmoil, and I think I've brought it a substantial degree of stability," he said.

Mr. Winkler wrote or edited seven books, dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters, and more than 200 reviews. During the 1960s, he was the editor of The American Historical Review, one of the world's leading historical journals.

In 1965 he joined other historians in marching from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Winkler was born in 1916 in Waterbury, Conn. His father was an itinerant Hebrew-school teacher.

After switching schools frequently as a child, Mr. Winkler graduated from high school at age 16 and moved in with an aunt and uncle in Cincinnati to attend the University of Cincinnati. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa despite having to drop out for a year to work in a clock factory to support his family.

Mr. Winkler served in World War II as a Japanese-language officer, resuming his academic career in 1947 to finish a doctorate and join the history faculty at Rutgers University. By 1976 he was acting president there.

At Cincinnati, "he was genuinely proud that he continued to teach every semester he was president and that he retained the confidence and affection of the faculty," his son says.