Foundation Honors Award Recipients
Award for High Impact Philanthropy
Dr. Kenneth C. and Ellen Chessick
This coming fall, for the first time ever, NIU high jumpers will have a new pit to land in; the entire baseball team will practice together under one roof; and the football team will train without the worries of sub-zero weather.
All these gifts to NIU student-athletes started with one game-changing donation from Dr. Kenneth C. and Ellen Chessick when they made the $3 million leadership, naming gift to launch the campaign for NIU’s indoor practice facility. The gift is the largest ever made to NIU athletics and the second-largest ever given to the university.
“The Award for High Impact Philanthropy recognizes a single gift that has a transformational impact at Northern, and that’s a great definition of the gift that Ken and Ellen Chessick have given NIU,” says Michael Malone, president of the NIU Foundation. “It’s a gift that has changed minds, moved people, and brought a project from planning to reality.”
Construction is moving full speed ahead on the 80,000-plus square foot building on the north side of the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center. The climate-controlled venue will provide a much-needed area for all Huskie student-athletes to train in during the winter months and throughout the year.
“The Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center was a huge step forward for our athletics program, and now the next huge step is the Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center,” says John Peters, NIU president. “This facility is going to keep our athletics program, and our university, on a national stage.”
Dr. Kenneth C. Chessick obtained his M.D. from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1968, and his J.D. from the NIU College of Law in 1984. He is a trial lawyer, a general surgeon, and the CEO and chairman of the board of Restaurant.com, a major internet marketing company benefitting consumers and restaurants nationwide. He is also a member the NIU College of Law Board of Visitors as well as the NIU Foundation Board of Directors. Since its founding in 1984, his law firm, the Law Office of Kenneth C. Chessick, M.D., has achieved record verdicts at trial and settlements in excess of $100 million.
Ellen Chessick earned her bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago and holds an M.B.A. in finance from DePaul University. A financial manager whose volunteer service for NIU includes co-chairing the NIU Foundation’s Red & Black Gala, Chessick, along with her husband, is a native of Chicago and an ardent Huskie fan.
“Ken and Ellen have a strong desire to help students achieve their fullest potential,” says John Castle, retired NIU Foundation board member and lifelong friend and donor to the university. He adds, “The Chessicks are an inspiration to others when it comes to directing a gift that has the greatest possible impact for the most NIU students.”
Award for Lifetime Philanthropy
Thomas and Shirley Scott
As one of the first students to accept a hood as a newly minted doctor of education at NIU in 1975, Thomas Scott was determined to go out and make a difference in the world of education. In the four decades since, he and his wife, Shirley Klein Scott, have done just that as teachers, administrators, and generous philanthropists.
“The lifetime philanthropy award at Northern recognizes significant and sustained giving over a period of time, and Tom and Shirley Scott are the perfect example of that pattern of giving,” says Michael Malone. “Over the years, they have contributed to several of the university’s major priorities.”
When the university launched the campaign to bring an alumni center to campus, the Scotts stepped up as leadership donors, earning them a spot in the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center Circle of the Seal. Over the years, they have also provided generous scholarship support for College of Education students. In 1999, they established the Thomas and Shirley Klein Scott Endowed Scholarship, a fund that has since produced scholarships for more than 16 aspiring teachers.
Tom Scott earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from George Williams College and a CAS from the University of Chicago before earning his Ed.D. from NIU. After serving 35 years in the educational arena, he entered the world of real estate. He is currently with Coldwell Banker in Glen Ellyn.
Shirley Klein Scott earned a bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University and a master’s degree in elementary education from Elmhurst College. She is a retired teacher with a 34-year legacy of impact on students’ lives in Franklin Park, Lombard, and Elmhurst.
“The Scotts’ pattern of giving demonstrates a complete understanding of the mission of NIU,” says Malone. When he made his leadership gift, Thomas Scott said: “To me, NIU is the open door to knowledge providing a learning environment for all who enter into the democratic world and free choice.”
Thanks to the Scotts’ legacy of giving to NIU, that door will remain open for generations of students for years to come.
Award for Volunteer Service
When Grant Simmon, ’00, isn’t coordinating events like Lollapalooza, the Hangout Music Festival, or President Obama’s inauguration, he’s setting the stage for an event that’s a little closer to home, and his heart: the NIU Foundation Red and Black.
He says each year’s event is his way of giving a gift to his alma mater. That gift has earned him this year’s NIU Foundation Award for Volunteer Service. Simmon says he enjoys making NIU students, faculty, and standout philanthropists shine. So much so, that he has volunteered as technical producer for the Red and Black, the NIU Foundation’s annual showcase of the university, since 2009.
Like all of Grant’s shows, the Red and Black is a big job, one that requires hundreds of hours of planning, set design, staging, lighting, audio engineering, and rehearsals. Everyone involved agrees that having a pro like Simmon around has improved the caliber of the event. “It’s wonderful to have Grant’s expertise planning the program, and it’s such a relief knowing that the program will educate and entertain,” says Ellen Chessick, Red and Black committee co-chair. Fellow co-chair Jeff Yordon agrees. “We took a gigantic leap forward when we got Grant to volunteer as our technical guru. His time and talent really need to be recognized.”
Simmon was born and raised in Bourbonnais, Illinois, and graduated from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School before earning his B.F.A. at NIU. His parents, Jaymie, ’70, and Harry, ’69, Simmon, are longtime supporters of the university as donors and volunteers. In fact, as former co-chairs of the Red and Black committee, the couple built the Red and Black show template that Grant uses today.
“Whatever I could give financially to Northern right now would surely pale in comparison with what I bring to the table with my passion,” he explains. “My mom and dad always taught me that you need to give people an opportunity to give. NIU provided my opportunity to give, and I hope my work creates opportunities for others to do the same.”