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Legacy

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.

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Trustees

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Kari Gies is the President of the Foundation. Born and raised in Downers Grove, Illinois, she is the second daughter of John and Nancy Schwemm. Kari graduated from Grinnell College in Iowa with a Bachelor’s degree in biology and a secondary teaching endorsement. After several years of teaching math and science in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she moved with her family to Ashland, Oregon. After completing a Master’s degree in environmental education from Southern Oregon University, she began a 17-year career with the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department where she co-founded and directed a nature center. Kari has also served as commissioner of the Ashland Conservation Commission, has authored a guidebook to the Klamath Basin, and co-founded the Southern Oregon Regional Environmental Education Leaders (SOREEL) networking association. Kari resides with her husband near Ashland where she is involved with several educational and historic preservation projects while also spending time gardening, enjoying her two granddaughters, and throwing endless tennis balls to her labradoodle Rusty.


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Cathy Schwemm is the Vice-President and Secretary of the Foundation. The first of Nan and Jack’s two daughters, she grew up in Downers Grove then attended Colorado State University in Ft Collins, Colorado where she received a Bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology. After moving to California in 1983, she obtained a Master’s degree in biology from California State University, Northridge. Cathy began working for the National Park Service in 1984, beginning a 25-year career with that agency. In 2008 she earned a PhD in ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, after which she taught ecology and then spent two years working as an ecologist in Flagstaff, Arizona. Cathy has co-authored a book on the endangered island fox and was a board member of the Friends of the Island Fox and the Channel Islands Regional GIS Collaborative. Cathy is presently employed as an ecologist with the Institute for Wildlife Studies and lives in Tomales, California.


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Jan Rieke is the Treasurer of the Foundation and is the daughter of Jack Rieke and Jacquie Prickett Rieke, Nan Schwemm’s only sister. Jan was born and raised in Barrington, Illinois and graduated from Carroll College in Wisconsin. Her 18-year career in finance with Marriott International resulted in several moves that ultimately led her to the Washington, DC area. Jan also worked as a residential realtor and as the start-up accountant for Rieke Office Interiors, her brother’s business located in the Chicago area. Currently Jan and her partner live in Damascus, Maryland where they run a commercial vineyard and Jan serves as treasurer of the Maryland Grape Growers Association. Jan is a Montgomery County Master Gardener and a past board member of the Barrington Historical Society.


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Annie Swank is a Foundation Trustee. The daughter of Cathy Schwemm, Annie was born in California and was fortunate to spend a lot of time outdoors growing up. She moved to the midwest to attend The University of Chicago and has remained in Chicago ever since except for brief stints in Washington, D.C. and Bangkok, Thailand. She has worked on political campaigns and in software design. These days she works as a videographer, focusing on documentary-style videos for non profits and mission driven organizations. A longer bio (and one written in the first person) can be found at ASwank.com.


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Joseph (“Joey”) Schwemm Tuck is a co-Vice President of the Foundation. Raised in Ashland, Oregon, he is the son of Kari Gies and the only grandson of Jack and Nan Schwemm. Joey attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in international relations in 2012. Subsequently, he obtained his Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law in New York City, New York and his Master of Laws in European financial law from Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain. Joey began his career as an attorney after graduating from law school in 2015, and is presently admitted to practice in New York, Illinois and California. He lives in San Francisco, California and is currently employed with law firm Goodwin Procter LLP, where his practice focuses on private equity and debt finance.


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Philosophy

John and Nancy Schwemm, lived outwardly their core beliefs that compassion and personal integrity should serve as the guiding principles of life’s endeavors, and that our lives are more meaningful if we participate in bettering our communities.

Based on those principals, the Schwemm Family Foundation seeks to promote programs and initiatives that connect people to the past, help improve the way we live in the present, and identify and promote healthy land stewardship far into the future.