The Comer Family Foundation is a private family foundation dedicated to seeding ideas and supporting innovative programs that make a lasting and positive impact on the lives of individuals and their communities.

Foundation History

The late Gary Comer, founder of the Lands’ End clothing company, possessed remarkable business savvy and a unique vision that inspired all who knew him. Mr. Comer’s singular curiosity and passion for helping others to build better lives led to the pursuit of numerous charitable endeavors.

The Comer Foundation was created in 1986 with two major grant-making programs focused on the city of Chicago and on syringe exchange programs nationwide. The Comer Science & Education Foundation was incorporated in 1998 to provide funding for organizations in the fields of education, environment and health. In 2013, the two foundations came together to create the Comer Family Foundation which is dedicated to combining these efforts.

Since Mr. Comer’s death, his family has continued his legacy and remarkable generosity. Each initiative receives not only financial support, but also the active involvement of the Comer family.

2017 Awardees

Foundation Timeline


The Comer Foundation is created.


Syringe Exchange Grant Program launches.


Harm Reduction Coalition is founded. 


Gary Comer visits his grammar school, Paul Revere Elementary, on Chicago’s South Side, and is inspired to make a long-term commitment to children and families in the Greater Grand Crossing community. 


Comer Science & Education Foundation is incorporated to provide funding for organizations in the fields of education, environment and health.


Chicago in the Year 2000 (CITY 2000) was a yearlong project documenting everyday life in Chicago. At the turn of the millennium, more than 200 photographers captured each Chicago neighborhood, producing half a million images using processes dating from the 19th century to the present day. The project culminated in a book and a cold-storage archive housed at University of Illinois at Chicago Richard M. Daley Library


Gary Comer successfully sails the Northwest Passage and returns ready to learn more about climate change.


The Gary Comer Abrupt Climate Change Fellowship is established to support scientists studying the causes and consequences of abrupt changes in climate by funding post-docs, graduate students and technicians. From 2002 to 2007, the Fellowship supported climate research at 31 institutions. Mentors at each institution selected fellows and approved research projects. The program seeded special abrupt climate change fieldwork that focused primarily on Greenland, mountain glaciers and drylands and projects requiring fast-track funding.


Pediatric Medical Mobile Unit program develops in partnership with the University of Chicago Medicine.


Revere Way community revitalization project developed more than 60 affordable, fine-quality homes for individuals and families in a transforming neighborhood. In addition, the project created a home-improvement program for existing homeowners and job opportunities for neighborhood residents through construction apprenticeships and ongoing building efforts.


Gary and Francie Comer become one of the founding families of Millennium Park.


First Abrupt Climate Change Conference is held.


Gary C. Comer Geochemistry Building at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University is completed.


University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital opens.


5 million dollars is set aside to fund Climate Research Grants, with 128 worldwide projects sponsored to date.


University of Chicago Medicine Comer Pediatric Emergency Department opens.


Gary Comer Youth Center opens in Greater Grand Crossing.


Health Management Associates (HMA) is engaged to develop a plan for optimizing existing health care resources for pregnant women and children on the South Side of Chicago. 


The Medill Comer Scholars environmental journalism program is created in partnership with Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.


Gary Comer College Prep opens to its first class of freshmen.


Medical Home Network is established in response to HMA report.


Donor to new Modern Wing at Art Institute Chicago; endowment of Gary C. & Frances Comer Curator of Modern Art


Comer Center for Children and Specialty Care opens at The University of Chicago.


First full growing season for the Youth Education Garden on Comer Education Campus


Gary Comer Middle School opens to its first 6th grade class.


The Gary C. Comer Family Gallery opens at The Field Museum of Natural History.


The two foundations are combined to create the Comer Family Foundation, dedicated to continued commitment in the areas of Education, Health Care, Environment and Culture.


The UtmostU college success initiative begins.


Comer Education Campus celebrates the first four-year college graduates.

Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required