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Richard Chaifetz 0

The back story of Chaifetz’s $27M gift; plus Oscar Munoz, Desiree Rogers and the mayor’s ‘Bat Cave’

February 25th, 2018

Chicago businessman Richard Chaifetz and his wife, Jill Chaifetz, have donated $27 million to St. Louis University, his alma mater.

The back story of the gift is a doozy.

Richard Chaifetz is the founder and CEO of Chicago-based ComPsych Corp., the country’s largest provider of employee assistance programs.

Chaifetz is a pillar of the community who once made bid to buy the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. He’s successful and wealthy.

But that wasn’t always the case.

When he attended college, Chaifetz’s family missed a tuition payment that almost had him kicked out of school.

The young Chaifetz pleaded his case to university administrators.

“I said ‘I’m going to be successful and one day I’m going to pay the school back big time,'” he told me of that conversation.

Chaifetz worked odd jobs that summer to reimburse the school for the tuition payment.

Years later, in 2006, when he was well-secure in his career, Chaifetz decided to give back to the school in that “big way” he had planned.

He called the school about making a donation and was told to send a check or even consider donating $5,000 for a brick with his name on it (!).

After some back and forth, the school realized Chaifetz wasn’t just a regular donor–he was a biggie.

He and his wife donated $12 million that year.

Now comes an even larger gift. It’s all pretty amazing.

“I am incredibly grateful for all that my SLU education has done in preparing me for, and contributing to, my successes in life,” Chaifetz said in announcing the gift. “I look forward to engaging with the faculty, staff and students in the years ahead.”

SLU’s business school will be renamed the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business.


Oscar Munoz

UNITED IT STANDS. Talk about a turn-around. Just a few months ago, Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines, took heat for not responding quickly enough when a passenger was dragged off a plane.

Now the Chicago-based airline is a leader among corporations taking a stand against the National Rifle Association in wake of the high school massacre in Parkland, Fla.

United announced over the weekend that it was ending a discount agreement with the NRA. “United is notifying the NRA that we will no longer offer a discounted rate to their annual meeting and we are asking that the NRA remove our information from their website,” the airline tweeted. Delta airlines and other companies around the country made similar decisions.

The pro-gun lobby called it “a shameful display of political and civic cowardice.”

Others see it as smart business to take a stand–especially in an era of younger customers who aren’t afraid to go viral with their concerns.

United’s Twitter feed exploded with responses. Not 48 hours after its announcement, its tweet had 340,000 “likes” and 18,000 comments, including plenty that are critical.

Actress Debra Messing is a supporter, tweeting, “THANK YOU @united for ending your partnership with the @NRA. You are in the right side of history.”

Munoz hasn’t gone public yet about the decision to cut ties with the NRA, but he may March 21, when he headlines an event in Chicago for the Executives Club.

The topic is “Landing a Long-Term Strategy.” Will that include a discussion about corporate responsibility and how companies respond to consumers and activist shareholders wanting a change in direction?

Ask event moderator Rob Arning, the vice chairman and U.S. Markets Leader at KPMG.


Ben Bornstein

OVER AND OUT. Ben Bornstein is out as CEO and executive director of Imerman Angels, a Chicago-based nonprofit that matches cancer survivors with patients who have identical diagnoses.

“I came in to help the organization to streamline expenses, develop its program more rapidly and increase the experience level of the team. And I think we’ve done that,” he told me. Bornstein also had a strong sense of the organization’s goals, having been a three-time cancer survivor.

He remains on the organization’s board and is actively exploring impact investment opportunities. Bornstein continues to run Prospero Capital Management (his own financial firm) and is looking to lend his management and financial expertise to new organizations—perhaps even outside of Chicago, he said. That would be a big loss for the city.


Washington and Rogers

FASHION THIS. Desiree Rogers’ name popped up in the Hollywood Reporter the other day in an interview with Kerry Washington, the star of ABC’s “Scandal.”

Washington, who plays Washington, D.C. fixer Olivia Pope, was honored at the Costume Designer Guild Awards in New York. In an interview, she described how she and designer Lyn Elizabeth Paolo developed her character’s fashion sense.

Remember, when the show started, powerful women were still dressing in suits that looked a lot like menswear.  “We were conscious of not having Olivia do that, of having her not be afraid to bring her whole self into the room. That meant bringing her identity as a woman and her femininity and believing if she brought her full agency into the room, that it didn’t disempower her. So we looked for clothes that had a waist, that didn’t take away from my female form. And there were women in Washington at the time — like Michelle Obama and Desiree Rogers — who were developing this identity, women who were saying, ‘I can be smart and fashion-forward, I can be brilliant and fabulous, and I’m not going to leave any part of myself outside the room for your comfort,'” Washington said.

Rogers was White House Social Secretary when “Scandal” started and now is board chair of Choose Chicago.

She traveled to Los Angeles before the NBA All-Star game to take notes with staff about Chicago’s 2020 All-Star game. And she recently attended the “Art + Soul” fundraiser in Miami for the Fund for African American Art.


THE MAYOR’S CAVE. I covered some of the events related to the NATO Summit that was held in Chicago back in 2012. And in the course of that, I traveled on the secret passage that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has dubbed “The Bat Cave.”

You can read about it here in a feature package in Chicago magazine about secret places. It’s a fun piece.


GALA GLAD-HANDING. There’s less than a month until election day in Illinois, which means candidates are out in full force pressing the flesh. There’s no better place to do that than a charity fund-raiser–lots of people all in one place. And everyone’s so nice!

The gubernatorial candidates were out on the town Saturday greeting folks at fund-raisers. J.B. Pritzker worked the room at the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum’s Gentle Warrior Awards gala in the Parkway Ballroom on south King Drive. And Chris Kennedy attended the Asian American Coalition of Chicago’s Lunar New Year celebration at thy Hyatt Regency O’Hare.


DON’T READ INTO THIS. Yes, that was former Police Chief Garry McCarthy and his wife, attorney Kristin Barnette, at the launch party for Mika Stambaugh’s new PR firm, The MAS Ink.

But don’t read anything into that. “He was there as a friend!” she told me. “Political campaigns aren’t my jam,”  Stambaugh said, referring to recent headlines that McCarthy might run for mayor.

Stambaugh points out her firm focuses on nonprofits and other not-so-political organizations.

She and McCarthy met in 2012 during the NATO Summit. Stambaugh was a CBS News reporter back then and interviewed McCarthy as he walked the streets surrounding McCormick Place, where the summit was held.

“I talked to him a lot and we just kept in touch after that,” Stambaugh says. “That’s not always the case when you leave a job.”

Stambaugh worked as a spokeswoman in City Hall and has since gone on to start her own PR firm. McCarthy has been putting his name out there as a possible candidate for mayor.

Her launch party was held at Blanc Gallery in Bronzeville.


Chicago Party Aunt

CHICAGO PARTY AUNT. I grudgingly agreed not to reveal the identity of Chicago Party Aunt, the dirty-mouthed Chicago mom who’s become a popular voice on Twitter.

I decided it was more fun to believe, so I interviewed “her” in character for a fun feature in Chicago magazine. You can read it here.

She shared her love of dive bars and a bit of her family life. “I’m happily married to my husband Kurt who works for Chicago Street and San in the pothole division,” she says. “I’ve lost count of what number husband he is but I’ve never been more in love. He proposed to me in Section 210 at Solider Field. He hid the ring in a brat. Most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me. Kurt supports me in all that I do and gives me a hall pass for any major- or minor-league athlete.”


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