CRAIN’S CHICAGO BUSINESS | Shia Kapos
Kurt Summers, the former Cook County appointee who now works for a hedge fund, choked up during the recent fundraising luncheon for the Chicago Debate Commission.
“Nothing has had a greater difference on my life than the activity of debate,” Mr. Summers, a senior vice president at Grosvenor Capital Management LP, told the crowd gathered at the University Club of Chicago.
The former chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinckle also was on the task force charged with finding a location for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. He was a debater at Whitney Young High School in the 1990s and has remained a supporter of the commission. He chaired the June 13 event that honored Gery Chico, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education.
“I didn’t own a suit. I had to cross gang boundaries to take a train and two buses to go to school every day. I was a C or D student and cared more about playing football and finding a girlfriend than academic pursuits,” Mr. Summers said.
Then he met Les Lynn, an English teacher and debate coach who today helps run the Chicago Debate Commission, an organization that works to get urban teens involved in debate.
“I realized there was a world out there I didn’t know. And there was a person inside of me I hadn’t met. Debate unlocked that,” he told the lunch crowd. “I went from being a D student to being an A student. I went from fighting my way back and forth to and from school to fighting my way to the library. I owe it all to debate. It had the single greatest impact on the trajectory of my life.”
He wiped away tears and acknowledged the subject gets him “choked up,” then regrouped, saying, “It’s the masterful way to get to the ask.”
The crowd responded with a laugh and applause and Mr. Summers dove into the importance of giving to the organization.
The event raised $230,000, up from $120,000 the previous year.