Peggy Rampersad loved life and encouraged others to do the same. She embraced every day with remarkable strength, resilience, wisdom and kindness, and celebrated each day smiling and with love, laughter and wit. Peggy died at age 89 in Fredericksburg, VA, after a brief illness tipped the balance on her fragile health. Her beloved daughter, Gita Rampersad, was by her side.
An aspiring artist from a small town, Peggy dreamed big. She received a bachelor’s degree from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA, at age 19 with a major in fine arts and, in 1953, at the age of 20, she moved to Chicago to become a student at the School of the Art Institute. Once in Chicago, she lived in Hyde Park at International House. It was there that Peggy met her husband, Oliver Rampersad, who was an international student studying immunology and microbiology at the University of Chicago. They married in March 1955 and were inseparable until his death in 1994.
Fascinated by social hierarchies and power, Peggy was accepted to the University of Chicago as a student and protégé of world-renowned sociologist Edward Shils. Peggy always said that during this time, she “unlocked the power of her mind.” She earned a Ph.D. in Sociology and Higher Ed in 1978 (Conflict and Authority in the Academic Organization), after having taken a break to start a family. Gita was born in October 1969; “the best day of my life,” Peggy was often heard to say. Peggy and her family lived at 55th and Kenwood Ave. for nearly 30 years.
Over many decades, she carved out a successful career in academic administration, primarily at UChicago, and held leadership roles in the College and GSB (now Booth), retiring from the Department of Economics. While there, she helped countless students and staff realize success and was witness to five economists becoming Nobel laureates, including her friend Bob Lucas.
Peggy had strong convictions. She believed in equality for women, and equity for humankind. While her husband, Oliver marched against racially restrictive covenants, Peggy mobilized with their friend Sidney Williams, then the president of the Chicago Urban League, and used art to send powerful messages against hate and discrimination. She wept and was angered each time she learned of another wrongfully convicted person on death row. She admired smart, independent women, those in the public eye, and those who were her friends and neighbors.
A smart, sophisticated and creative woman herself, Peggy was never a subscriber to the mundane nor mainstream and had her own distinctive style. She thought everyone should have a signature look at some point in their lives. So, Peggy kept her hair platinum blond, wore red lipstick, Chanel No. 5, and sported the coolest pair of specs on the planet! Nature, art, music and culture were a part of her soul. In 2018, Peggy fulfilled a lifelong dream and visited Dale Chihuly’s Seattle studio and museum with Gita. She was a member of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. Peggy had season tickets to the Lyric Opera of Chicago and remained a loyal supporter of Willie and Bethany Pickens’ jazz. She was a great dancer, mastering Flamenco with her friend Mary McDermott and dancing to Latin beats with Oliver. She was also a fantastic cook; often picking up the culinary tips from her dear Hyde Park friends Helen Coolidge and Mayme Deranian.
In 2000, Peggy returned to Fredericksburg, VA, where she lived at home until her death last year. She lived her best life, and never stopped loving every day she had on earth. She is survived by her only child, Gita, who is honoring her mother’s memory by bravely living her best life.
Deceased's Funeral Arrangements: A bench will be dedicated in Peggy’s memory on March 19, 2023, at 2pm CT. The ceremony will take place in front of International House 1414 E. 59th St. Chicago, IL 60637, with a reception to follow. For more information and to attend, please contact Gita Rampersad at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 773-398-2021.
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