McCormick Club Renamed to Honor Peer Pedersen
June 25, 2013 04:04 AM
Grandaughters of the late Peer Pedersen cut the official ribbon to rename the Pedersen-McCormick Club.
© Robert Carl
In what is thought to be the first such change of an existing Club name, Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago rededicated the Robert R. McCormick Club in Uptown as the Pedersen-McCormick Club. The new name represents the organization’s deepest show of gratitude and respect to the late Peer Pedersen, a Chicago philanthropist and business leader who passionately served, raised money for and directly contributed millions to Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago for more than four decades.
During a dedication ceremony at the Club, at 4835 N. Sheridan, Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago youth, staff, leadership and supporters celebrated the life of Peer Pedersen as they unveiled a newly commissioned portrait of their friend and benefactor.
"Peer Pedersen is without peer, when it comes to someone who gave his heart and soul to Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, and especially his beloved McCormick Club, for more than 40 years," said James Keane, CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago.
"Peer was passionate about our Clubs and our mission, as demonstrated in his hands-on, life-long involvement in the McCormick Club that inspired others to support youth and our staff," Keane added.
As a nearly 40 year member of the Corporate Board of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago and the McCormick Club Board of Managers, Pedersen always encouraged others to share the responsibility of providing today’s youth with a safe and supportive community haven. Beyond Pedersen’s major financial support of the McCormick Club, including a $1 million contribution to the endowment of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago 2012, he attracted many business leaders to join the Board of Directors.
Over his lifetime, Pedersen’s total financial impact on the organization is astounding; he personally contributed and helped raise significant funds, which helped countless young men and women grow to be secure, successful adults and community leaders.
Pedersen’s life story embodies the hope, opportunity, courage and persistence that are the cornerstones of the American dream. Arriving in the U.S. from Denmark as a baby, Pedersen lost his father at the age of 12 during the Great Depression. That loss left an indelible mark that inspired him to work to support his family and to pursue college and law degrees that led to the founding of the Chicago law firm Pedersen & Houpt in 1957 and to a successful career in business.
His involvement with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s McCormick Club came in 1958 at the request of Illinois Senator Russell Arrington and Chicago insurance mogul W. Clement Stone. They asked Pedersen to serve as President of the McCormick Club Board of Directors. From then on, his devotion to the Club was unwavering and limitless.
"Peer got involved and fell in love with the kids," says nephew John Muehlstein, partner, Pedersen & Houpt and Corporate Board Member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago. Muehlstein says Pedersen was a rare, hands-on philanthropist who shared his fortune, his time -- attending every club event and gala -- as well as his vast network of business and personal connections.
"Nothing touched him more than seeing these kids develop," added Muehlstein. "He supported the McCormick Club because he knew it was and is an alternative to the streets. As a child, he grew up on the streets with nothing; every time he’d engage with kids at the club, it brought a tear to his eye."
The portrait unveiled as part of the ceremony honoring Pedersen was designed by nationally acclaimed artist Frank Kocian Morris, a Master Designer for the U.S. Mint. The painting honors Pedersen’s 40th anniversary of passing the Illinois Bar and will be on display in the Pedersen-McCormick Club in perpetuity, along with a bronze relief plaque.
The Club chose a short and simple ceremony to mark the name change, because that’s how Pedersen would have wanted it, according to Craig Martin, Chairman of the Corporate Board of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago.
"Without any pubic glory or fanfare, Peer was a pillar of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago and our McCormack Club," said Martin. "He recognized our mission to develop caring, responsible and self-reliant adults, is critical to the future of our city and our community."
Pedersen, who lived in Lake Forest, was a giant in Chicago’s business community up until his death of natural causes in January 21, 2013. He died knowing that his beloved McCormick Club would carry his name and that his life-long commitment to Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago would continue thanks to the friends and business partners he recruited to continue serving the organization.