Past Honorees

Chicagoans of the Year: 1994-2007

Since 1994, Chicago magazine has annually honored a few outstanding individuals as Chicagoans of the Year—people whose determination, vision, and good works have made our city a better place to live.

Haile Amey (honored in 2005): As a longtime resident of the Wentworth Gardens residential complex, and later as president of the Wentworth Gardens Resident Management Corporation, Amey led efforts to preserve the South Side homes in the face of a new White Sox ballpark and demolishment plans by the Chicago Housing Authority.

Dr. Gloria Jackson Bacon (1995): Wanting to bring quality health care to the poor, Dr. Bacon founded what became a state-of-the-art health center—The Clinic in Altgeld—at the Chicago Housing Authority’s Altgeld Gardens housing project.

Gary Barnett (1995): The coach of the Northwestern University football team, Barnett led the Wildcats to its first Big Ten championship since 1936 and a postseason trip to the Rose Bowl.

Rachel Barton (1995): The young musician rebounded from a terrible train accident and resumed her career as a virtuoso violinist; in 2001 she founded the Rachel Elizabeth Barton Foundation to promote an appreciation for classical music.

Rev. Thomas J. Behrens (2006): Overseeing a large staff aided by hundreds of volunteers, Rev. Behrens runs The Night Ministry, which each year provides health care, shelter, counseling, and other services to street people and at-risk youth.

Patti Black (1996): A crime-busting Chicago Police Department beat officer known affectionately as “T-Bone,” Black used her neighborhood contacts to help collar an alleged serial rapist.

Robert Boone (2002): Boone’s Wicker Park–based Young Chicago Authors organization helps teenage students learn how to write—and win college scholarships in the process.

Marca Bristo (2007): The president and CEO of Access Living, which recently opened its news $13-milllion headquarters, Bristo serves as an advocate for people with disabilities locally, nationally, and, as a member of a United Nations’ group, internationally.

John H. Bryan (2004): The former chairman of Sara Lee, Bryan not only helped rescue Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, but as chairman of Millennium Park, Inc., he oversaw the private-sector organization that raised millions of dollars for Chicago’s splendid new downtown park.

Margaret Burroughs (2000): In 1961, Burroughs opened the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art in her South Michigan Avenue home; today, the institution, known as the DuSable Museum of African American History, thrives in an elegant former park district administration building in Washington Park.

Sherialyn Byrdsong (1999): After her husband, Ricky (the former basketball coach at Northwestern University) was murdered by a crazed bigot, Sherialyn founded the Ricky Byrdsong Foundation to help develop good character in young men and women.

Jim Capraro (1994): The executive director of the Greater Southwest Development Corporation helped bring economic renewal to the Chicago Lawn neighborhood.

Kathleen Casey (2007): Inspired by the courage of her son, Barrett, in the face of his terminal cancer, Casey started Bear Necessities, a foundation dedicated to improving the lives of children with cancer, in part by funding doctors and hospitals engaged in pediatric cancer research.

Chicago White Sox (2005): Led by general manager Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen, this ragtag bunch of underdogs brought a World Series championship to Chicago for the first time since 1917.

Gery Chico (1995): As president of the board overseeing the Chicago Public Schools, Chico worked with chief executive officer Paul Vallas to overhaul the city’s public schools.

Kendall Ciesemier (2007): Beginning when she was 11, Ciesemier began raising money for AIDS orphans in Africa, an effort that grew into Kids Caring 4 Kids, a nonprofit organization that drew the attention of—and valuable assistance from—Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton.

Lou Conte (1999): The choreographer, teacher, and founder of the Lou Conte Dance Studio won international acclaim as the artistic director of what has become one of the city’s most cherished institutions: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

William Daley (1996): As cochair and chief strategist for Chicago ’96, Daley brought a hugely successful Democratic National Convention to a city eager to erase the memories of 1968.

Orbert Davis (2002): A brilliant composer, trumpeter, and band leader, Davis began MusicAlive!, an innovative program that uses jazz, classical, and pop music to teach young students geography, science, history, and other subjects.

Gladys Diaz (1995): The West Side mother secured corporate sponsorship to buy much-needed books for her son’s elementary school.

Barbara Eason-Watkins (1998): As principal of McCosh Elementary School, Watkins improved attendance and test scores at the troubled Woodlawn school; since August 2001, she has served as chief education officer of the Chicago Public Schools.

Keith Elliott (2006): With Harriet Ross, the associate artistic director at the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre, Ross, a dancer with the company, began Dance for Life, an annual benefit that has raised much-needed funds for HIV/AIDS care and education—some of which goes directly to the Chicago dance community.

Connie E. Evans (1996): Evans served as president and executive director of the Women’s Self-Employment Project, which helped low- and moderate-income women start their own businesses.

Robert Falls (2000): Working with executive director Roche Schulfer, Falls, the artistic director of Goodman Theatre, successfully raised the curtain on the company’s new $46-million, multi-theatre facility in Chicago’s Loop.

Paula Fasseas (2007): The founder and chair of PAWS Chicago—the acronym stands for Pets Are Worth Saving—Fasseas worked to reduce the city’s population of stray pets by opening a cat adoption center, a spay and neuter clinic, and the $9-million no-kill Adoption and Humane Center on North Clybourn Avenue.

Henry Fogel (1997): The president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra oversaw the $110-million renovation and reinvention of Orchestra Hall; the grand Michigan Avenue facility was newly rechristened as Symphony Center.

Barbara Gaines (1999): The founder, in 1986, of Shakespeare Repertory (known today as Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where she is artistic director), Gaines saw her years of effort crowned by a new $23.2-million theatre complex on Navy Pier.

Dr. Serafino Garella (2000): An accomplished doctor, Garella opened CommunityHealth, a storefront clinic that provided health care to the medically uninsured. In 2005, CommunityHealth’s clinic, at 2611 West Chicago Avenue, was renamed the Lederman Family Health Center.

Linda Ginzel (1998): Following the tragic death of their son, Danny, in a portable crib, Ginzel and her husband, Boaz Keysar, organized Kids in Danger, which informs parents and caregivers about potentially deadly nursery products that have been recalled by the federal government.

Alfred Glasser (1996): The longtime director of education and the editor of publications at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Glasser (who also created the organization’s Opera in the Neighborhoods) assisted in the Lyric’s triumphant staging of Richard Wagner’s four-opera masterwork, Der Ring des Nibelungen. Glasser died in 2002.

Rita Gonzalez (1997): The executive director of Hispanics United of DuPage County led a successful multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the village of Addison for its discriminatory urban-renewal plan.

Rev. Wayne Gordon (1995): A high-school teacher and an ordained minister, Rev. Gordon worked with Marc and Rick Malnati to open a pizzeria in Chicago’s depressed Lawndale neighborhood.

James R. Grossman (2005): Working with Ann Durkin Keating, a professor of history at North Central College in Naperville, Grossman, a historian and vice president for research and education at the Newberry Library, partnered with the Newberry and the Chicago Historical Society to produce the monumental Encyclopedia of Chicago.

Irma P. Hall (1997): The longtime Chicago actress enjoyed national acclaim with her performance as Big Mama Joe in the movie Soul Food, as well as the scene-stealing voodoo princess Minerva in Clint Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Peter Hanig (1999): The Gold Coast shoe baron brought the whimsical Cows on Parade to Chicago, which attracted one million tourists to the city—and raised $3.5 million for local charities when some of the colorful fiberglass bovines were auctioned off.

Leo C. Harris (2003): The founder of the South Side Family Chamber Orchestra channeled his lifelong love of music into creating one of the country’s first African American chamber orchestras and bringing music programs and lessons to local schools.

Monica Haslip (2004): In 1992, after abandoning a successful marketing career, Haslip started Little Black Pearl Workshop in a dilapidated Bronzeville graystone; today the organization, which has moved into a new $9-million facility, continues its mission of helping young people learn how to create and sell their own artwork.

Rev. Jeffery Haynes (1997): Working with Frank Portillo, the president and chief executive officer of Brown’s Chicken & Pasta, Rev. Haynes, the director of the social service agency Reach Out and Touch, reopened a shuttered Brown’s restaurant in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.

Patti Herbst (2000): Inspired by her son, Justin, who has cerebral palsy, Herbst began the Center for Independence Through Conductive Education, which employs a revolutionary therapy to help severely disabled children attain physical independence.

Jim Hirsch (1998): The executive director of the Old Town School of Folk Music led efforts to revamp the vacant Hild Regional Library in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood as the new $9-million home of the legendary music school.

Bruce Iglauer (2001): In 1971, Iglauer recorded an album by the Chicago bluesman Hound Dog Taylor and put it out under his own label—Alligator Records—which grew into the world’s leading blues label.

Lisa Jefferson (2001): A supervisor at Airfone’s call center in Oak Brook, Jefferson talked and prayed with Todd Beamer, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked by terrorists—and eventually crashed into a Pennsylvania field— on September 11, 2001. Ten days later, in a rare national TV interview, she helped console a grieving nation.

Ella Jenkins (2004): Fifty years after recording her first album for children, Jenkins received a coveted Grammy: the Lifetime Achievement Award; a few months later, on the occasion of her 80th birthday, her record label, Smithsonian Folkways, released a tribute album, cELLAbration!

Hazel Johnson (2002): After seeing her husband and others in the Altgeld Gardens housing project die from cancer and other illnesses, Johnson formed People for Community Recovery to combat the negative effects of the power plants, waste incinerators, and other heavy industries that ringed her Far Southeast Side neighborhood.

Rev. Dr. Walter B. Johnson Jr. (1998): As pastor of the Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood, Rev. Dr. Johnson forged the Alliance for Community Peace, which helped children (and their families) overcome despair—and travel safely to and from school.

LeAlan Jones (1997): Working with Lloyd Newman, another teenager living near the Ida B. Wells public housing project, Jones documented the rough and often-tragic life of the inner city in Remorse: The 14 Stories of Eric Morse (a National Public Radio special that won the George F. Peabody broadcasting award) and in the book Our America.

Timothy Jordan (1994): The 14-year-old eighth grader challenged Mayor Richard M. Daley to stop the gun violence in his West Garfield Park neighborhood.

Sokoni Karanja (2001): In 1971, Karanja established the Bronzeville-based Centers for New Horizons, which today works to build self-reliant, family-based communities by providing a wide range of human services—including preschool education, parenting classes, and help with job placement—at satellite centers across the city.

Ann Durkin Keating (2005): Working with James R. Grossman, the vice president for research and education at the Newberry Library, Keating, a professor of history at North Central College in Naperville, partnered with the Newberry and the Chicago Historical Society to produce the monumental Encyclopedia of Chicago.

Boaz Keysar (1998): Following the tragic death of their son, Danny, in a portable crib, Keysar and his wife, Linda Ginzel, organized Kids in Danger, which informs parents and caregivers about the potentially deadly nursery products that have been recalled by the federal government.

Lynn Kiley (2004): As vice president of the board of directors of SOS Children’s Villages Illinois, Kiley helped plan and raise the money for a new 40-home community on Chicago’s Southwest Side where the organization could reunite displaced brothers and sisters under the care of professional foster parents.

Bob Koester (2003): As the founder of Delmark Records and the Jazz Record Mart, Koester invigorated the local jazz and blues scene—and provided a source of delight for music lovers around the world.

Ardis Krainik (1996): The longtime general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago staged a triumphant production of Richard Wagner’s four-opera masterwork, Der Ring des Nibelungen. Krainik died in 1997.

Dr. Todd Kuiken (2006): A biomedical engineer and M.D., Kuiken led efforts at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago to design artificial limbs that patients can control merely by thinking.

Rochelle Lee (2000): At her retirement, with the help of colleagues, parents, and former students, Lee, a teacher and librarian with the Chicago Public Schools, established the Rochelle Lee Fund to Make Reading a Part of Children’s Lives. Known today as Boundless Readers, the organization continues to invest in teachers and books to promote reading in the city’s public schools.

Haki Madhubuti (2007): An accomplished poet and memoirist, Madhubuti began Third World Press in 1967 and nurtured it into a national home for African American writers.

Eva L. Maddox (2001): Working with the architect Stanley Tigerman, Maddox, an interior architect, started Archeworks, a multidisciplinary school of design devoted to helping the poor, the disabled, and other disadvantaged members of society.

Marc Malnati (1995): With his brother, Rick, and the Rev. Wayne Gordon, Malnati helped open a pizzeria in Chicago’s depressed Lawndale neighborhood.

Rick Malnati (1995): With his brother, Marc, and the Rev. Wayne Gordon, Malnati helped open a pizzeria in Chicago’s depressed Lawndale neighborhood.

Jerry Manuel (2000): As manager of the Chicago White Sox, Manuel led his team to the best record in the American League and a berth in the postseason playoffs—while also finding time to work in the Principal for a Day program and the Inner City  Little League. The American League Manager of the Year in 2000, Manuel currently manages the New York Mets.

Ann Marcou (2003): A breast cancer survivor, Marcou cofounded the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, which grew into a national association that provides a toll-free hotline and grassroots outreach and counseling around the country. Marcou died in 2004.

Angel Meléndez (2005): A trombone player and composer, Meléndez shone a spotlight on the local Latin music scene when the Recording Academy, which hands out the Grammys, selected his 20-piece 911 Mambo Orchestra as a finalist in the Traditional Tropical Latin Album category.

Debby Moskovits (2002): As director of the Field Museum’s environmental and conservation programs, Moskovits directed efforts to spot, document, and preserve animal and plant species in natural habitats ranging from Lake Calumet to South America—where she helped persuade the Peruvian government to establish a 5,000-square-mile national park.

Lisel Mueller (1997): The Hamburg native won a Pulitzer Prize for Alive Together, a beautiful collection of poems celebrating love, nature, motherhood, music, and memory.

Michael Mulqueen (2004): A former brigadier general with the Marines, Mulqueen led the Greater Chicago Food Depository for 15 years, helping to install the organization into its new $30-million headquarters on the Southwest Side.

Mary Nelson (2003): As president and CEO of Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development organization, Nelson oversaw the creation of 1,000 units of affordable housing on the West Side and established the Beth-Anne Life Center and other facilities to provide child and senior care, an arts center, and other services.

Lloyd Newman (1997): Working with LeAlan Jones, another teenager living near the Ida B. Wells public housing project, Newman documented the rough and often-tragic life of the inner city in Remorse: The 14 Stories of Eric Morse (a National Public Radio special that won the George F. Peabody broadcasting award) and in the book Our America.

Maria Pesqueira (2006): Pesqueira is the CEO and president of Mujeres Latinas en Acción (Latin Women in Action), which started out helping runaway teens before morphed into an organization helping victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence; today it also offers child care, after-school tutoring, and other resources.

Liz Phair (1994): The Winnetka native shook up the rock world with two stunning albums: Exile in Guyville and whip-smart.

Captain William Pickney (1999): The Chicago-based sailor retraced the 350-year-old African slave trade route known as the Middle Passage—and used the Internet to share the voyage with some 15,000 fascinated students from across the United States. He later helmed the Amistad America, a replica of the schooner commandeered by captive Africans in 1939.

Frank Portillo (1997): Working with Rev. Jeffery Haynes, the director of the social service agency Reach Out and Touch, Portillo, the president and chief executive officer of Brown’s Chicken & Pasta, reopened a shuttered Brown’s restaurant in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.

Ramona Purdy (2005): Working out of her Palos Park garage, Purdy started Share Your Souls, which today, operating out of a 50,000-square-foot facility, collects, cleans, and distributes tens of thousands of mostly used shoes to needy people all over the world.

Raúl Raymundo (2000): As executive director of The Resurrection Project—a community-service organization begun by six local churches—Raymundo helps build new homes, daycare centers, and other facilities, as well as provide other needed services, to Chicago’s Pilsen, Little Village, and Back of the Yards neighborhoods.

Clemens Reichel (2003): A research associate, archaeologist, and lecturer at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, Reichel organized efforts to recover the ancient treasures looted from Baghdad’s Iraq Museum in the wake of the U.S. invasion.

Guadalupe Reyes (1996): This mother of a severely disabled boy founded Esperanza (“Hope”) to help other children with multiple handicaps and El Valor (“Courage”) to assist inner-city children and their families. Reyes, who also helped establish Pilsen’s Fiesta del Sol, died in 2001.

Julieanna Richardson (2006):  Once a high-powered attorney and Chicago’s cable administrator, Richardson began The HistoryMakers to create a video archive of interviews with hundreds of African Americans who recalled their lives in business, the arts and sciences, sports, politics, and entertainment.

Lisa Roberts (2002): Working with Eunita Rushing, the executive director of the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, Roberts, the director of conservatories for the Chicago Park District, capped off a revitalization of the Jens Jensen–designed conservatory—and the surrounding neighborhood—with the show Chihuly in the Park: A Garden of Glass.

Alex Ross (2001): The acclaimed comic-book artist and writer mimics his Technicolor superheroes by auctioning his beautiful canvasses—Ross’s comic panels are painted rather than inked—to raise money for UNICEF, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and other worthy organizations.

Harriet Ross (2006): With Keith Elliott, a dancer with the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre, Ross, the company’s associate artistic director, began Dance for Life, an annual benefit that has raised much-needed funds for HIV/AIDS care and education—some of which goes directly to the Chicago dance community.

Dr. Janet Rowley (1998): A pioneer in the study of human chromosomes, Dr. Rowley of the University of Chicago Hospitals won an Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award for her discovery of a crucial link between abnormal chromosomes and a rare form of bone-marrow cancer.

Kenny R. Ruiz (2004): As executive director of the YMCA Street Intervention Program, Ruiz leads a group of outreach workers who work to curtail gang activity, even visiting gang members in their homes and in jail to try and pull them back into mainstream society.

Eunita Rushing (2002): Working with Lisa Roberts, the director of conservatories for the Chicago Park District, Rushing, the executive director of the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, capped off a revitalization of the Jens Jensen–designed conservatory—and the surrounding neighborhood—with the show Chihuly in the Park: A Garden of Glass.

Jesus Salgueiro (2006): With his partner, the chef Art Smith, Salgueiro, a Venezuelan-born artist, started Common Threads, an organization that helps children explore nutrition, the culinary arts, and world cultures.

Ron Santo (2003): Despite losing both legs to diabetes, the beloved Cubs broadcaster—and the team’s Hall of Fame–worthy third baseman—uses his annual Walk to Cure Diabetes to raise millions of dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Roche Schulfer (2000): Working with artistic director Robert Falls, Schulfer, the executive director of Goodman Theatre, successfully raised the curtain on the company’s new $46-million, multi-theatre facility in Chicago’s Loop.

Paul Sereno (1996): The University of Chicago paleontologist changed the world’s understanding of dinosaur evolution and continental drift with the discovery of a treasure-trove of fossils in the desolate Western Sahara Desert of Morocco.

Rev. Donald L. Sharp (1996): Looking to provide quality, low-income housing, Rev. Sharp’s not-for-profit Faith Tabernacle Housing Corporation acquired and rehabbed a rundown apartment complex in Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood.

Rita Simó (2001): A native of the Dominican Republic, where she received a free music education and a government-sponsored scholarship to Julliard, Simó began the People’s Music School in Uptown so that she might provide the same opportunities to children here.

Art Smith (2006): With his partner, the artist Jesus Salgueiro, Smith, the Chicago restaurateur probably best known as Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef, started Common Threads, an organization that helps children explore nutrition, the culinary arts, and world cultures.

Erin Sorenson (2001): The executive director and driving force behind the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, working out of an $8.5-million building designed by Stanley Tigerman, employed innovative approaches to treating sexually abused children in Chicago.

Sammy Sosa (1998): The Chicago Cubs slugger not only hit 66 home runs in a single season, but he also helped raise millions of dollars in humanitarian relief for his native Dominican Republic after it was devastated by Hurricane Georges.

Roebuck “Pops” Staples (1995): The patriarch of the renowned Staple Singers won a best-contemporary-blues Grammy for his album Father Father. Staples died in 2000, a few days before his 86th birthday.

Koko Taylor (1998): In the midst of recording a new album, opening a music club, and her near-nightly concert dates, the Queen of the Blues raised money for the Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation and other worthwhile causes.

Studs Terkel (1997): The author, radio host, and oral historian was inducted into the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters, received a National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton, and published his 12th book, My American Century. Terkel died in 2008.

Stanley Tigerman (2001): Working with the interior architect Eva Maddox, Tigerman, a celebrated architect, started Archeworks, a multidisciplinary school of design devoted to helping the poor, the disabled, and other disadvantaged members of society.

Carlos Tortolero (1994): With Helen Valdez, Tortolero cofounded the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood; today the institution is known as the National Museum of Mexican Art.

Charlie Trotter (2007): The renowned restaurateur not only put Chicago on the culinary map, but he has mentored legions of chefs, raised money for scores of charitable causes, promoted excellence among local school children, and provided scholarships through his Charlie Trotter Culinary Education Foundation.

Scott Turow (2002): The lawyer and best-selling author tackled death-penalty reform by serving on Illinois governor George Ryan’s Commission on Capital Punishment and by addressing the issue in his sixth novel, Reversible Errors.

Helen Valdez (1994): With Carlos Tortolero, Valdez cofounded the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood; today the institution is known as the National Museum of Mexican Art.

Paul Vallas (1995): As chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, Vallas worked with school-board president Gary Chico to overhaul the city’s public schools.

Modesto “Tico” Valle (2007): A powerful foe of hatred and bigotry, Valle is the executive director of the Center on Halsted, which serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities from its new $20-million facility in Lake View.

Carmen Velasquez (1999): Troubled that residents of the Pilsen, Little Village, Heart of Chicago, and Back of the Yards neighborhoods didn’t have access to bilingual, primary health care, Velasquez began Project Alivio—from the Spanish aliviar, “to alleviate”—which led to the creation of the Alivio Medical Center, which today operates three facilities in the city and suburbs.

Sarita Villareal (2003): After the murder of her brother, Villareal, a 911 operator, started SAVE Another LIFE—the capital letters stand for Sisterhood Against Violence Everyday and Love in our Families and Educate—an organization dedicated to helping the victims of violence and to ending the culture of guns, gangs, and death.

Carrie Wicks (2005): The fetal and infant mortality review coordinator at University of Chicago Medical Center, Wicks has promoted nursing and other health initiatives in Chicago and Africa

James “Kimo” Williams (2006): A Vietnam vet and professor of music at Columbia College, Williams founded the United States Vietnam Art Program, served as executive director of the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in the South Loop, and composed Buffalo Soldiers, a symphonic piece that honors the black cavalry regiments of the American West.

Oprah Winfrey (1994): The talk-show queen established Families for a Better Life, a program designed to help impoverished families escape their dependency on welfare.

Ephraim Wolfe (1999): After he was shot by a crazed white supremacist (who also murdered Ricky Byrdsong, the former basketball coach at Northwestern University), Wolfe, a sophomore at Ida Crown Jewish Academy, took a courageous stand against bigotry.

Chris Zorich (1994): To honor his late mother, Zora, the defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears founded the Chris Zorich Foundation, which sponsors a variety of youth programs, aids local shelters for women, provides college scholarships, and delivers groceries to needy families at Thanksgiving.