SUPPORTING SOCIAL CONSIENCE
“When you have more than you need, it’s time to start giving back,” says Daniel Levin, AB’50, JD’53, paraphrasing his friend Irving B. Harris. In the early 1980s, Harris recruited Levin to join the Visiting Committee of the University’s Committee on Public Policy Studies. Since then Levin and his wife, Fay Hartog Levin, have seen the Committee become the Harris School of Public Policy and funded the school’s Daniel Levin Professorship. The couple has now invested in the next stage of Chicago Harris’ evolution, pledging $3 million in June toward the school’s future home, a proposed redesign of the 1962 Edward Durell Stone building at 1307 East 60th Street.
Chicago Harris “makes a big contribution to Chicago,” says Daniel, who founded Chicago’s Habitat real estate development firm and East Bank Club fitness facility. “Almost every aspect has an urban facet to it.” The Levins also appreciate that their gift will extend far beyond the city. Fay, former ambassador to the Netherlands (2009–11) who now sits on the board of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, is impressed with the school’s emphasis on finding “ways to engage meaningfully with students of other countries.”
Daniel has enjoyed watching Chicago Harris grow from “a very dedicated small school” into what he calls “the social conscience of the University.” The Levins felt inspired to help secure a home where that conscience can flourish.
Last May, financial leaders from U.S. metropolitan areas convened at Chicago Harris for the Spring 2014 Municipal CFO Forum. Over the course of two days, the CFOs came to a consensus: municipal bonds are essential for infrastructure investment nationwide. Penalizing banks for owning municipal bonds, they argued, hurts our cities, limits infrastructure investment and is not good public policy. A month later, a letter signed by CFOs of 18 of America’s largest cities was sent to the Federal Reserve, Treasury and FDIC, asking them to deem municipal bonds just as liquid as other securities, like corporate bonds and debt of foreign governments.
The letter hit its mark. In early September, the federal government expressed a willingness to treat certain municipal bonds as Level 2 Highly Qualified Liquid Assets – the rating the CFOs requested. Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo asked his staff to establish criteria for determining which municipal bonds would qualify. As the letter explained, the change would let banks count the bonds among assets the Fed considers liquid, making the investments more attractive to banks. The CFOs stressed that the current, more stringent rule makes it more costly for cities to borrow, wasting tax dollars on higher costs of capital instead of delivering public services and infrastructure.
“Municipal bonds have built this country,” says Lois Scott, CFO of Chicago. “Loans to foreign governments like Spain, Italy or Botswana should not get better treatment under the new rules than financing for our nation’s schools, roads and parks.”
Chicago Harris and Mexico’s National Council on Science and Technology (CONACYT) have signed a five-year agreement to offer full scholarships for up to 15 Mexican nationals per year who have been admitted to Harris. The jointly funded fellowships will advance CONACYT’s mission to promote scientific and technological innovation while helping to ensure that Chicago Harris remains a top destination for future policy leaders from Mexico.
The agreement is part of a broad partnership with the Mexican government that also includes a commitment to collaborate on projects in the health and energy sectors. “It consolidates the already strong relationship we have with policy leaders in Mexico and provides a platform for greater mutual benefit,” says Chicago Harris Professor Colm O’Muircheartaigh, who helped secure the deal while serving as dean. “This important agreement will allow CONACYT to send more Mexican students to one of the best recognized programs on public policies in the world,” adds Pablo Rojo, director of scholarships of CONACYT.
Natural catastrophes. Disease outbreaks. Terrorism. In the wake of major disasters, government leaders often wish they could have been better prepared.
Chicago Harris has partnered with the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to launch “Leading Through Crisis,” a new yearlong program that trains county and municipal officials to effectively lead communities through all facets of a disaster. The program kicked off on October 14 with an event featuring Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, who described his experience during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
In addition to training workshops, “Leading Through Crisis” will comprise lectures from UChicago faculty and experts plus a “capstone” project that will include a simulation drill. Students from Chicago Harris and the Graham School of Continuing Education will also have the opportunity to participate.
“Local government leaders have a fundamental responsibility to keep their communities safe,” said former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, a distinguished senior fellow at Chicago Harris, who initiated the program. “As the nature
of threats and disasters grows increasingly complex, we must train today’s leaders – and tomorrow’s – to lead through these crises.”
In a July 28 ceremony at the White House, President Barack Obama presented the National Medal of Arts to Chicago Harris supporter Joan Harris. The medal recognized Harris for “supporting creative expression” nationwide. “Her decades of leadership and generosity have enriched our cultural life and helped countless artists, dancers, singers and musicians bring their talents to center stage,” read the citation.
A prominent arts patron, Harris has helped to strengthen initiatives like the Cultural Policy Center at Chicago Harris and MusicNow, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s audio/visual program. She serves in leadership roles at cultural organizations nationwide, including the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Juilliard School and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
A passion for public service prompted Joan’s late husband, Irving B. Harris, to help launch Chicago Harris in 1988. Joan has sustained his generosity as a member of the school’s Visiting Committee and as a trustee of the Irving Harris Foundation, which recently committed $10 million to support Chicago Harris fellowships, facility projects, and cultural and early childhood policy.
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