Chicagoans of the Year 2009 Luncheon Recap

Sadness mingled with celebration at the annual Chicagoans of the Year luncheon, where talk of tragedy gave way to the redemptive power of “humanity at its best”

The 2009 honorees: (from left) Ronald Holt, Annette Nance-Holt, Sara Foszcz, Ramsey Lewis, Sam Harris, and Grahm Balkany. For more photos, click the thumbnails in the gallery below.
The 2009 Chicagoans of the Year: (from left) Ronald Holt, Annette Nance-Holt, Sara Foszcz, Ramsey Lewis, Sam Harris, and Grahm Balkany. For more photos, click the thumbnails in the gallery below.

 

On January 21st, nine days after a massive earthquake devastated Haiti, some 200 guests gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel to honor Chicago’s six Chicagoans of the Year for 2009. The 16th annual luncheon—this year sponsored in part by Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage—mingled a celebratory air with equal notes of loss and redemption. Applauded for her Main Stay Therapeutic Riding Program in McHenry County, Sara Foszcz noted that the horrors of Haiti also provided “a perfect reminder that people have a terrific capacity to give.” And Annette Nance-Holt—who, with her former husband, Ronald Holt, established Purpose Over Pain to help ease the sorrow and end the scourge of gun violence—eulogized the Holts’ 16-year-old son, Blair, who was murdered in 2007 while riding a CTA bus. “Blair never knew that in death he was going to make a mark on the world,” she said.

Filling in for Mary Ann Childers, the event’s longtime mistress of ceremonies, was her husband, Jay Levine, the chief correspondent at CBS 2 Chicago. In addition to Foszcz and the Holts, the magazine also saluted Grahm Balkany, who fought to save the Walter Gropius–designed buildings at Michael Reese Hospital. The jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis—honored for Proclamation of Hope, his Lincoln bicentennial symphony, and Songs from the Heart, his latest CD—thanked his wife and “muse,” Jan, and the city that had been his lifelong home. “Chicago offers such a wealth and variety of music,” he said, “and I was influenced by it.” Sam Harris, an ebullient survivor of the Holocaust who successfully led the campaign to build the $45-million Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie, hoped the institution would serve as a “beacon of light that teaches our children about the darkest time of human history”—a time, he said, that revealed “people at their worst [and] humanity at its best.”

 

Photography by Chris Guillen

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