Erikson Institute Honors Bill Kurtis and Donna LaPietra at Annual Gala


CHICAGO — The stars of Erikson Institute’s Prism Ball were Emmy-winning television producers Bill Kurtis and Donna LaPietra, who received the Spirit of Erikson Institute Award at the annual black-tie gala. More than 300 of the city’s leaders in philanthropy, finance, education, and health care turned out for the May 30 event at the Field Museum, honoring the talented team and raising $600,000 to support Erikson’s work in the service of children and families.

Kurtis and LaPietra were recognized for their extensive civic engagement and long support of Erikson, the nation’s premier graduate school in child development. 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. Over the years they have 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.”

Presenting the award was Mya King, representing Maggie Daley and After School Matters, which received the award in 2008.

Past recipients of the award include Irving B. Harris; Marjorie Craig Benton; Gery J. Chico; Martin J. Koldyke; John W. Rogers, Jr.; Sandra P. Guthman; Barbara T. Bowman; Michael J. and Shirley R. Madigan; Michael P. Krasny and CDW; Harrison I. Steans; James C. Tyree; John W. Rowe; and J.B. Pritzker.

Chairing the ball were Judy and Ray McCaskey. She is an Erikson trustee; he is the recently retired president and chief executive officer of Health Care Service Corp.

The evening began with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction. Guests bid on packages that included a first-class vacation to London with an exclusive visit to Asprey’s jewelry showroom and workshop; jewelry from Sidney Garber; a stay in the Amangani Resort in Jackson, Wyoming; and a road test of the new Tesla Roadster, a high-performance electric sports car.

Guests enjoyed beef tenderloin with brilliant potato and horseradish cake served with a sauté of baby carrots and sugar snap peas. Fresh local marinated strawberries topped individual almond-polenta pound cakes for a tempting dessert. The musical stylings of the Stanley Paul Orchestra kept the party swinging after dinner.

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; Sandra Guthman, president of Polk Bros. Foundation, 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.

# # #

Photographs from the gala are available upon request.

About Erikson Institute. Erikson ( is the nation’s only graduate school to focus exclusively on child development from birth to age eight. An independent institution of higher education, it prepares child development professionals for leadership through academic programs, applied research and community involvement. For more than 40 years, the Institute has advanced the ability of educators, practitioners, researchers and decision-makers to improve the lives of children and their families. Erikson alumni are active in many different fields, including education, infant mental health, childcare, social policy and research, family and social services and health services.