Kapos: George Lucas lavishing La La Land
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“Star Wars” creator George Lucas and his business executive wife, Mellody Hobson, have given another $10 million to the University of Southern California’s cinema school. The endowment expands the Chicago couple’s support for student diversity at USC School of Cinematic Arts.
“This endowed fund allows us to recruit storytellers whose voices are underrepresented in cinematic media, and whose inclusion benefits all of us,” Michael Renov, a dean at the School of Cinematic Arts, said in a release about the gift.
Last fall, the George Lucas Family Foundation endowed the school’s diversity fund with an initial $10 million. Africa-American and Latino students will receive priority consideration for the scholarship and will be known as George Lucas Scholars or Mellody Hobson Scholars.
Remember when Lucas and Hobson lavished Chicago with their philanthropy?
There was that $25 million gift to After School Matters, which Hobson chairs. And another $25 million was committed to University of Chicago Laboratory Schools to support its arts hall.
In 2014, when Lucas announced Chicago would be home to his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, donations started to flow across the city. For two years, millions of dollars was spread across the city to benefit museums, education groups and nonprofit organizations.
A few of those organizations are led by powerful voices in the community who might have helped win approval for Lucas to build in Chicago.
St. Sabina Church, the South Side Catholic parish headed by the outspoken Father Michael Pfleger, received $550,000 over 2014 and 2015, according to federal tax forms. Ounce of Prevention, the children-focused nonprofit headed by Gov. Bruce Rauner‘s wife, Diana Rauner, received $250,000 from the Lucas foundation. And Chicago Public Education Fund, which supports Mayor Rahm Emanuel‘s education initiatives, received $500,000, records show.
In the end, those voices couldn’t stop the outcry from museum opponents.
Hobson, through a spokesman, says she and Lucas will keep giving to Chicago institutions. Though La La Land wins, too.
“The George Lucas Scholarship really opened the door for me,” USC production student and George Lucas Scholar Jonathan Curtiss said in a release announcing Lucas’s latest $10 million gift. “I wouldn’t have been able to attend USC without it and my acceptance letter would have just been decoration in my room.”
McKenna protege steps up
A Chicago-area businesswoman hopes to make manufacturing cool again.
Courtney Wright, who counts business titan Andrew McKenna as a mentor, is ramping up work at Gemini Builds It, a 40-year-old maker of picture frames. She bought the Elgin business six months ago from original owner Fred Campbell, who retired.
Wright has beefed up employee ranks from 50 to 65, added profit-sharing, pay raises, a retirement plan, town hall meetings and doughnut days (nice).
“I want to make it a great manufacturing company,” says the Rhode Island native who earned a business degree from Lake Forest College.
Wright spent nearly two decades working with McKenna at Schwarz Supply Source, a Morton Grove-based paper company that supplied McDonald’s. She went on to found CDW Merchants.
Wright and McKenna, a retired chairman of McDonald’s Corp., remain in touch and now that she’s building another company, she says she finds herself referring to his management tips.
“He told us ‘Be easy to buy from.’ I use the same quote. I think about him every day when I’m helping develop my team,” Wright says. “He taught me how to make a small business big — and to do it fast.”
Meet U. of I.’s new trustee
Don Edwards, a Chicago businessman who counts Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel as friends, has been appointed a trustee at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Edwards comes to the role with a lot of U. of I. cred. He attended the university on a four-year golf scholarship, earned a degree in finance and even found love there.
“U. of I. occupies a special place in my heart,” he told me. “It was there I was educated, won a Big Ten championship with my teammates who are still among my closest friends, and met Anne, my wife of 27 years.”
The Edwardses are major donors to the school.
Earlier in his career, Edwards worked with Rauner at GTCR, the private-equity company. Edwards went on to found his own company, Flexpoint Ford in Chicago. The company has $2.2 billion in assets under management and 17 companies under its umbrella.
He met Emanuel through business, and the two have also stayed friends.
Edwards grew up in New York, but his allegiance is to Chicago.
He’s donated to Rauner’s and Emanuel’s political campaigns as well as numerous Chicago causes and civic organizations.
Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.