William Blair President and CEO John Ettelson received the prestigious 2019 Illinois Holocaust Museum Humanitarian Award at its 10th annual dinner held in Chicago on March 13.
The award recognized Ettelson's deep commitment to Chicago as a civic and business leader and William Blair's dedication to serving communities and causes including the Illinois Holocaust Museum.
"John received the 2019 Humanitarian Award for his steadfast commitment to supporting the greater Chicago community through both philanthropy and volunteerism," said Susan Abrams, CEO of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center. "He has championed a charitable corporate culture at William Blair which has been embraced by the senior leaders and employees."
The museum hosts its humanitarian awards dinner each spring—which has become Chicago's largest fundraising dinner—to recognize community leaders, Holocaust survivors and the museum's mission to "remember the past, transform the future." Some 1,700 people attended including more than 200 Holocaust survivors who were honored.
"The world continues to be a very complicated place but the concepts espoused by the museum are so very relevant," Ettelson said in receiving the award. "It serves as an inspiration and catalyst for change and remedy for the issues we are facing. The role of the Holocaust survivors with us tonight best represents the heart and soul of the museum."
Former President Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker and described a rising tide of anti-Semitism around the globe, calling on the audience to continue teaching others about the past.
"You do have to try and preserve the elements of freedom in the institutions that will keep the darker forces that reside in every society at every time within bounds," Clinton said.
Clinton, who helped launch the museum, was also the keynote speaker at the museum dinner 10 years ago to celebrate its opening.
William Blair supports the Holocaust Museum and its mission
William Blair along with many colleagues has had long relationship with the Holocaust Museum. The late Dick Kiphart helped the museum's capital campaign chair J.B. Pritzker—now Illinois governor—raise funds to build the museum. John O'Toole has served on its board and Dan Grant currently is a board member.
Ettelson, a native of Chicago, joined William Blair more than 30 years ago, becoming president in 2003 and CEO in 2004. Under his leadership, the firm has expanded globally with annual revenues tripling to surpass the $1 billion mark.
His commitment to service extends into the community through his civic engagement and leadership on many boards including the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Economic Club of Chicago, the Northwestern Medical Group, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Clinton concluded the evening's dinner with a salute to the benefits of immigration and humanitarian efforts.
"You need to look for people who would never be at this dinner and say would you come and look at the Holocaust Museum?" he told the gathering. "Before you think it's a good thing for us to demonize immigrants—would you just come take look at this?"
This video in honor of John Ettelson was played at the event: