The project manager of the just-opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., is also a force behind building projects all around Chicago, including Navy Pier.

It’s all about “carrying out what the client envisions,” says Deryl McKissack, who was in Chicago last week for meetings around town.

McKissack & McKissack is based in D.C. and has had a Chicago office for nearly 20 years. Chicago Public Schools has been a longtime client. More recently, the firm helped oversee construction of the $251 million new Malcolm X College and is managing some of the $500 million McCormick Place expansion, including for the new event center and the Marriott Marquis hotel. The firm also oversaw the Ferris Wheel re-do at Navy Pier.

McKissack has a home in Chicago. She is friends with health care executive Eric Whitaker, a golfing buddy of President Barack Obama, and she counts Whitaker’s wife, Cheryl Whitaker, CEO NextLevel Health Partners, as a close friend along with Seaway Bank Chairman Veranda Dickens and Midway Broadcasting Chairman Melody Spann-Cooper.

In Washington, McKissack’s firm worked on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial and on upgrades for the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.

McKissack is a descendant of slaves, so work on the African-American history museum was especially personal. “I saw the museum in several different stages of construction, but it didn’t come to life for me until I saw the exhibits,” she says. “You start out with this lonely feeling and when you leave, you feel inspired.”

Boeing hopes to beat Elon Musk to be first on Mars

Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing president and CEO

Dennis Muilenburg | AP file photo

Move over Elon Musk. Boeing plans to be the first to land on Mars.

CEO Dennis Muilenburg revealed plans for a mission to the red planet last week during the “What’s Next” conference in Chicago.

“I’m convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket,” Muilenburg said at the event sponsored by The Atlantic and underwritten by Boeing.

His comments came on the heels of Musk laying out his own plans to ferry passengers to Mars. Musk is the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and SpaceX, a private space cargo company.

Muilenburg’s vision also includes hyper-sonic aircraft shuttling travelers and cargo to different continents in two hours or less, he says. He even foresees space hotels.

Muilenburg recalled as a child building planes out of Legos and idolizing the late Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon.

He went on to study aerospace engineering in college and his first job was interning at Boeing. Now in his 31st year at the company, Muilenburg sees the future in space.

Boeing certainly has the track record to accomplish a Mars landing. The rocketmaker helped send U.S. astronauts to the moon in 1969. It built the first stage for Saturn V, which took astronauts to the moon and back. And Boeing has worked with NASA to develop a rocket for deep space exploration.

According to the tech blog Engadget, Musks’ SpaceX is aiming for a 2024 manned mission to Mars, while NASA and Boeing hope to launch in the 2030s. Given likely delays and other factors, the blog says, it’s going to be a close fight to be first.

Valerie Jarrett’s hipster mom

Barbara T. Bowman, co-founder of the Erikson Institute, gives a talk during a private episode of The Moth

Barbara T. Bowman, co-founder of the Erikson Institute | Courtesy of Robert Knapp Photography

Barbara T. Bowman headlined The Moth, the very hip storytelling program that airs on WBEZ.

The Chicago educator co-founded the Erikson Institute graduate school in child development and is mom to White House aide Valerie Jarrett.

Bowman’s talk won’t be featured on the air, as she took the stage at a private event in front of 140 education wonks and Erikson supporters.

Her story focused on growing up in a conservative Christian family and how she came to appreciate religious differences. It began when she ended up in the infirmary one day at boarding school. Her roommate was Jewish.

“Why we began to talk about religion instead of boys, I can’t tell you,” she said, prompting a roar from the crowd. “She had beliefs that I thought were strange, and I had beliefs that she didn’t understand at all.”

Bowman, 87, said she joked about the pain of eating fish on Fridays and her friend talked about her own Friday traditions. The two became “lifelong friends.”

She then deftly transitioned to talking about education, a move that would have boosted her rating had she been judged in a regular Moth performance.

“To be effective while working with young children and families, you must have self-awareness and pay deep attention to relationships,” she said. “That’s why we ask our students at Erikson to do what we did tonight — think about their past experiences and try to understand them from different perspectives.”

The event at Architectural Artifacts was part of Erikson’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Cubs Corner: Keeping mom’s passion alive

Vincent Anzalone and his 18-month-old son, Luca.

Vincent Anzalone and his 18-month-old son, Luca. | Provided photo

Brothers Vincent Anzalone and Dan Stelzer are among the throngs who scored post-season tickets to Cubs games. It’s thanks to their late mom. Patricia Stelzer, a lifelong Cubs fan who died of cancer in 2006 and left jewelry to her sons.

After a long time on the waiting list for Cubs season tickets, Dan Stelzer, a mortgage broker, had a chance to buy. He and Anzalone decided they’d sell mom’s jewelry to purchase the season tickets knowing she’d be thrilled at their being able to fulfill a Cubs dream.

Last year, Anzalone took his 18-month-old son, Luca, to his first Cubs game. “It was with tickets essentially paid for by my mother,” said the real estate broker, who also appeared on Bravo’s “100 Days of Summer.” “I don’t know if that’s a full circle moment but it’s pretty close.”

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Editor’s note: Deryl McKissack’s relationship to Eric Whitaker has been corrected. They are friends, not cousins.