Former President Barack Obama, who spent his youth in Hawaii, had to give up body-surfing for safety reasons after becoming president.

Now that he’s out of the White House, Obama has jumped back into the water scene.

The former president took up kitesurfing while he and Michelle Obama vacationed with billionaire Richard Branson in the British Virgin Islands.

Branson talked about it on his Virgin blog and photographer Jack Brockway caught the former president in action.

“One of the first stories Barack told me when he and Michelle arrived on Moskito Island was how, just before he became president, he had been surfing on a dangerous break in Hawaii,” writes Branson. “When he came in from an exhilarating session, the new head of his security team turned to him and said: ‘This will be the last time you surf for eight years.’ For the next eight years he didn’t have the chance to surf, enjoy water sports or do many of the things he loved.”

Branson said while he learned how to foilboard surf, Obama learned to kitesurf. Branson’s blog showcases a contest between the two men to see who could stay up the longest.

It took a few days for Obama to learn the basics, Branson says. Obama still had security nearby — as a former president, he always will. In spite of that, writes Branson, “Barack was able to really relax and get into it.”

A big gift to Northwestern

Attorney Howard Trienens

Attorney Howard Trienens | Provided photo

Chicago attorney Howard Trienens is the primary donor of a $20 million gift to Northwestern University for the upcoming renovation of its Welsh-Ryan Arena. The new practice facility will be named the Trienens Performance Center in his honor.

Trienens is a corporate attorney at Sidley Austin. He joined the firm in 1949 as an associate and became a partner in 1956. From 1980 to 1986 he also served as vice president and general counsel for AT&T.

Trienens also is a Northwestern alum, having received a bachelor’s degree in 1945 and a J.D. in 1949.

In a release about the gift, Northwestern President Morton Schapiro praised Trienens for his “decades” of support. And Jim Phillips, Northwestern vice president for athletics and recreation, said thanks to Trienens’ gift, “our basketball, volleyball and other Wildcats teams will have a first-class development facility to use 365 days each year.”

Northwestern really is family to Trienens.

His late wife, Paula; daughter and Northwestern trustee Nan Trienens Kaehler; brother, Roger Trienens; and three of his grandchildren also are Northwestern alums.

The exec who played viola

Alison Donnelly

Alison Donnelly, board member for Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras | Provided photo

Chicago businesswoman Alison Donnelly will be among those applauding the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras when it performs Feb. 11 at Four Seasons Chicago.

Donnelly is a CYSO board member and a former orchestra member. She played viola.

Donnelly was a teenager from Wheaton in the 1990s when she joined the CYSO.

“The music experience was second to none,” she said. But playing with a diverse group of students from across the Chicago area “broadened my perspective and opened my eyes,” she recalls.

“I became friends with people so different than me, and we had this one connection that brought us together. Many of my closest friends were from the orchestra — people I’d see on a weekly basis,” she said.

Donnelly went on two European tours with the orchestra. After high school, she studied music for a year at the Boston University College of Fine Arts before switching to the college of communication. She worked for a decade at ITW before being named director of external communications at Deerfield-based Surgical Care Affiliates last year.

Donnelly serves on the CYSO’s executive committee over marketing. It’s a volunteer position and allows her a chance to share CYSO’s story.

Chicago stars in Palm Springs

Gary and Joan Gand's home in Palm Springs, California.

Gary and Joan Gand’s home in Palm Springs, California. | Courtesy of Tom Blachford

Chicago-area residents Gary and Joan Gand have created a house tour in Palm Springs, California, featuring their mid-century vacation home designed by the late Harold Levitt. It’s part of Modernism Week.

Levitt was an architect to the stars, having built homes for singers Olivia Newton John and Lionel Richie, music producer Quincy Jones and the late actress Debbie Reynolds, among others.

The Gands live in Riverwoods in a home designed by famed architect George Keck. Keck pioneered modern-design and built the all-glass “House of Tomorrow” that was part of the Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. The home now resides at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore park and money raised from the Gands’ home tour will go toward a project to restore its original character.

The Gands also are co-founders of Chicago Bauhaus and Beyond nonprofit and run Gand Music & Sound.

Interestingly, Gary’s sister is Gale Gand, the famed chef.

The Palm Springs tour is Feb. 24 also has another Chicago connection. It will feature a home built for Harold Florsheim, of Florsheim Shoes in Chicago.

Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.