John McCarter to Receive Chicago Harris Dean’s Award

John W. McCarter Jr., an emeritus trustee at the University of Chicago who led the Field Museum for 16 years and currently chairs the board of regents of the Smithsonian Institution, will be honored with the second annual Harris School of Public Policy Dean’s Award at a June 5 ceremony.

The award honors a practitioner who has made invaluable contributions to public policy that are aligned with the vision of the school and its founder, Irving B. Harris. McCarter, a native Chicagoan and personal friend of Harris, is a longtime supporter of the school who joined the Visiting Committee of its forerunner, the Committee on Public Policy Studies, in the early 1970s. 

“John McCarter has exemplified the values we hold dear at Harris, exhibiting deep commitment to public service throughout his extraordinary career,” said Chicago Harris Dean Daniel Diermeier. “We believe in leaders who put evidence first, and I’m pleased to offer this year’s Dean’s Award to a leader who shares that perspective and inspires hope in its possibilities.”

“Public policy understanding is critical for a just society and thriving economy, ensuring the flow of research and intellectual creativity to inform practitioners in grappling with tough issues,” McCarter said. “My experience in federal budgetary stresses, creation of new state fiscal strategies, management of complex corporate and public purpose (not-for-profit) institutions, the related challenges of climate change in deforestation, ocean acidification and invasive species has been aided by the intellectual rigor of work coming out of places like the Harris School.”

McCarter graduated from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1960 and subsequently earned his MBA from Harvard. He began his career in the public policy arena and often found himself there throughout his life, whether working in business or devoting time to the many boards and committees on which he has served. His career in government includes a White House fellowship during the Johnson administration and four years as Illinois’ first budget director under Governor Richard B. Ogilvie.

McCarter served as senior vice president at Booz Allen & Hamilton Inc. and president of DeKalb Corporation. He also served on the board of directors for W.W. Grainger, Inc. and Pittway Corporation, among others.

In addition to his business career, McCarter devoted much of his life to education, the arts, culture and science. He is a trustee of the National Recreation Foundation and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1973, he joined the board of Channel 11 at Irving Harris’ behest and succeeded Harris as chair.

During his tenure as president and chief executive officer of the Field Museum from 1996 to 2012, McCarter raised the institution’s endowment from $135 million to over $300 million, greatly strengthening its financial position. He also invested $8 million on “Sue,” considered the largest, best-preserved and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever found and one of the museum’s main attractions for the last 15 years.

“John McCarter has done so much for so many in Chicago and around the world, and he has done it with such pure and exemplary motives, that there is no question about the appropriateness of most any recognition or award for his service,” said Dennis Keller, a University trustee and member of the Chicago Harris Visiting Committee. “By granting him this year’s Dean’s Award, Chicago Harris is rightly honoring a man whose visionary leadership and tireless devotion to public service benefit us all.”

Chicago Harris will also recognize two alumni at the awards ceremony, which will be held at the Mid-America Club in downtown Chicago.

Lisa Ellman, MPP/JD’05, will receive the 2015 “Rising Star” award, which recognizes outstanding alumni under the age of 40. Ellman, who previously served in senior positions at the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice, is a counsel at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP. Her work is instrumental in defining U.S. policies governing the domestic use of drones.

Hilarie Koplow-McAdams, AM’87, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award. She is chief revenue officer of New Relic, a San Francisco-based software analytics firm that helped solve problems related to the rollout of the federal website.

— Brian Wallheimer