The Schwemm Family Foundation honors the legacy and generosity of John Butler Schwemm and Nancy Prickett Schwemm.
Born in 1934 in the close-knit community of Barrington, Illinois, John (known always to friends and family as Jack) was the oldest of three boys. Raised in a family that valued and emulated hard work, Jack witnessed this first-hand from his paternal grandfather, who operated one of the last livery stables in Barrington, and from his father, who at one time declared to Jack that he wasn’t as concerned about the grades Jack brought home “as long as he was working as hard as he possibly could”.
Jack carried this work ethic with him throughout his college and law school years and into his law career, first with Sidley and Austin and then with R. R. Donnelley, both firms based in Chicago. It was at Donnelley, at that time the world’s largest printing company, that Jack decided to transition from corporate law into management. Starting as a division director, Jack was quick to learn the skills that would carry him into his role as president of the company and ultimately to becoming chairman and chief executive officer.
Throughout his career, Jack exhibited a high level of integrity, not only in his personal relationships but also on a corporate level. He so valued the goals of honesty and morality in the work place that he endowed his alma matter, Amherst College, with funding to promote the teaching of ethical standards.
Throughout his life Jack had the continual love and support of his wife Nancy. Also having grown up in Barrington, Nan, as she was known to her family, raised her children while also contributing to the community in ways that demonstrated her strong compassion for others. Nan inherited her giving nature largely from her father, who taught himself railroad telegraphy as a way to obtain a career that would allow him to work nights so that he could be home during the day to take care of Nan’s mother who was unable to walk due to multiple sclerosis.
Nan’s sense of compassion was evident in all the volunteer work she did, from working to assist mentally disabled children to serving breakfast on cold winter mornings to homeless families, to helping underprivileged city kids experience summer camp at her beloved Holiday Home on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin where she had worked as a counselor for several seasons while in high school.
Together and individually, Jack and Nan also found ways to connect with and support their adopted community of Downers Grove, Illinois. During the busy years of launching his career, Jack found time to serve as president of the local Jaycees, an organization committed to providing opportunities for young men to develop personal and leadership skills through service to others, served on the Village Zoning Board of Appeals, and volunteered and eventually took on the role of president of the local school board. At the same time Nan, who was busy raising two girls, helped support many school functions, served as girl scout leader, and volunteered with the Jr. Woman’s Club, eventually rising to the level of director of the state organization. Jack and Nan would be proud to know that serving their community in these many small ways years ago likely contributed to Downers Grove being named as one of the Top 10 best communities in which to raise a family (livability.com – 2014).
Throughout their lives, Jack and Nan remained connected to their families, their friends, and their community. Sadly, and much too soon, Jack and Nan passed away within 6 weeks of each other in the fall of 2011. In their trust, they left funding and guidance to establish a family foundation dedicated to the causes they cared most about. Their daughters, Cathy and Kari, as well as many family members are now humbled and excited to move forward in an attempt to carry on the legacy of Jack and Nan, who, throughout their lives, exhibited the core values of hard work, integrity, and compassion.