The 2013 Crawford Prize Recipient
Harrison I. Steans
The National Recreation Foundation presented the 2013 Robert W. Crawford Achievement Prize to Harrison I. Steans. Steans made extraordinary contributions to the Chicago area, and specifically to the community of North Lawndale.
Harrison Steans graduated from Princeton University in 1957 and has served in a number of executive business positions, including Chairman of NBD Corporation (1967 1988), Chairman of LaSalle National Bank (1973 1978), and currently Chairman of the Executive Committee of Financial Investments Corporation and Chairman of the Steans Family Foundation.
In 1986, the Steans family created the Steans Family Foundation to support their “I Have a Dream” program. This program sponsored a class of at-risk sixth graders and their families and supported them as they made their way through high school, family changes, and the difficult transition of leaving school. The Steans family drew on their experiences in understanding the challenges and difficulties faced by individuals and families in struggling communities and in 1995 decided to concentrate on the North Lawndale Community on Chicago’s west side in order to make a greater impact with the Foundation’s resources. North Lawndale has significant physical and cultural assets, but faced a range of urban ills, including high poverty and unemployment rates. The Steans’ Family Foundation work supports the idea that effective revitalization coupled with healthy lifestyle, education and recreational programs will help to improve the social and economic situation of the community of North Lawndale.
After the Foundation moved into North Lawndale, it worked to establish relationships within the community in order to build acceptance of the Foundation’s work in the area. Using a community-based approach, Foundation representatives met with a number of community members in order to better understand community problems and needs. One of the first collaborations involved creating the North Lawndale Learning Community (NLC) in partnership with over a dozen local schools. The Foundation also began providing a number of small grants to local organizations that supported youth activities, neighborhood beautification efforts, and block associations. Eventually this project developed into the Small Grants Initiative that continues to serve the area. Over the years, the Foundation has refined and expanded its programs, and continues to focus on high levels of community participation and capacity building. Three prime examples of the diverse scope of the Foundation’s involvement includes the development of a Charter High School, financial assistance toward the completion of research that benefits the community, and the support of special programming, particularly programs that support at-risk youth.
The Steans Family Foundation also supported North Lawndale’s first Charter High School, North Lawndale College Prep. The charter’s greatest strength has been to give students a high quality college preparatory education, social support, and challenging life experiences to help them stretch and grow. For example, through Phoenix Rising, students get summer recreational opportunities targeted to each grade level. Freshmen attend outdoor wilderness experiences in places like Colorado, where they are exposed to a drastically different environment and learn survival skills. Sophomores attend college summer programs, and juniors are placed in internships with major businesses, law firms, and other companies. Students also take College Prep for four years, which gives them a chance to explore college choices and develop insight into themselves and their community.
In 2008, the Steans Family Foundation also commissioned the Illinois Action for Children in order to complete a mapping project of all licensed early childhood programs in the North Lawndale community. Early childhood development programs can significantly improve the future success of children in school and teach them the importance of education and healthy lifestyle choices. Though resources are still limited, the Steans Family Foundation continues to seek out available stimulus funding to expand and develop more and better early childhood programs.
The Steans Family Foundation also supports the Steans Music Institute at Ravinia. Each summer, Ravinia fully funds 60–70 fellowships for the world’s most talented young professional musicians around the world. These Fellows receive one-on-one coaching with esteemed world-class faculty, including RSMI program directors. In addition to individual and ensemble study, the Fellows participate in masters’ classes with top performing artists. The classes are free and open to the public. Fellows also perform in headline concerts throughout the festival season.
Steans also was affiliated with other nonprofit organizations and served as a Life Trustee of DePaul University, Highland Park Hospital and Ravinia Festival. He also served as Trustee of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, the Carnegie Council of Ethics and International Affairs, the Chicago Humanities Festival, The Ounce of Prevention Fund and The Chicago Botanic Garden.
Steans and his family have made numerous contributions to youth-at-risk and have continued to support the improvement of healthy lifestyles for these youths and their communities. Therefore, it was a great honor to award Steans with the well-deserved 2013 Crawford Prize.