Thanks and Introduction
John, thanks so much for that lovely introduction.
You and I have had many opportunities to work together in the nearly two decades we've known each other, and I've enjoyed each and every one of them.
Whether it's been our work in support of Chicago's Lab School where our children are students, or our efforts on the Obama presidential campaign, you're a, rock solid partner.
I know I can always count on you.
I admire your leadership of Ariel Capital Management, but even more importantly, I value your wisdom and your friendship.
It's truly an honor to share this podium with you.
I'd like to thank the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago for selecting me as the 2007 recipient of your Distinguished Leadership Award.
I'm honored and humbled to join a list of recipients that contains so many of our city's most respected and civic and business leaders-John, of course-and others such as John Nichols, Norm Bobins and Pat Ryan, just to name a few.
My father and mother always emphasized to me that the only two things I could truly own in life were my education and my reputation.
I've always taken his advice to heart.
Like most of you here this evening, I've been blessed with the gift of an outstanding education.
I've worked hard to put that gift to the best use possible…by conducting my business affairs with integrity and by using the opportunities afforded me to leave the world a better place.
So while those values are their own reward, it's also deeply gratifying to be recognized by Harvard, an institution where education and reputation are truly unsurpassed. Thank you so much.
Even with my student days long behind me, and frankly I am in complete denial to think that it was 30 years ago I started college, Harvard continues to enrich my life and challenge my intellect today in a way that's just as exhilarating as it was when I was on campus.
I've been privileged to serve on Harvard's Board of Overseers since 2001.
As Harvard Alumni, you gave me a real gift in electing me to this body; it is a privilege to work with the senior leadership of the University, the Corporation and 29 of the most diverse, committed, thoughtful individuals I have ever met, my fellow members of the Board of Overseers, on the vast myriad of issues facing Harvard. I can't thank you enough for enriching my life with the friendships I have made with the two Harvard alumnae that represent us on the Board of Overseers.
Finally, I want to express my appreciation for being the first woman to receive this prestigious award.
While there are many talented women leaders in American business today, there are still far too few.
As the first Pritzker woman to assume a leadership role in our family's business, believe me when I tell you I've learned a lot about what it takes to be successful in a man's world!
My Harvard education has been a keystone of my preparation to assume this role, and to this day, I draw upon the training I received there.
So in accepting this award from you, I renew my commitment to serve as a role model in paving the way for young women to assume more leadership positions in business.
I challenge you and your organizations to do the same.
Transition: Leadership = Doing the Right Things
As I reflect on the honor you've given me this evening…and as I consider those qualities that I feel are the most important components of a good leader…I'm reminded of something the late author and management consultant Peter F. Drucker once said:
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
'Doing the right things' means many different things to me as a business leader:
It means guiding with compassion and making the well being of our employees our first priority.
It means an absolute insistence on ethical behavior and financial transparency.
It means protecting our customers and doing well by our shareholders.
And, to paraphrase Leviticus Chapter 19, doing the right thing means that when 'we reap the harvest of the land, we should not reap all the way to the corners of the field, or gather the gleanings of the harvest.'
This ancient ideal of commitment to the community has long been a core value in my family, and it's an essential component of what I think makes a good leader.
So tonight, I have been asked to share some of my personal observations with you about this particular aspect of leadership…commitment to the community.
Pritzker family story
First, let me tell you a story about how this commitment was born in my family.
When my great-grandfather Nicholas arrived in Chicago in 1881 from Czarist Russia, he was 10 years old and dirt poor.
But hunger is a great motivator and Nicholas was a resourceful young man.
He taught himself English by reading the newspaper and by studying dictionaries.
To make ends meet, he sold newspapers, was a tailor's assistant and even became a licensed pharmacist.
He also attended law school at night, received his JD at age 30, and opened a law practice in 1902.
This practice became the foundation of a family law firm that eventually employed Nicholas's three sons, which ultimately diversified into corporate and real estate investing.
Today, I'm very privileged to be one of the custodians of my great-grandfather's legacy.
But inside this tale of immigrant success is hidden a gesture that forever shaped my family's approach to supporting the community.
Not long after his arrival in America, Nicholas became so ill that he was sent to Michael Reese Hospital.
After he was nursed back to health…and before he was discharged from the hospital…someone performed a small kindness:
They gave him a coat.
I can only imagine the impact this gesture must have had on a young immigrant boy…but his subsequent actions proved that Nicholas never forgot.
Once my great-grandfather had established himself as a lawyer, he began a long tradition of supporting Michael Reese Hospital.
Years later, he even built a home for the elderly.
Nicholas's commitment to the community began with a seed of personal gratitude for what his new community had done for him.
As subsequent generations of our family took root in Chicago, we were fortunate to thrive in this city.
We've always been deeply grateful for the economic success this country and our "city of big shoulders" have afforded us, and as you might imagine, we have especially warm feelings toward Chicago.
The model for sharing this deep affection was created by those who preceded me- my parents Don and Sue, my Uncles Jay and Bob, my Aunt Cindy - and it continues in my generation.
We work very hard to perpetuate the philanthropic legacy that's been entrusted to us…to emulate our founder's example of "not reaping to the corners of our field."
Doing right in our generation
While my great-grandfather's motivation to give back to his community still moves me today, one of the challenges I and my contemporaries face is how to perpetuate this legacy in ways that are relevant to us in our own generation.
Over the years, my family has been very fortunate to be able to support a variety of initiatives in Chicago, focusing primarily on education and on institutions that benefit our entire city.
But as individuals…blessed with both the opportunity and the responsibility of being leaders in our community…we must find our own answers to the following challenges:
How do we 'do the right thing?'
How do we go about allocating the 'gleanings of the harvest?'
And how do we ensure that this legacy of leadership is passed on to the next generation?
To address these questions, I'm going to tell you a bit of what my husband Bryan and I are doing in our immediate family.
But first, I want to share one characteristic of how individual Pritzker family members approach our philanthropic efforts.
You might be interested to learn that for the most part, we do the vast majority of the research and due diligence on these interests on our own, without staff. Whether it is Gigi at the Children's Museum, Tom at the Art Institute or Margot at the Council on Global Affairs.
The reason we tend not to delegate this work to others can be summed up by the tired but true cliché of "You get out of something what you put into it."
Becoming intimately involved with an issue creates personal connections with our city that are enormously rewarding.
We cherish these connections, and know we'd never develop them if our involvement consisted of a meeting in which some advisor presented us with six ideas and said, "Here, check one."
So when it comes to my own family, my husband Bryan and I perpetuate this legacy of engagement by charging our children Don and Rose to engage in our community in ways that resonate with them personally.
Our kids are required to make an annual contribution of 25% of their allowance to an organization they've researched and selected on their own.
In 2006, here's what they decided:
Don sent his contribution to a place he had volunteered, Inspiration Café, a nonprofit organization in Uptown that assists men and women in exiting homelessness with dignity and respect.
Rose, in her love of animals, sent her support to PAWS, which stands for "Pets Are Worth Saving." PAWS is Chicago's largest no-kill humane organization.
Don and Rose, if one of the definitions of leadership is 'doing the right thing,' the two of you are well on your way to carrying on your great-great-grandfather's legacy.
Your father and I are very proud of you!
Penny & Bryan's commitment
When it comes to Bryan and me, we're honored and delighted to participate in broader Pritzker family commitments to a number of Chicago institutions.
But recently, we've also been challenging ourselves to articulate our own personal approach to community service and philanthropy.
One idea that appeals to us is to become involved in projects in their infancy that, when leveraged, have the potential to create long-term and systemic change.
We're currently pursuing two exciting initiatives that have a Harvard connection.
And just as Don and Rose have personalized their commitment to community by embracing specific issues that resonate strongly with them…homelessness and animal welfare…Bryan and I are trying to do the same with these two projects.
Let me tell you about them.
The first concerns the problem of childhood obesity.
You've all heard the statistics:
In the United States, nine million children over the age of six are obese.
I'm not going to do a deep dive into the enormous economic and public health implications of this alarming trend.
But in addition to its national significance, the issue of obesity resonates very close to home with me.
During his lifetime, my father Donald struggled and lost his life to the health problems associated with obesity..
We all know that keeping active is as important to weight management as watching your diet, and Bryan and I are personally committed to making fitness as part of our lives…albeit on different levels.
Bryan just completed an Ironman triathlon this summer…
…I just try to do something athletic each day.
So it was both our personal connection and broader concern with the obesity issue that led to the Donald & Sue Pritzker Nutrition & Fitness Initiative, named in memory of my parents.
I have to tell you that this was Bryan's idea.
He came up this concept as the two of us were paddling a two-person kayak down the Salmon River in Idaho during a family rafting trip.
I guess you never know when inspiration will strike!
Anyway, here's the idea:
We wanted to make a significant gift to Harvard on the occasion of my 25th reunion in 2006.
Bryan is a physician, and also served on the visiting committee of the Harvard School of Public Health.
The Dean of the school and his colleagues proposed, a two-part collaboration.
The first is a partnership between the National YMCA and the School of Public Health
The project includes a three-year pilot research program, lead by Dr. Steven Gortmaker from the Harvard School of Public Health. The project is evaluating whether we can fight childhood obesity by changing kids' behavior patterns.
The initiative is an after-school nutrition and exercise program designed by Harvard and implemented by the YMCA, which has extensive after school programs all across the country.
The program involves 675 kids in grades K-4, and includes educating their parents so they can reinforce good habits at home. The goal is to collect evidence that after school physical activity and better eating can improve health.
The second part of this initiative recognizes that part of combating childhood obesity requires supporting those who are on the front lines of this epidemic.
By supporting doctoral research in the area of childhood obesity, we hope to bring as many bright minds to bear on solving this problem in the years ahead.
We're really excited about this program for three reasons:
First, if the research data prove that this behavioral approach achieves results, it has the potential to be a catalyst for long-term and systemic change, which is very important to Bryan and me.
Second, the program is scalable on a national level through the YMCA network, which serves over 9 million children every year.
And third, this program is attracting other partners who want to use this data to affect policy change in the area of childhood obesity.
We are hopeful about the prospects for these efforts. Stay tuned.
The second way in which Bryan and I are personalizing our approach to community service and philanthropy is to focus on public education reform in Chicago.
This has been a pivotal concern for us for many years.
My family's legacy is built upon my great-grandfather's understanding that education was the key to improving his life in America.
I'm sure that every one of you here would agree that an educated society is the foundation upon which our democracy and successful commerce are built.
But providing a quality education takes strong leadership.
It's our belief that qualified principals are absolutely essential to improving our public schools.
Here in Chicago, this challenge is acute; our public school system needs 80-100 new principals every year.
Where do we find these individuals?
The good news is that efforts to train new principals are already underway in our city.
I've been involved with this issue as Vice Chair of the Chicago Public Education Fund.
Over the past 5 years, The Fund has launched 2 principal training programs; one run by New Leaders for New Schools and the other run by UIC.
But even these two programs, operating at capacity, are not meeting the demand.
Because big challenges require bold solutions, Bryan and I are supporting a new initiative that brings together:
The Chicago Public School system;
The Chicago Public Education Fund;
The Harvard School of Education,
and Teach for America, which was looking to expand its reach beyond bringing teachers into schools to include leadership training as well.
Together with these wonderful partners, we collectively conceived of The Principal Pipeline Program.
Here's how it works:
The program brings teachers from Teach for America to Harvard for a year during which they earn their Masters' degree in education leadership. While in Cambridge, they complete 400 hours of a residency program.
During the next three years, these graduates return to Harvard each summer for additional training.
They're also assigned a mentor at Harvard who will support them as they go from being a novice principal to an experienced professional.
In exchange for this training and support, participants in the program commit to serving as a principal in a Chicago public school for 5 years, the first year of which they a principal intern.
We currently have 2 students in the program, and our joint goal is to produce at least 10 new principals a year for our city.
As is the case with the Nutrition and Fitness Initiative, this leadership program is scalable.
If the pilot is successful, we're excited to think that it could become exactly what its title suggests-a pipeline for creating qualified principals for urban public school districts not just in Chicago, but across the entire country.
With both these initiatives-on obesity and principal training-Bryan and I are continually energized by the enthusiasm and commitment of many dedicated partners.
It's really our privilege to be part of these exciting programs that have the prospect of making systemic change in two very different fields.
Among the graduates of Harvard's Class of 1916 was a man named Harold Seymour.
He's considered by many to be the father of modern fundraising, and he was a real leader in every sense of the word.
Harold Seymour devoted his career to encouraging others to 'do the right thing' by making commitments to their community.
After serving as a pilot in World War I, he held a position at the Harvard Endowment Fund.
While he was there, he helped launch a fundraising campaign that raised over $15 million dollars.
And in 1966, he wrote a book called Designs for Fundraising that fundraising professionals still regard as a definitive resource over 40 years after it was first published.
I'd like to close my remarks this evening by sharing one of Harold Seymour's observations about leadership.
It does a beautiful job of summarizing what this very special award means to me.
Leaders are the ones who keep faith with the past…
keep step with the present…
and keep the promise to posterity.
My great-grandfather Nicholas probably didn't know that he and Harold Seymour were contemporaries.
But in the way they lived their lives…in the way they led by committing themselves to their communities…they had much in common.
I'm deeply honored to be recognized by all of you tonight, and I'm inspired by Harold Seymour's words.
I hope that I will always:
'Keep faith with the past'…by honoring the legacy of my family…
'Keep step with the present'…by doing what Bryan and I can to help solve today's challenges…
and 'Keep the promise to posterity'…by teaching our children that there is no greater blessing in life than to share the 'gleanings of our harvest' with others.
Thank you very much.