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Richard Driehaus

by Virginia Mullery

Meet Richard H. Driehaus, Chicago born and bred—St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School and DePaul University. Driehaus, 69, is the founder, chairman and chief investment officer of Driehaus Capital Management, a highly successful company that currently manages more than $8 billion dollars in assets. In 2000, he was named to Barron's all-century team of the 25 individuals identified as the most influential within the mutual fund industry over the past 100 years.

Richard Driehaus, Catholic philanthropist
Richard H. Driehaus, one of Barron's most influential people in the mutual fund industry during the last 100 years.

Driehaus once said in a speech at DePaul that his trading career began as a boy when he used his earnings from a newspaper route to buy and sell semi-rare coins. But this multi-faceted man is so much more. He is an investor in people, in the preservation of neighborhoods and architecture and places of worship, in the arts and, most recently, in Catholic Extension, which helps missions in remote and underresourced dioceses of the United States.

Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension, who has known Driehaus for a long time, said, "Richard Dreihaus is wonderful—warm hearted, witty, intelligent and challenging."

Among the many projects and beneficiaries funded by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Richard H. Driehaus Trusts since 1983 are Old St. Patrick Church restoration; various endowments at DePaul University; high schools, including his alma mater and Christo Rey Jesuit High School; an initiative sponsored by South Shore Bank to dollar-match low income families' savings plans.

Driehaus is very interested in historical preservation and the arts, believing them to "provide much-needed balance to people's busy lives." Among the groups he has supported are the Pegasus Players, Trinity Irish Dance Co., Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and the Hubbard Street Dance Co. Three years ago, he completed the restoration of a historic Chicago mansion built in the late 1800s, which now houses his museum for period decorative arts, including furniture and stained glass. He has sponsored design competitions for the gardens in Millennium Park and the Caldwell Lily Pool in Lincoln Park. One of his most unusual gifts was to St. Xavier University. He donated Gilhooley's Grande Saloon, along with the entire shopping center in which it is located, to the school, with the request that they establish a hospitality curriculum for students to learn how to run food and drink establishments as well as financial responsibility.

Recently, Senior Connection put some questions to Driehaus (rhymes with "tree house") about his philanthropy and his philosophy of giving, which he said is influenced by his "Catholic education, faith and heritage." Here, we share his answers with you.

SC: You recently said, "A lot of money is wasted on compassion." What do you mean by that?

RHD: I certainly believe compassion is important. But I feel that donors should ask more questions about the effectiveness of organizations. For example, how what the group spends matches their mission, how successful is their fundraising, how well are people being served? Without effectiveness in governance and management, organizations struggle to make good on compassion.

SC: What should the ordinary people be doing to make sure their donations are not wasted?

RHD: I have hired staff to do the legwork. I guess my advice to others would be to check where your donation is going by looking up Web sites, attending the organizations' programs, asking for advice from others who have given to the groups you're interested in. The 990 tax forms, which nonprofits are required to file with the IRS, are public and sometimes it might be good to give to larger regranting organizations who have already done the research, such as the United Way or Catholic Charities.

SC: You have issued a challenge grant to Catholic Extension (For the second straight year, Driehaus will match contributions of the first 500 people who donate $1,000.) Why?

RHD: I remember as a child my mother subscribed to Extension magazine. I asked her what it was for and she said it is important for everyone to have a safe place to worship. I share Catholic Extension's belief that service to communities that suffer from a lack of resources is not only fulfilling a responsibility but is in America's self-interest. A country is judged by how it cares for its most disadvantaged.

The work Catholic Extension has done for over 100 years is essential to help remedy the problems in our families and communities. For the country to make a full recovery, we must have healthy communities. I rely on Catholic Extension's professional expertise to support organizations that know what they're doing and are accountable. I'm confident because of its track record that Catholic Extension is using my contribution to attain the most beneficial results for communities across America. I hope my challenge will encourage others to give knowing that their funds will be matched.

SC: You have also funded Partners for Sacred Places, and have made the statement "a church is a neighborhood's soul." Would you expand on that?

RHD: They do excellent work of training religious leaders of all faiths to take care of their buildings, from tending to stained glass to finding good contractors. We've learned from them how important these spaces are to the whole community from child care programs to battered women's services to soup kitchens. It is where people come whether they follow the religious faith or not, to get sustenance for body and spirit. Often, these buildings are the only thing left standing when redevelopment, abandonment or foreclosure is occurring.

SC: Your Foundation focuses on reviving city neighborhoods and conserving open space. What specific projects have you contributed to?

RHD: The Community Neighborhood Development Awards honor those architects and nonprofits that understand the importance of design in creating strong communities. Archeworks has projects to help communities and nonprofits with design issues. We have also funded Friends of the Parks, an advocacy group for open space in Chicago and the landscape school at Illinois Institute of Technology.

SC: What's new?

RHD: We've hired a new executive director for the Museum of Decorative Arts, who has ideas for visitor engagement. (The museum at 50 E. Erie St., Chicago, is open Tues. through Sat. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Phone: 312-482-8933, ext 21. Visit driehausmuseum.org).

We've also gotten more involved in journalism, particularly investigative reporting and government accountability. We'd like to see more consistent and stronger reporting of important issues that affect Chicago residents and have given grants to the Better Government Association, the Chicago News Cooperative and The Chicago Reporter, who are doing just that.

Summing up, Driehaus said, "St. Vincent de Paul, for whom my university was named, was the patron saint of charity—some say the founder of effective work for the poor. Way before I graduated from college, I learned from the nuns in St. Margaret's elementary school (School Sisters of Notre Dame) that it is part of our creed to help others, as important as learning arithmetic and reading."

Virginia Mullery is a freelance writer living in Gurnee, IL.


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