President’s Letter

Art Institute of Chicago ▲

President’s Letter
from 2021 Annual Report

Since its inception, the Foundation’s Board has recognized the importance of supporting basic science research. While the aim of this kind of curiosity-driven research is to narrow fundamental gaps in scientific knowledge, often these advances can translate into practical applications. This was clearly demonstrated by the decades of mRNA research resulting in COVID-19 vaccines being developed in record time.

Beyond medical research, the Foundation’s Board has maintained its strong commitment to supporting basic research in the physical sciences. In 2021, the Foundation awarded a second cohort of three Brinson Prize Fellowships. These prestigious fellowships are designed to prioritize early career scientists who are likely to chase bold ideas and be innovative, creative and nimble in their research. These three- to five-year grants in astronomy, cosmology and astrophysics are intentionally broad in the subfields they support and are spread across U.S. institutions.  More details can be found on page 23 of the 2021 Annual Report.

The unpredictability of the pandemic significantly affected many of the Foundation’s grantees.  In particular, the continued need to offer virtual and hybrid programming along with understaffing affected program participation and outcomes. Staffing shortages have been especially problematic for nurses and other medical practitioners, without there being a real end in sight. In response to this turbulent time, the Foundation has tried to provide greater stability to grantees by awarding more multi-year grants, an acknowledged best practice in philanthropy. While we have granted multi-year support in the past, especially in our Scientific Research priority area, for the first time these multi-year awards are identified within the grants listing in the 2021 Annual Report.

Another change in the presentation of grants in this Report, is the identification of Endorsed Institutions. An augmentation of the Endorsement category (see page 25), these Institutions are the civic, cultural and scientific pillars of our communities and are regarded by our Board as playing a vital role as a part of the fabric of our city. Those Endorsed Institutions that receive more than one grant from the Foundation have their cumulative 2021 awards listed on page 12.

The ongoing period of uncertainty makes it more imperative than ever that the Foundation continues to listen to its grantees who are on the ground working directly in communities. We remain open to your input and are grateful to be supporting the efforts of such impactful organizations in their endeavors to positively contribute to society.

Christy Uchida