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

Gary Comer (1927-2006), founder of the Lands’ End clothing company, possessed remarkable business savvy and a unique vision that inspired all who knew him. Frances Comer (1935-2020) expressed her devotion to her hometown through the support of Chicago's rich history, vibrant culture, and by championing efforts in education and healthcare. Together, the Comers' 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.

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

Awardees

Foundation Timeline

1986

The Comer Foundation is created.

1992

Syringe Exchange Grant Program launches.

1993

Harm Reduction Coalition is founded. 

1998

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. 

1998

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

2000

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

2001

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

2002

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.

2002

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

2002

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.

2004

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

2004

First Abrupt Climate Change Conference is held.

2004

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

2005

University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital opens.

2005

The foundation begins funding Climate Research Grants, with 128 worldwide projects sponsored to date.

2006

University of Chicago Medicine Comer Pediatric Emergency Department opens.

2006

Gary Comer Youth Center opens in Greater Grand Crossing.

2008

The foundation commissions a study on existing health care resources for pregnant women and children on the South Side of Chicago. 

2008

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

2008

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

2009

Medical Home Network is established as a pilot program to transform healthcare delivery in Chicago.

2009

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

2010

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

2011

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

2011

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

2011

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

2013

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.

2015

The UtmostU college success initiative begins.

2016

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

2016

The foundation commissions Jennifer Finney Boylan to write Falcon Quinn and the Bullies of Greenblud; proceeds are donated to support GLAAD.

2018

Comer Family Foundation receives Openlands’ 2018 Conservation Leadership Award.

2015

The foundation assists Art Institute Chicago in the acquisition of The Fae Richards Photo Archive by Zoe Leonard.

2017

Comer Family Foundation kickstarts A Second Chance: Overdose Prevention, Naloxone and Human Rights in the United States, a report prepared by Human Rights Watch.

2018

Contributes to Forefront's Democracy Fund, an initiative culminating in Illinois Count Me In 2020, a statewide coalition to support a fair and accurate census count.

2018

The Illinois Getting to Zero Campaign launches with support from Comer Family Foundation.

2019

The foundation assists Art Institute Chicago in the acquisition of Al's Grand Hotel, a 1971 lithograph by Al Ruppersberg.

2020

The foundation collaborates with multiple COVID-19 response funds including Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund, Chicago Community COVID-19 Response FundTogether Now (Chicago Small Business Grants)Community Organizing Technology Funders Collaborative, Illinois Prison COVID 19 Re-entry Project, and the National Syringe Service Program PPE stockpile.

2020

Supports Art Institute Chicago's acquisition of work from Sophie Calle's The Blind, 1986.

2021

Comer Family Foundation announces a multi-year commitment in support of the Obama Presidential Campus.

2020

The Centers for Disease Control, in collaboration with NASTAD and community partners, releases Syringe Services Programs: A Technical Package of Effective Strategies and Approaches for Planning, Design, and Implementation.

2020

The foundation makes a multi-year commitment to support the Chicago Racial Justice Pooled Fund.

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