Richard Driehaus, a celebrated investment adviser and philanthropist, says there’s no question why Chicago outshines New York.
“In New York, I’m just another successful guy,” he told a City Club of Chicago gathering Monday. “You can’t make an impact in New York. But in Chicago, you can because it’s big enough and it’s small enough and people actually get along enough.”
The line drew cheers from the group of nonprofit leaders who gathered at Maggiano’s Banquets to hear a discussion about “Doubling Down” on philanthropy.
Driehaus has donated more than $180 million to nonprofits in his lifetime. He spoke on the panel along with Maria Kim, president and CEO of The Cara Program, which helps fight homelessness, and Jennifer Fortner, a Goldman Sachs executive who advises clients on philanthropy.
Moderator Joshua Hale, president and CEO of Big Shoulders Fund, set the tone for the lunch. He urged the audience to cheer for the panelists as if they were political candidates. Hale even passed out placards featuring the faces of Driehaus, Kim and Fortner.
Driehaus, who runs Driehaus Capital Management, recalled his father’s inability to afford a new family home. “I was so surprised,” Driehaus told the rapt crowd. Later, he said he realized at that moment that “different careers paid differently” and he chose a profession that offered income “commensurate with effort and success.”
In seventh grade, Driehaus started learning about the stock market. “It was more interesting than Shakespeare,” he said. That’s funny because he’s now a major contributor to Chicago Shakespeare Theater
He took $2,000 he had saved from a paper route and invested in two stocks: Union Tank Car and Sperry Rand. Driehaus even remembers the day he invested: July 29, 1957.
I write the songs
Veterans of Chicago’s music and tech scenes have created a company that allows regular folks to write songs. Songfinch hires music professionals to put your words into a radio-quality song.
“There’s been a lot of emotion in the office” in recent days, Songfinch CEO John Williamson says. That’s because people are writing about the Cubs’ World Series win and what it means to generations of their families. “They pour their hearts out,” he says.
Williamson has been building companies in the music and entertainment spaces for some 20 years. He was a co-founder of Music Dealers, a commercial licensing company that counted Coca-Cola and other big brands as clients. He started Songfinch with Josh Kaplan and Rob Lindquist, also of Music Dealers, and Matt Loseke and Jason Bowman, who helped get Groupon off the ground. Williamson calls it “a dream team.”
Along with Cubs songs, Songfinch is seeing people create songs for anniversaries, retirements and lately veterans, in honor of Veterans Day.
How it works: For $200, customers tell a story or share a memory and then a songwriter creates a song that’s delivered within a week through a shareable link.
Wrigley Field painting on the block
New York-based Guernsey’s auction house is putting four massive paintings of ballparks on the block.
One is of Wrigley Field and another of the old Comiskey Park. The Wrigley painting, a sweeping panorama of “The Friendly Confines,” is nearly 10 feet wide. It’s by Terrence Fogarty.
The paintings are part of an auction of 1,000 early photographic prints taken by sports photographer Neil Leifer as well as many other photo greats. A major concentration of work depicting the late Muhammad Ali (many signed by the boxer) will be featured too.
The painting was added to the auction after the Cubs won the World Series. Bids start at $16,000.
The auction is Dec. 2 and 3 and, yes, there’s absentee bidding.
Arne Duncan’s crusade
Arne Duncan continues his march through Chicago’s under-served communities, working to help young people find success through education.
His latest announcement: He’ll keynote the annual benefit in the spring for Lumity, a nonprofit that provides science and technology curriculum to schools in struggling neighborhoods.
The benefit dinner will be March 9 at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Since leaving Washington last year, where he served as U.S. secretary of education, Duncan has joined the Emerson Collective, a California organization founded by Steve Jobs’ widow. It’s goal is to help young African-American men find alternatives to violence.
He spends time each week at Cook County Jail trying to understand how young men got there and how to prevent others from following in their path.
Duncan has spoken to supporters and leaders of City Year Chicago, a nonprofit that works in hard-hit neighborhoods.
And the Hyde Park native has teamed up with his friend, John Rogers Jr., to serve on the corporate board of Rogers’ Ariel Investments. The two have worked together on charter schools too.
Though he speaks with the voice of a politician, Duncan has ruled out seeking higher office.
He’s too busy saving Chicago.
Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.