The Legacy of Colonel Robert R. McCormick
The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is part of the legacy of Col. Robert R. McCormick, the long-time editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune.
At 6’ 4” tall and slightly more than 200 pounds, Robert Rutherford McCormick was an imposing figure in life, literally as well as figuratively. His legacy is more imposing still. This scion of a wealthy and prominent Chicago family, the grandson of Chicago Tribune publisher Joseph Medill, developed at an early age a powerful set of beliefs and a deep affection for his hometown that would benefit its citizens for decades to come.
“The Colonel,” a rank he earned in World War I and a nickname retained well after the battles ended, had many roles in his life, including public servant, citizen soldier, philanthropist, and staunch defender of the First Amendment, especially the freedom of press. His civic leadership helped transform Chicago into one of the world’s greatest cities.
McCormick became president of the Chicago Tribune in 1911, a position he held until his death in 1955, and one that provided a platform for expressing his strongly held beliefs about citizenship, community service, education, and journalism – beliefs that would become the cornerstone of the foundation bearing his name. Two years prior to his death, McCormick drafted the guidelines for his own charitable trust dedicated to the people of Chicago and Illinois, which operates today as the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
Many of the contributions McCormick made during his lifetime helped shape the civic institutions, colleges and universities, hospitals, museums, and other cultural attractions that make Chicago what it is today. Most of his gifts and the grants made by the McCormick Foundation in its early years went to help these institutions buy, build, and renovate the properties they needed to function. As time progressed, more funding was dedicated for important intangibles – research, social services, exhibits, scholarships, professorships – which included many of the needs the Foundation has focused on increasingly to current day.
McCormick was a citizen soldier and a friend of veterans. He served in the Illinois National Guard and, in 1917, at the age of 36 volunteered for duty in France during World War I. There he fought with the First Division at the Battle of Cantigny, America’s first major battle of the war. Later, he renamed his farm in Wheaton “Cantigny.” A reserve officer and a founding member of the American Legion, he often hosted his fellow veterans at Cantigny. McCormick was buried in his World War I uniform with military honors.
Today, McCormick’s Cantigny is a vibrant destination for recreation, learning and civic engagement that has enriched the lives of millions of visitors since opening to the public in 1958.
Among Chicago’s first major philanthropists, McCormick’s generosity helped shaped the city he loved. The Foundation continues McCormick’s legacy, investing more than $1.5 billion since 1955 in education, economic opportunity initiatives, public safety efforts, veterans’ programs, health and wellness campaigns and more. Since 2019 alone, the McCormick Foundation has granted more than $143 million to more than 380 organizations doing the most good in support of our mission work.
With more than 65 years of philanthropic giving, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation remains dedicated to building stronger communities.
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Visit Cantigny Park, Golf, and the Museum
Cantigny Park, Cantigny Golf and the First Division Museum are important expressions of Colonel Robert R. McCormick’s legacy and offer recreational and educational opportunities for the entire community.