Special Awards and Recognition

2016 Legendary Innovator Award:
Rick Bayless

2016 Chicago Reinvention Award:
Second City Works

One of Chicago’s most innovative offerings is its food, and it’s most innovative chef is Rick Bayless. You may know Rick from a number of things – he won the title of Bravo’s Best Chef Masters; he’s hosted 11 seasons of the nationally broadcasted TV Series, Mexico–One Plate at a Time, for which he’s been nominated for an Emmy; he’s authored nine cookbooks; and he’s won seven James Beard Awards: Midwest Chef of the Year, National Chef of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year, Who’s Who of American Food and Drink, Best Podcast, plus two for his cookbooks. Most importantly, he’s a champion for Chicago and its innovators, leading by example throughout a legendary career.

Sometimes the best way to innovate is to reinvent yourself – to discover new applications for existing services or to uncover new opportunities by rethinking your business practices. Few Chicago organizations have a re-invention story as exciting as Second City. This 56-year-old cultural giant has been growing rapidly by embracing new directions, from building massive improv training centers, to collaborating with other theaters and arts organizations, to embracing other cities and cultures under its wing – it’s proven to be as nimble and savvy as it is entertaining. Perhaps the most impressive feat of reinvention is through Second City Works, its corporate educational program that incorporates improv techniques in sales and leadership training. It has more than 600 clients, including 25 percent of the Fortune 500, and has become the backbone of what will sustain the organization into the future.

2016 Visionary Award:
Margo Georgiadis

2016 Spirit of Innovation Award:
Chicago Sinfonietta

Margo Georgiadis, former President of Americas at Google and current CEO of Mattel, was the recipient of the 2016 Visionary Award. At Google, Margo led the company’s businesses in the US, Canada and Latin America. She was also the co-leader of [email protected], a global organization of 10,000 women across 45 countries focused on advancing women leaders and inspiring girls to pursue careers in STEM. Prior to Google, Margo was the Chief Operating Officer of Groupon, Chief Marketing Officer of Discover Financial, and a Partner at McKinsey, where she co-authored the blueprint for Chicago’s technology future in the early 2000’s. Margo’s influence extends well beyond Mattel and Google, into other leading Chicago institutions where she serves on the Board of Directors for McDonald’s, World Business Chicago, the Economic Club of Chicago, and several other organizations.

Chicago Sinfonietta is one of Chicago’s premier arts organizations that has embraced inclusivity as a core value, using it to create one-of-a-kind experiences that pull in sounds and genres from all over the world. The Chicago Sinfonietta has been defying convention, taking risks, and redefining what a symphony orchestra looks and sounds likes for years. There is no other orchestra like it, which is why it was selected as one of only fourteen organizations in the U.S. to receive the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions in early 2016 – the “Genius” awards for non-profits.

2015 Legendary Chicago Innovator Award:
Buddy Guy

2015 Chicago Champion Award:
Ed Wehmer

Buddy Guy was just seven years old when he fashioned his first makeshift “guitar”—a two-string contraption attached to a piece of wood and secured with his mother’s hairpins. Now at age 78, Buddy Guy is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a major influence on rock titans like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, a pioneer of Chicago’s fabled West Side sound, and a living link to the city’s halcyon days of electric blues. Buddy Guy has received 6 GRAMMY Awards, along with a 2015 Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY Award, 34 Blues Music Awards (the most any artist has received), the Billboard Magazine Century Award for distinguished artistic achievement, and the Presidential National Medal of Arts. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #23 in its “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” A true musical innovator, Buddy Guy continues to spread the spirit of the blues across the country.

One of the greatest champions of local business is Ed Wehmer, the founder and CEO of Wintrust Financial. When Ed opened Lake Forest Bank and Trust in 1991, he had about 1,200 square feet, a card table, and a mobile phone the size of a boot. Today, Ed presides over Wintrust Financial Corporation, the second largest bank group headquartered in Illinois, with over $18 billion in assets. Through Ed’s leadership, his banks have provided the much needed capital to countless entrepreneurs and business owners to help them get their start, expand their efforts, hire new people, and grow their businesses. Wintrust has been a financial lifeline to many innovators in Chicago, and Ed himself has been a pillar of the Chicago community for years. In addition to running Wintrust, Ed also serves as the chairman of the Board of Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, on the audit committee of Northwestern Memorial Health Care, as a trustee for Lurie Children’s Hospital and Foundation, and on the Board of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

2014 Visionary Award:
Sam Yagan

2014 Spirit of Innovation Award:
Joffrey Ballet

2014 Seeing Things Differently Award:
David Garibaldi

Sam Yagan is the CEO of The Match Group, where he oversees a portfolio of 40 global brands including Match.com, Tinder, and several other innovative companies. Previously, Sam co-founded Excelerate Labs (now Techstars Chicago) to provide seed funding and mentorship to support new entrepreneurs in Chicago. To date, this program has launched 40 new companies and created over 150 new jobs. Looking further back, Sam was the Co-founder of Sparknotes, which sold to Barnes & Noble for $30 million, and the Co-founder of OkCupid, which was bought by The Match Group for $90 million. Last year, Time Magazine listed Sam among their “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

Now celebrating its 20th season in Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet has been hailed as “America’s Company of Firsts.” The Joffrey Ballet’s long list of firsts includes being the first dance company to perform at the White House, the first to appear on television, the first classical dance company to go multi-media, the first to commission a rock-n-roll ballet, the first and only dance company to appear on the cover of Time Magazine, the first company to have had a major motion picture based on it – Robert Altman’s The Company, and the first U.S. ballet company to livestream video of a rehearsal on YouTube. The Joffrey Ballet’s innovative repertoire includes major story ballets, reconstructions of masterpieces, and cutting-edge contemporary works. Founded by visionary teacher Robert Joffrey in 1956, the company continues to thrive under internationally renowned Artistic Director Ashley Wheater.

David Garibaldi is a uniquely talented performance artist from Los Angeles. His passion for music and color, or “rhythm and hue”, combined with his dynamic stage presence has taken him all over the world, from touring with the Blue Man Group to becoming a finalist on “America’s Got Talent”. He is also passionate about the potential of art to help those in need, having raised over $1,000,000 for nonprofits and charities such as Special Olympics, Echoes of Hope, Sacramento Children’s Home, and World Vision.

2013 Visionary Award:
Stephanie Izard

2013 Cultural Innovator Award:
Barbara Gaines and Criss Henderson

2013 Spirit of Innovation Award:
Million Dollar Quartet

At the center of Chicago’s modern culinary rise is Stephanie Izard, Executive Chef and Partner at the Girl and the Goat and the Little Goat. She’s also the first woman to win Bravo’s Top Chef. Since opening the Girl and the Goat in 2010, Stephanie has become one of the most talked about and celebrated chefs in the country. As the winner of the James Beard “Best Chef: Great Lakes” and the 2011 Food & Wine “Best New Chef,” Stephanie’s vision, talent and fame continues to demonstrate that Chicago is a global foodie destination.

BARBARA GAINES (Artistic Director) is the founder of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where she has directed more than thirty of Shakespeare’s plays. Honors include: the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre; the prestigious Honorary OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in recognition of her contributions strengthening British-American cultural relations; and Joseph Jefferson Awards for Best Production (Hamlet, Cymbeline, King Lear and The Comedy of Errors), and for Best Director (Cymbeline, King Lear and The Comedy of Errors).

CRISS HENDERSON (Executive Director) has produced CST’s past twenty-four seasons. Under his leadership the Theater has become one of the city’s major cultural attractions. Honors include the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre as well as multiple Laurence Olivier and Joseph Jefferson Awards. Mr. Henderson was named Arts Administrator of the Year by Arts Management Magazine at The Kennedy Center; was recognized among the top 40 business people under the age of 40 in Crain’s Chicago Business; and was named Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Minister of Culture of France.

With over 2,000 performances and 5 years in Chicago, Million Dollar Quartet’s Tony Award-winning rock ‘n’ roll musical has set a new record for the longest-running Broadway musical in Chicago. We’d like to recognize Million Dollar Quartet for reimagining some of the greatest musical artists of all-time and for showing us that collaboration among individual talents can produce such harmonious work.

2012 Visionary Award:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel

2012 Distinguished Innovator Award:
Governor Pat Quinn

Mayor Rahm Emanuel received the Visionary Award for his vision, leadership and commitment to the future growth of the city. Mayor Emanuel has, since taking office, stood with more than 60 companies to announce nearly 25,000 new jobs in emerging industries, including technology, healthcare IT, finance, and consulting. The Mayor has similarly focused extensive effort on recruiting entrepreneurs and companies that are innovators. Recently, the Mayor announced the creation of ChicagoNEXT, a task force aimed at fostering economic development and job growth in three key innovation sectors: digital, clean technology and life science sectors.

The Distinguished Innovator Award was presented to Governor Pat Quinn for his work to advance innovation in Illinois. Through the Governor’s leadership, the state launched the Invest Illinois Venture Fund to stimulate new business growth across Illinois and funded the creation of 1871, Chicago’s newest hub of innovation and entrepreneurship.

2011 Visionary Award:
Miles White

2011 Spirit of Innovation Award:
Second City

2011 Distinguished Innovator Award:
Beau Wrigley

A giant in the Chicago business community, Miles White is chairman of the board and CEO of Abbott Laboratories, which has received more Chicago Innovation Awards than any other company in our first decade. He’s listed on Forbes magazine’s ‘ list of America’s Most Powerful People, and recognized as one of the WORLD’S 30 Best CEO’s by Barron’s. In April, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Second City sketch comedy group has been at the forefront of comedic innovation since 1959. With alumni like Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Steve Carell and Tina Fey, Second City has a history of comedic innovators, and continues to innovate today!

Beau Wrigley is the fourth-generation leader of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. During his leadership, the company became a recognized global leader in confections, grew from $2 billion to $6 billion in annual sales and expanded its reach to consumers in 180 countries. Currently, Beau serves on the Senior Advisory Council of BDT Capital Partners, a Chicago-based merchant bank that provides long-term capital and advisory services to family owned companies and entrepreneurs. He is a Trustee of Conservation International and Co-Chair of their Ocean Health Council, a member of the National Geographic Society’s Council of Advisors, and serves on the boards of The Economic Club of Chicago and the North Shore University Healthcare System. Beau is a 1985 graduate of Duke University with a B.A. in Economics and attended the Wharton School of Business Advanced Management Program in 1994.

2010 Visionary Award:
Rocky Wirtz

2010 Spirit of Innovation Award:
Blue Man Group

2010 Distinguished Innovator Award:
J.B. Pritzker

Rocky Wirtz, President of Wirtz Corporation and Owner and Chairman of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks led the greatest sports-business turnaround in history. That same vision applies to his oversight of Wirtz Corporation holdings, including Wirtz Beverage Group, a leading national alcohol beverage distributor. In addition, he guides commercial and residential real estate companies, an insurance company and community banks in Illinois and Florida. Rocky is also involved with numerous civic and charitable organizations.

The Blue Man Group has been an innovator in performance arts since 1987. Their performances involve a unique combination of comedy, technology, audio and stunning visuals, showing that they truly do have the Spirit of Innovation!

J.B. Pritzker has played a tremendous role in growing the Chicago economy and the Chicago community. He is the Managing Partner and co-founder of The Pritzker Group, and founder of New World Ventures. New World Ventures is one of Chicago’s leading venture capital investors and has invested in over 50 companies since its founding in 1995 including Illinois-based TicketsNow, Sportvision, HyperQuest, Advantage Optics, Viewpoints Network, and BrightTag. J.B. is a founding board member of the Illinois Venture Capital Association, a founding director of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, a founder of the public/private Illinois Innovation Accelerator Fund, and a leading proponent of a stronger technology sector focus in the Midwest.

2008 Visionary Award:
Leo Melamed

2007 Visionary Award:
Joe Mansueto

2006 Visionary Award:
Gerald Putnam

Leo Melamed is recognized as the founder of financial futures markets. At the close of 1999, Melamed was named by the former editor of the Chicago Tribune, among the ten most important Chicagoans in business of the 20th Century. Chicago Magazine included him among the century’s top 100 Chicagoans. In 2003, Pensions & Investments included Mr. Melamed in the list of 30 individuals whose contribution “made the most dramatic difference” in the management of money during the last 100 years.

Joe Mansueto founded Morningstar in 1984. He has served as chairman since the company’s inception, and as chief executive officer from inception to 1996 and from 2000 to present. In 2011, his majority ownership of Morningstar gained him inclusion on the Forbes World’s Billionaires list. In December 2010, Mansueto became the only Chicagoan on the list of American billionaires pledging to give away half of their wealth, as part of a campaign by the businessman’s idol, Warren Buffett.

Gerald Putnam is the founder of the Archipelago Electronic Stock Exchange, which foreshadowed electronic trading in equities.

2005 Visionary Award:
Casey Cowell

2004 Visionary Award:
Mark Ratner

2003 Visionary Award:
John Mitchell, Rudy Krolopp and Marty Cooper

Casey Cowell was the co-founder and chairman of US Robotics which pioneered new methods of building better, fast and less-expensive modems for the Internet.

After teaching at New York University, Ratner proposed a significant new theory in chemistry, becoming a pioneer of the new field of molecular electronics. He is distinguished professor of Chemistry and Materials Science at Northwestern University, and has won numerous prestigious awards for his scientific contributions.

The Motorola team that invented the cell phone, including John Mitchell, former head of Moto’s communications division and the man who made the first cell phone call in 1973; Rudy Krolopp, then Moto’s industrial design director; Marty Cooper, who ran Moto’s R&D effort in wireless communications, and who is considered the “father of the cell phone.”

2002 Visionary Award:
Eugene Polley (November 29, 1915 – May 20, 2012)

Inventor of the Flashmatic, the first wireless TV remote that was a best-selling product, revolutionizing the way TV was watched and enjoyed. He was also the founder of President of Zenith Electronics Corp., which used to be based in Chicago.