Emmy-winning television producers Bill Kurtis and Donna LaPietra were the stars of Erikson’s annual black tie gala.

Kurtis, LaPietra, King: Spirit of Erikson Award Winners

Mya King (right), a student representing After School Matters, presented the 2009 Spirit of Erikson Institute Award to Donna LaPietra and Bill Kurtis.

With an enthusiastic crowd of more than 300 applauding their achievements, the talented team received The Spirit of Erikson Institute Award at the Prism Ball, held May 30 at the Field Museum.

For years, the couple has teamed up professionally to make compelling documentaries while personally supporting numerous museums, educational institutions, cultural organizations, parks and conservation groups as board members, volunteers or advisers. They have also donated their time and talent to produce videos showcasing Erikson’s work.

“These are two of Chicago’s most active philanthropic citizens,” said Erikson president Samuel J. Meisels of the honorees. “They give lavishly of what is most precious, lending their craft to tell important stories that would otherwise go unseen and unheard.”

Mya King, a student representing 2008 award winners Maggie Daley and After School Matters, charmed the crowd with her heartfelt presentation of the award to LaPietra and Curtis.

McCaskeys gala chairs
Gala chairs Judy and Ray McCaskey

Judy and Ray McCaskey chaired the event; she is an Erikson trustee and he is the recently retired president and chief executive officer of Health Care Service Corp. The gala raised $600,000 to support Erikson’s work in the service of children and families.

More than 300 of the city’s leaders in philanthropy, finance, education, and health care turned out for the annual benefit. They enjoyed cocktails, an elegant dinner, dancing, and a silent auction featuring vacation packages, jewelry, artwork, and even a drive in a new Tesla Roadster. After dinner, guests hit the dance floor to the sounds of the The Stanley Paul Orchestra.

Among the notable guests were Erikson board chair Richard P. Kiphart, principal, William Blair and Co., and his wife, Susan; John W. Rowe, chairman and chief executive officer of Exelon, and his wife, Jeanne; and her husband, Jack; Barbara T. Bowman, former president of Erikson Institute, chief early childhood education officer for Chicago Public Schools, and consultant to U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and her husband, Dr. James Bowman; Robert A. Wislow, chairman and chief executive officer of U.S. Equities, and his wife, Susan, an Erikson trustee; and James C. Tyree, chairman and chief executive officer of Mesirow Financial, and his wife, Eve, an Erikson trustee.

Sabrina Gracias and friends
Erikson trustee Sabrina Gracias welcomed friends
Amanda Bonnell and Kathleen Cardoza.

Meisels Guthman
President Samuel J. Meisels greeted Sandra Guthman, president of Polk Bros. Foundation, also a former recipient of the award.


Former Spirit of Erikson Institute Award winner James C. Tyree, chairman and chief executive officer of Mesirow Financial, and his wife, Eve, a trustee, enjoying the evening.

See our Facebook page for more photos.