I can't tell you how many times I have visited Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry -- for a decade we lived in Hyde Park just blocks from the Museum and were there so often with our children; then later in life, our grandchildren. I remember as a teenager being there when the U-505 German submarine was floated across Lake Michigan, then across South Shore Drive to become a permanent exhibit. And, while in law school, I worked mornings for an urban planning firm whose offices were in the bowels of the Museum.
Bottom line, I love the Museum as does anyone who has ever visited there. I assume that includes a large number of you.
So, I was struck by a Chicago Tribune article Museum of Science and Industry to get new name...It seems that Kenneth Griffin, co-founder of the amazingly successful hedge-fund Citadel, and one of the great philanthropists, whose Charitable Fund had already distributed over $1 billion to charities, had pledged $125 million to the Museum which change its name to the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry.
One correspondent to Crain's Chicago Business put it succinctly:
"Leave museum's name alone Kudos to Ken Griffin for donating so generously to such a worthy and important institution...But the name change is just wrong. Name a wing after him. Heck, put a bug statue of him out front, but the museum name should be unchanged.
If Julius Rosenwald -- whose name should be plastered all over this city for the great public work he did -- didn't need his name on it when he helped create it, Griffin doesn't need his for helping to keep it going for another 100 years." (italics added)The original Museum structure was the Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The Museum was initially endowed by the father of Chicago Jewish philanthropy, Julius Rosenwald who who pledged $3 million and also recruited the Commercial Club of Chicago for further financial support supplementing municipal bond funds. Rosenwald refused offers to have the Museum named for him even as the public often called it the Rosenwald Industrial Museum.
Of interest, the Apollo 8 spacecraft is housed in Henry Crown Space Center, named for the patriarch of the Crown Family, models of generosity and philanthropy worldwide. And, there is now a Rosenwald Room, which would no doubt infuriate Julius Rosenwald were he still with us.
Griffin's incredible gift may have been conditioned on the Museum's renaming. For a $135 million gift, certainly Ken Griffin purchased the naming rights -- if he didn't ask for them, the Museum was wise to offer the honor.
Rosenwald continues to inspire Jewish and secular philanthropy in Chicago. Griffin's modern philanthropy likewise. When I next visit the Museum with my grandchildren, I will remember Julius Rosenwald no matter the naming.