Dozens of tennis courts across the city are being repaired in time for summer play, thanks in part to a $1 million donation from the Pritzker Foundation in honor of Bryan Traubert, a former president of the Chicago Park District Board.
He’s a Chicago ophthalmologist married to Penny Pritzker, the former U.S. secretary of commerce. They’re a power couple on the civic and political scene, but they’re also sports enthusiasts who run marathons, bike and play tennis.
It wasn’t the love of tennis that prompted the donation, says Traubert, who after stepping down from the parks board has been studying at Stanford University on a fellowship with the school’s Distinguished Careers Institute. “It was really the need that appealed to me,” he says of the tennis court improvements.
A few years ago, Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation funded $5 million of a $12 million project to convert grassy soccer fields in into artificial turf fields, which are easier to maintain, don’t flood and are safer for play.
The tennis-court donation, which is from the foundation founded by the broader Pritzker family, is being overseen by the Chicago Parks Foundation. That’s a 4-year-old nonprofit that works closely with the private sector to fund park work.
It’s much like the nonprofit foundations that have funded projects for the Bloomingdale Trail and the Chicago Public Libraries.
“People don’t always want to give money to government,” says Willa Lang, the foundation’s executive director. “But they do want to give to parks and libraries “as part of their charitable giving.” The Chicago Parks Foundation fills that role by taking on special projects for the park district.
The Humboldt Park Restoration is a good example. Private funding through the Parks Foundation is helping restore the Jens Jensen Formal Garden. It’s being designed by renowned landscape designer Piet Oudolf, the vision behind Lurie Garden in Millennium Park and the High Line in New York. (Jensen was the garden’s original designer.)
“Our goal is to support the parks and work with communities and the park district to make things happen,” says Lang. “We’re independent in the collaborative spirit.”
Bridget Gainer and the power of sisters
The women’s marches around the country were all about sisterhood, so it was a natural that Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer would march with all four of hers.
Gainer’s sisters, GO Consulting owner Maureen Gainer Reilly and Art Institute of Chicago Tourism Marketing Director Nora Gainer, flew to D.C. from Chicago along with their three school-age daughters. They met up with two more sisters: Sheila Gainer of Miami, where she is an organizer with Unite Here, and Mary Gainer of West Virginia, where she’s a doctor.
“Each one of my sisters chose a life and work that makes a difference in the world. And now that we’re all working mothers, raising our own kids, we make time to come out and fight for what we believe in, but also to be with each other,” Bridget Gainer told me. “This was not our first protest and it won’t be our last, but to be out there with these women, now truly my best friends, made me proud.”
Other Chicagoans who traveled out of state to march included Carrie Lannon, chief brand officer for Zapwater Communications, who marched in New York City. Julie Smolyansky, the CEO of Lifeway Foods, was in Washington, D.C. And Bruce Heyman, the former ambassador to Canada, was in Park City, Utah. Among big names in the Chicago march was Chris Kennedy, the businessman toying with a run for governor.
Turow makes it to ‘Jeopardy’
Acclaimed author and Chicago attorney Scott Turow received “the ultimate American honor” the other day, he says, when he was the answer to a clue on “Jeopardy.” The subject was “American Authors.”
For $200, the question was, “In 1990, Time Magazine called this ‘Presumed Innocent’ author ‘The Bard of the Litigious Age.”‘
But when it came time to respond, the contestant said, “John Grisham,” the name of another attorney-turned-author.
“It’s the story of my life,” a good-natured Turow says. He’s written 10 best-selling works of fiction. His next novel, “Testimony,” comes out in May.
Hobnobbing at Davos
Chicago businesswoman Sheila Penrose was among the few Chicagoans who attended the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week.
Each year, the uber elite gather at the wintertime retreat to talk about big issues facing the world.
It’s not all talk. These folks also like to hobnob with the see-and-be-seen crowd. Penrose may have bumped into then-Vice President Joe Biden, billionaire entrepreneur Bill Gates, activist actor Matt Damon or cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who also were listed as attendees.
Penrose, the board chairman of JLL, the real estate company formerly known as Jones Lang LaSalle, surely wasn’t starry-eyed. She’s been to Davos before.
In a note on the company website, she offered her thoughts on the economy, saying, “Overall — despite the political uncertainty — the world economy is improving and there is business optimism, at least for the near team.”
Cheers to that.
Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.