#12—STUDS TERKEL. For more photos, launch the gallery »
Chicagoans have been a foresighted folk as far back as 1673. That’s when Louis Jolliet, traveling through these parts with Père Jacques Marquette, encountered a marshy wasteland and instantly understood how a canal carved here would link the Atlantic Ocean with the Gulf of Mexico via the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Such ingenuity would remain an integral part of our character for the next 400-plus years—think George Pullman raising the city from the mud or the post-Fire architects lifting steel towers toward the sky. That trend continues, as this list of Chicago’s top visionaries from 1970 to 2010 attests. Don’t see eye to eye with our choices? Show us the error of our ways in the comments section below.
40. Richard J. Daley (1902–1976)
Though in decline, the Boss in his final years continued to shape the vibrant metropolis we recognize today, as most clearly evidenced by the Standard Oil Building (today’s Aon Center), the John Hancock, and the Sears (a.k.a. Willis) Tower. Read our 2008 story comparing Richard J. and his son, the current mayor »
39. Michael Kutza (b. 1940)
In 1964, Kutza founded the Chicago International Film Festival, the oldest competitive film fest in North America—which, in its 2010 season, screened more than 50 movies from 150 countries—and 46 years later, he continues to serve as its artistic director.
38. Andrew Mason (b. 1980)
The founder and chief executive of Groupon Inc. parlayed his concept of an online hub for collective daily deals into a $1.35 billion company serving 15 countries, which finally put Chicago on the Internet map. Read our August 2010 profile of Mason »
37. Joe Mansueto (b. 1956)
A bona fide innovator, Mansueto founded the mutual funds rating service Morningstar out of his Lincoln Park home in 1984 and made it a go-to source for investment data—making him a billionaire in the process.
36. Joan Weinstein (1935–2009)
Ultimo, Weinstein’s influential Oak Street boutique that began in 1969 as an offshoot of the men’s clothing store owned by her husband, Jerry, introduced Chicago women to chic international fashion from the likes of Giorgio Armani, Sonia Rykiel, and others.
35. Ping Tom (1935–1995)
Beginning in 1983, the businessman and civic leader—he was a founder of the Asian American Coalition of Chicago—spurred development of the 32-acre Chinatown Square, a residential and commercial development erected on reclaimed railroad land; pretty Ping Tom Memorial Park, at 19th Street and the Chicago River’s South Branch, celebrates the achievement he never lived to see reach fruition.
34. Jerry Adelmann (b. 1949) As a young man, he took the Illinois & Michigan Canal, the decaying manifestation of Jolliet’s 1673 vision, and reinvented it as an engaging 120-mile-long history lesson; today, as the president and CEO of Openlands, Adelmann and his cohorts fight to conserve urban green space, such as the new Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, a 77-acre treasure chest of woodlands, bluffs, and ravines on the North Shore. Read more about Adelmann, a recipient of Chicago’s 2010 Green Awards »
33. Paul Sereno (b. 1957)
Focusing his gaze on prehistory, the University of Chicago paleontologist identified more than two dozen new species of dinosaurs on five different continents.
32. Steven Levitt (b. 1967)
In his 2005 book Freakonomics (written with Stephen J. Dubner), Levitt, a University of Chicago professor and self-described “rogue economist,” upended conventional wisdom and the dispassionate world of statistical analysis by using data to solve the riddle of human behavior.
31. Dr. Quentin Young (b. 1923)
Chairman of medicine at Cook County Hospital from 1972 to 1981 and a political activist, Young worked as a fervent advocate for civil rights and health-care reform. Retired from private practice, he serves as the national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program.
Photograph: Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune
30. Dempsey Travis (1920–2009)
Chicago’s Renaissance man—he was an entrepreneur, an activist, and a prolific author—most famously knocked down racial barriers when, as a real-estate agent and mortgage broker, he helped members of the burgeoning black middle class buy and sell homes on the city’s South Side.
29. Raúl Raymundo (b. 1965)
A cofounder and the CEO of the 20-year-old Resurrection Project, Raymundo used money from six local Catholic churches to build an organization that revitalized the Pilsen, Little Village, and Back of the Yard neighborhoods.
28. Rich Melman (b. 1942)
In June 1971, Melman and his partner, Jerry Orzoff, opened R.J. Grunts, the Lincoln Park burger-joint– cum–salad-bar that would serve as the foundation for Lettuce Entertain You, the 70-plus restaurant conglomerate that forever changed Chicago’s dining habits. Read our profile of Melman »
27. Gene Siskel (1946–1999) and Roger Ebert (b. 1942)
Eternally joined at the thumbs, these dueling critics leaped from newsprint to television, along the way concocting a new manner of looking at movies while boisterously conveying their enthusiasms to generations of filmgoers. Read our definitive profile of Roger Ebert »
26. Del Close (1934–1999)
An actor and director, Close nurtured several generations of comics at The Second City and the iO Theater, including many future stars of Saturday Night Live; with his partner, Charna Halpern, Close perfected the Harold, a blueprint for improvisational comedy still employed by would-be wisecrackers.
25. Jeanne Gang (b. 1964)
Internationally celebrated for Aqua and with another outside-the-box Chicago skyscraper—Solstice on the Park—on the drawing board, Gang, with her thoughtful approach to urban design, has the potential to become a Daniel Burnham for the 21st century. Check out the Aqua and other great structures in our list of Top 40 Chicago buildings »
24. Dr. Henry Betts (b. 1928)
In 1963, when Betts arrived here from New York, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) was housed in an Ohio Street warehouse; today, driven by his leadership, it’s based in a state-of-the-art Streeterville tower and is universally recognized as the best treatment center of its kind in the country.
23. Dr. Todd Kuiken (b. 1960)
No one better exemplifies RIC’s mission than Kuiken, who led the institute’s successful efforts to devise the first prosthesis—a bionic arm—controlled by brain-generated signals. Read more about Kuiken’s work in his Chicagoans of the Year 2007 profile »
22. Leon Lederman (b. 1922)
As a Nobel laureate and the director (from 1979 to 1989) of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Lederman explicated the perplexing mysteries of particle physics. As a professor—at the University of Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology—and as a founder of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, he led a whole new generation of scientists toward the light.
21. Charlie Trotter (b. 1959)
Before Trotter opened his namesake Lincoln Park restaurant in 1987, did Chicagoans even have taste buds? Well, yes, but we could hardly take them out in public. Trotter changed all that, transforming the local dining scene into the world-class culinary destination it is today. Read more about Trotter, one of our 2008 Chicagoans of the Year »
20. Jerry Reinsdorf (b. 1936)
A baseball fan since his boyhood in Brooklyn (where he rooted for the Dodgers), Reinsdorf and his White Sox won a World Series crown; with Michael Jordan and the Bulls, he brought six—six!—NBA championships to Chicago.
19. Mary Zimmerman (b. 1960)
The wildly inventive theatre director has “collaborated” with some timeless talents—Leonardo da Vinci, Ovid, Homer, Proust, and Voltaire, among others—and garnered an armload of awards (including a 2002 Tony for Metamorphoses and a 1998 MacArthur “genius grant”) as she reimagined a wide variety of seemingly unstageable works for the stage.
18. Barack Obama (b. 1961)
Pairing soaring rhetoric, both on the podium and the printed page, with a pragmatic idealism, Obama rose from community organizer to president of the United States in fewer than 25 years—though the jury is still out on his ability to transform his vision into reality. Check out "About Obama," our collection of stories about the man who first appeared in our magazine more than a decade ago »
17. Guadalupe Reyes (1918–2000)
Frustrated by her inability to find aid for her severely disabled son, Reyes started the organizations Esperanza (“Hope”) and El Valor (“Courage”) to assist other children and adults with multiple handicaps. Her dying words: “Help people who cannot help themselves.”
16. Gordon Segal (b. 1938)
Fresh from their European honeymoon, Gordon Segal and his wife, Carole, opened the first Crate & Barrel on Wells Street in 1962, sparking an aesthetic revolution in Chicago’s kitchens and dining rooms—a metamorphosis that’s since gone nationwide, thanks to the company’s 160 stores.
15. Ardis Krainik (1929–1997)
The general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago from 1981 to 1997, Krainik put the financially ailing company back in the black, fired the notoriously unreliable Luciano Pavarotti, and concluded her career with a triumphant staging of Richard Wagner’s four-opera masterwork, Der Ring des Nibelungen. Brava!
14. Carlos Tortolero (b. 1954)
Tortolero’s splendid cultural center debuted in Pilsen in the 1980s as the Mexican Fine Arts Museum; today it’s called the National Museum of Mexican Art, a subtle name change that highlights the place’s continental reach.
13. John H. Johnson (1918–2005)
Assisted by his wife, Eunice (1916–2010), a fashion and cosmetics seer in her own right, Johnson promulgated African American news and culture with the monthly magazine Ebony (founded 1945) and the weekly Jet (1951).
12. Studs Terkel (1912–2008)
Boswell with a tape recorder, Studs prowled Chicago in his red-checkered shirt, elevating oral history to an art form as he celebrated the achievements of the well known and the unsung—many of whom he immortalized on his radio show and in his books.
11. Sir Georg Solti (1912–1997)
Music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1969 to 1991 and the all-time winner of the most Grammy Awards (31), Solti conducted Chicago’s symphony to the height of Parnassus, making it the toast of New York and Europe and beloved in its hometown.
10. Rev. Jesse Jackson (b. 1941)
Forget the demagoguery, self-aggrandizement, and catchy couplets—they were mere sidelights in a heartfelt civil rights campaign best exemplified by the two organizations (now fused into one) that he founded: Operation PUSH and the Rainbow Coalition.
9. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin (1928–1996)
Two works bookended Bernardin’s Chicago ministry: The Challenge of Peace (1983) pondered nuclear arms and landed Bernardin on the cover of Time, while his posthumous Gift of Peace contemplated death and redemption.
8. Bruce Graham (1925–2010)
Buttressed by Fazlur Khan, an ingenious engineer—shades of Adler and Sullivan!—Graham hoisted Chicago’s vaunted architectural tradition onto his shoulders and then thrust it into another stratosphere.
7. Harold Washington (1922–1987)
His early efforts as a boxer hardly prepared Washington, Chicago’s first African American mayor, for the brutal infighting of Council Wars—and his sudden death robbed him of the chance to advance his own agenda.
6. Milton Friedman (1912–2006)
In 1977, one year after winning the Nobel Prize in Economics, the flag bearer for free markets retired from the University of Chicago and decamped for San Francisco—but the work he’d done here would significantly influence government policy (most notably in the Reagan administration) around the world.
5. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1910–1995)
The University of Chicago astro-physicist and Nobel laureate could stare into deep space and detect white dwarfs and black holes—or, closer to home, discern that the disparate Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Newton were linked by their “quest . . . after the same elusive quality: beauty.”
4. Leo Melamed (b. 1932)
As the chairman (from 1969 to 1991) of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Melamed shifted the Merc’s focus from butter and eggs—its original commodities—to currency futures with the creation of the International Monetary Market, maintaining the city’s position as a financial powerhouse.
3. Saul Bellow (1915–2005)
Though he was born in Quebec and died in Massachusetts, Bellow saw Chicago as clearly as anyone; a Nobel laureate in literature, he recognized the city and its inhabitants for the crass, money-grubbing hog butchers they were, while also performing a feat of rare magic: He revealed that, deep down, they also had souls.
2. Oprah Winfrey (b. 1954)
In September 1986, two years after she landed in Chicago and transformed a third-rate talk show into a local hit, Winfrey went national, quickly vanquished Phil Donahue (the nation’s daytime king), and began her inexorable march toward becoming one of the most powerful, influential, and wealthiest women in the world. Read all about Oprah, including great moments in her TV history—and why her fans love her so much »
1. Richard M. Daley (b. 1942)
Whatever your perception of our six-term mayor—city savior, autocratic tyrant, or somewhere in between—no other person from 1970 to 2010 has more indelibly stamped the city with his own personal vision of what Chicago should, could, and would be. Read our bucket list for Daley’s remaining months, plus other stories about the mayor »