Getting Up to Speed: McCormick 101

by Phil Zepeda, Director of Communications 

Growing up and spending most of my adult life in Chicago, I was very familiar with the McCormick Foundation, probably due to my interest in local philanthropy at a young age.

But now that I have the great fortune of working for this legendary organization, I’ve been able to hear about the rich life of our benefactor, Robert R. McCormick, and gain a better understanding of his contributions to our area – some monumental and others cultural.

For instance, it was McCormick who coined the term “Chicagoland,” with historians tracing its first use back to 1926.

McCormick led the effort to expand Chicago north of the Chicago River along Michigan Avenue. In 1918, the Chicago Tribune created an editorial platform raising attention about important civic improvement issues. His “Extend the Chicago Plan” was built off of Daniel Burnham’s city plan and promoted completing Michigan Avenue and building the Michigan Avenue Bridge.

Naming Chicago’s airport “O’Hare Field” was McCormick’s idea. An outspoken advocate for honoring the sacrifices of America’s veterans, McCormick spoke at the 1949 dedication that memorialized Naval Lt. Commander Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, the Navy’s first flying ace of the 1940s.

While most of his fame came from his work as editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, McCormick was a prolific writer, authoring books on topics ranging from the Civil War to our First Amendment freedoms.

When most people hear McCormick, their thoughts may immediately veer towards Chicago’s McCormick Place. It was posthumously named in his honor as he was as a major proponent of bringing more conventions to Chicago.

But his legacy has influenced countless schools, communities and lives locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. As Director of Communications of the McCormick Foundation, it’s my intent to bring more of these stories to life and share how, even today, his influence to strengthen communities can be experienced in our everyday lives.


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