From left to right: Richard H. Driehaus, Dorothy Driehaus Mellin, Elizabeth Driehaus, and Chris Mellin
The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, founded in 1983 and as a family foundation in 1992, benefits individuals and communities primarily by supporting the preservation and enhancement of the built and natural environments through historic preservation, encouragement of quality architectural and landscape design, and conserving open space. The Foundation also supports the performing and visual arts, investigative reporting and government accountability and makes grants to organizations that provide opportunities for working families who remain poor.
Richard H. Driehaus is a very successful investment advisor who started his own firm in the late 1970s. Believing that those who are successful are obligated to give back to society, he formed a foundation in 1983 that was closely tied to his business. Then, in 1992, he hired Sunny Fischer as the director of a family foundation separate and distinct from his corporate or private giving.
The first few years of the Driehaus family foundation were experimental, but clearly Richard Driehaus’ interest, and the board’s, was in the arts and in the built environment, especially preserving beautiful old buildings and encouraging classical design in contemporary architecture.
After restoring an 1886 Henry Ives Cobb mansion as his corporate headquarters, Richard Driehaus was honored for the work by the local preservation society, now called Landmarks Illinois. The Foundation soon became involved in funding Landmarks’ work to save notable buildings in Chicago and Illinois, realizing that protecting buildings from demolition preserves not only fine-looking places, but also the history of a city, the character of neighborhoods, and the pride in place for its residents.
The other issue areas were added over the years. And since 2003, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has been generously funding the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. This fund provides general operating support to Chicago-area arts and cultural organizations with annual budgets of approximately $500,000 or less. The Driehaus Foundation administers this grant program.
Sunny Fischer has been the executive director of The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation since 1992, full-time since 1999. Previously, she was executive director of The Sophia Fund, one of the first private women’s foundations in the country, and a co-founder of The Chicago Foundation for Women. She has consulted for numerous other foundations including The Chicago Community Trust. At The Joyce Foundation, she developed two funding programs: to raise immunization rates in Chicago’s neighborhoods and to help more immigrants through the naturalization process. From 1997-1999, she directed the City of Chicago/Cook County Welfare Reform Task Force. Currently, she serves as volunteer board chair of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
Numerous organizations have honored her for her work in philanthropy, anti-violence activism, and anti-poverty efforts, including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (Professional Grantor Award), the Women’s Funding Network, and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, which gave her its “Point of Lightning” award. She also received the Perlman Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, the “Champion of the Public Interest” award from Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, and Keeper of the Vision award from the National Public Housing Museum. Recently, she was the subject of the “Remarkable Woman” column in the July 8, 2012 edition of the Chicago Tribune.
Born in New York City, Sunny received her B.A. in English from Hunter College of the City University of New York. Her Masters degree is from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Services Administration. Among her volunteer commitments are serving on the Boards of the National Public Housing Museum, the national Futures Without Violence and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. She also serves on the Visiting Committee for the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and Columbia College’s Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in Arts and Media. She is married to Dr. Paul Fischer, an emeritus professor of Political Science. They have two children, Max, a lawyer, and Nina, a social policy researcher, and three grandchildren.
Sunny bids a fond farewell as she completes her tenure at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation effective January 2, 2014.
Newly Appointed Executive Director
Kim Coventry is the newly appointed Executive Director of the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. She is currently working with Executive Director Sunny Fischer on the transition and will assume the post on January 2, 2014. A native of Northern California, she received a BA in Art History from the University of Redlands, and an MA in Art History (with a focus on ancient art) and Museum Studies from the University of Southern California. After moving to Chicago in 1986, Kim worked in museum administration at the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago. She later worked in the university’s department of rare books and manuscripts, where she oversaw exhibitions and conservation.
In 1992, Kim founded The Coventry Group, a consulting firm that worked with libraries, museums, foundations, colleges and universities, and individuals on a range of ambitious projects and initiatives, with a focus on writing and/or managing the realization of institutional histories, biographies, and organizing exhibitions and accompanying catalogues. Many of her clients were in the not-for-profit sector, including Crab Tree Farm Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Lake Forest College, the Newberry Library, the Museum of Science and Industry, Lake Forest–Lake Bluff Historical Society, the Museum of Science and Industry, Northwestern University, and WTTW.
Kim is author of Printing for the Modern Age: Commerce, Craft, and Culture in the R.R. Donnelley Archive (2006),The History of Crab Tree Farm (2012), and Cairo to Chicago: The Courtship and Marriage of Emily Birnie Smith and Harold Cornelius Smith (forthcoming). She coauthored Classic Country Estates of Lake Forest: Architecture and Landscape Design 1856–1940 (2003), and Walter Frazier: Frazier Raftery Orr & Fairbank Architects: Houses of Chicago’s North Shore, 1924–1970 (2008).
Kim serves on the board of the Poetry Foundation. She is also active in the Caxton Club of Chicago (whose exhibitions committee she chaired and publications committee she cochairs) and was past president of the Classical Art Society at the Art Institute of Chicago. She collects illustrated books of poetry and pursues her strong interest in the history of Chicago, especially of arts patronage and collecting.
Richard Cahan is a program officer with The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. He was hired in 2003 to run the MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture, which makes grants to small to medium-size arts groups in the Chicago area. The program is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He also assists in grants made directly by the Driehaus Foundation.
Born in Chicago, Richard attended public schools in the northern suburbs and received a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois. After graduation, he worked on weekly and daily newspapers as a reporter and editor.
From 1983 to 1999, he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times, primarily serving as the paper’s picture editor. He left to direct the Chicago In The Year (CITY) 2000 documentary project. Since then, he has written several books, includingRichard Nickel’s Chicago, Edgar Miller and the Handmade Home, The Lost Panoramas, and Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows. He is married to Cate Cahan, senior editor at Chicago Public Media, and lives in Skokie. They have four children and two granddaughters.
Peter Handler is a program director for The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. He has been working with the foundation since 1996. The Small Theater and Dance Company Funding Program is among his major responsibilities, though he reviews proposals from all program areas. For eight years, he ran the foundation’s Individual Artist Award Program.
Peter serves as vice president of the board of the national Grantmakers in the Arts. From 2006 – 2012, he served on the board of Free Street Theater, a youth theater company in Chicago. Before coming to the foundation, Peter directed an artist residency program at the Chicago Park District.
Born in Chicago, Peter grew up in Evanston and received his B.A. in History from Cornell University. He worked as a community organizer, as a political campaign organizer and taught playwriting at Columbia College Chicago. His plays have been produced in Chicago and San Francisco. He lives on Chicago’s northwest side with his wife and three children.
Kim Romero is the grants administrator and executive assistant to the executive director at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. She is responsible for managing the technical, legal, financial, and administrative components of the grantmaking process at the foundation and provides administrative support to the executive director.
Prior to joining the Driehaus Foundation, Kim worked in development at SOS Children’s Villages Illinois, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She received her B.A. in Art History from UCLA and is a member of the Grants Managers Network and a Board member of Chicago Women in Philanthropy. Kim lives in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood with her husband David.
Sejal Shah-Myers is a part-time program officer for The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. She works in several of the foundations’ program areas with a special emphasis in Economic Opportunity for the Working Poor and provides fundraising technical assistance to foundation grantees.
In addition to grantmaking she has worked as a fundraiser and consultant to nonprofits. She was most recently the director of corporate partnerships at the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. Before that she was manager of donor services at The Chicago Community Trust.
Sejal has a Masters degree in Nonprofit Administration from North Park University. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Management at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois and she enjoys reading, yoga and riding her tandem bike with her husband Matthew.
Jenny Shanks is a program associate at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. She reviews proposals from all program areas with an emphasis on requests from organizations working in the arts, historic preservation, and public interest design. She is also responsible for content on the foundation’s website, and assists with Foundation communications as well as with the administrative components of the grantmaking process.
Jenny has a Master’s Degree in Art Administration and Cultural Policy with a certificate in Historic Preservation from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. Jenny is a committee member of Chicago Women in Philanthropy and a volunteer firefighter. Originally from Canada by way of Texas; she lives in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood.