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.
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.
The foundation begins funding 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.
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 as a pilot program to transform healthcare delivery in Chicago.
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.
The foundation commissions Jennifer Finney Boylan to write Falcon Quinn and the Bullies of Greenblud; proceeds are donated to support GLAAD.
Comer Family Foundation receives Openlands’ 2018 Conservation Leadership Award.
The foundation assists Art Institute Chicago in the acquisition of The Fae Richards Photo Archive by Zoe Leonard.
Comer Family Foundation kickstarts A Second Chance: Overdose Prevention, Naloxone and Human Rights in the United States, a report prepared by Human Rights Watch.
The foundation funds Guide to Establishing Syringe Services Programs in Rural, At-Risk Areas.
The Illinois Getting to Zero Campaign launches with support from Comer Family Foundation.
The foundation assists Art Institute Chicago in the acquisition of Al's Grand Hotel, a 1971 lithograph by Al Ruppersberg.
The foundation collaborates with multiple COVID-19 response funds including Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund, Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, Together 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.
Supports Art Institute Chicago's acquisition of work from Sophie Calle's The Blind, 1986.
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.
The foundation makes a multi-year commitment to support the Chicago Racial Justice Pooled Fund.
Comer Family Foundation announces a multi-year commitment in support of the Obama Presidential Campus.
Comer Family Foundation helps launch Teens Take On Climate to connect diverse teens with climate education, employment, and opportunities to succeed on inclusive, interdisciplinary climate pathways.
Comer Family Foundation joins Columbia University in an effort to increase diversity in climate sciences within Columbia, the Climate School, and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO). The foundation’s endowment will provide summer research experiences, scholarships, staffing and programming that encourage a new generation of climate scientists.
The Foundation advises The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as it incorporates harm reduction into its framework.