(This is an extended version of an article originally published in our November 2017 issue of our quarterly newsletter, The Arch.)
Retired Lt. Col. Jennifer N. Pritzker is president and CEO of TAWANI Enterprises, Inc., founder and chair of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, president and founder of the TAWANI Foundation and president and founder of the Pritzker Military Foundation. Her civic engagement and philanthropic support in which she is involved encompass a wide range of important issues including military history, research in human sexuality and gender identity, cultural and educational institutions, historic preservation and human rights advocacy.
Landmarks Illinois recently launched the WWI Monument Preservation Grant Program, which helps restore WWI monuments and memorials in Illinois. Why is this program a priority for you and the Foundation?
Jennifer Pritzker: As part of the Pritzker Military Foundation’s effort to support nonprofit organizations that preserve military history, we felt it was important to provide grants to protect, restore and manage WWI war memorials that have befallen due to corrosion, neglect and even vandalism. The legacy of WWI 1 is still with us 100 years later and restoring these national treasures back to their physical beauty helps increase awareness of the men and women they memorialize. We were thrilled to hear the City of Aurora will receive a grant to restore the “Branches of Services Plaque.”
LI: You’ve made significant investments in important historic properties in Illinois, such as the Emil Bach House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the renowned Monroe Building on Michigan Avenue. Why did you make historic preservation a big part of your business model?
JP: Giving back is the foundation of the TAWANI culture. I not only feel that historic preservation strengthens our communities, but also is a vital part of neighborhood revitalization. It provides a physical and psychological focus for the neighborhood and creates jobs and investment opportunities.
LI: You were honored as a Legendary Landmark at the 11th Annual Legendary Landmarks Celebration in 2016. What impact did being named a Legendary Landmark have on you?
JP:I was honored and humbled. Giving back is the most important thing any entrepreneur can do. This recognition reinforced my dedication to our mission and further inspired me to improve the quality of life for families and individuals across Chicago.
Buildings – like the people who create them, live in them and work in them – have a lifecycle. During this lifecycle, the building may depreciate and require comprehensive restoration. If not renewed, it can become an eyesore, a safety hazard as well as an economic drain. I am committed to modernizing critical, historical properties – buildings that can be restored for the beautification of these communities and improved quality of life for all.
LI: Through grant making to nonprofit organizations, the TAWANI Foundation and the Pritzker Military Foundation are seeking to address a range of societal challenges. What role can historic preservation play in strengthening communities?
JP: Preserving our historical culture goes beyond just strengthening our community. It’s also about conserving our heritage. With historical preservation, we strive to give a community a place of character and resonance, and serve as the basis for innovation and advancement. Each place we preserve has a story to tell. Our job is to collect, conserve and celebrate that story for future generations.
LI: What makes Landmarks Illinois a good investment for donors?
JP: In addition to Landmarks Illinois’ mission, vision and values aligning with our focus at the TAWANI Foundation, LI holds an appreciation for Chicagoland landmarks that are of historical importance to our community. The organization understands the significance of historic properties and take special care to ensure these important structures are around for generations to come.