Intergenerational Insights: A Philanthropic Fireside Chat - City Club of Chicago
Intergenerational Insights: A Philanthropic Fireside Chat

Intergenerational Insights: A Philanthropic Fireside Chat

Join John Palfrey, Andrea Sáenz and Dion Dawson for an insightful discussion on executive leadership and strategies for future-proofing the philanthropic sector

Monday, Mar 18, 2024
Doors Open at 11:30 am / Event Begins at 12:00 pm


Maggiano's Banquets
111 W. Grand Avenue
ChicagoIL 60654

Map and directions


John Palfrey

John Palfrey is President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the nation’s largest philanthropies with assets of approximately $7 billion, and offices in Chicago, New Delhi, and Abuja, Nigeria.

Palfrey is a well-respected educator, author, legal scholar, and innovator with expertise in how new media is changing learning, education, and other institutions. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a commitment to rigorous thinking, disruption, and creative solutions often made possible by technology, accessibility of information, and diversity and inclusion. Palfrey has extensive experience in social change spanning the education, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Palfrey served as Head of School at Phillips Academy, Andover, the only school of its kind to maintain need-blind admissions. During his tenure, the number of faculty members of color doubled, and the student body grew more diverse. He oversaw the creation of the Tang Institute at Andover, which seeks to reform and democratize excellent teaching and learning.

Palfrey was the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School. In that role, he expanded the Library’s reach and services, finding innovative ways to use digital technologies to enhance the school’s scholarship and teaching.

From 2002 to 2008, Palfrey served as Executive Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, which seeks to explore and understand cyberspace. He is founding board chair of the Digital Public Library of America, and is the former board chair of LRNG, a nonprofit launched and supported by MacArthur.

Palfrey has published extensively on how young people learn in a digital era, as well as the effects of new technologies on society at large. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education. A revised and expanded version of his book Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age, which he co-authored with Urs Gasser, was issued in 2016.

Palfrey is the board chair of the United States Impact Investing Alliance and serves on the board of the Fidelity Non-Profit Management Foundation. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and serves on the governance council. He is the former board chair of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Palfrey holds a JD from Harvard Law School, an MPhil from the University of Cambridge, and an AB from Harvard College.

Andrea Sáenz

Andrea Sáenz (pronounced Ahn-dray-a Sigh-enz) is the president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust. The Trust, one of the nation’s largest and oldest community foundations, is committed to a vision of equity, opportunity, and prosperity for the entire Chicago region. The Trust’s work is both professionally fulfilling and deeply personal for Sáenz. As an immigrant from Ecuador who came to Chicago as an adult, she is energized by the strength, creativity, connection, and cultural vibrancy that exists across the region. However, she has also experienced the obstacles too many Chicagoans still face as they strive to build financial stability and prosperity. 

Before being named president and CEO in 2022, Sáenz served as the Trust’s chief operating officer, overseeing information technology, learning and impact, and talent. In this role, she applied professional and personal insights to improve systems that affect people still left out of decision-making.  

As First Deputy Commissioner for Chicago Public Library, a system of more than 80 neighborhood branches, Sáenz led efforts to reimagine the role libraries can play in improving community wellbeing. Her team pioneered a human-centered approach to designing library services that prioritize the lives and goals of community residents.  

Before joining the Library, Sáenz was chief of staff to the Chicago Public Schools CEO, policy advisor for the U.S. Department of Education Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, and executive director of HACE, a national nonprofit working to increase Latinx entry and success in professional careers. She began her social sector career leading community-based adult education and workforce development services at Congreso de Latinos Unidos in Philadelphia. In each of these roles, she seized every opportunity to reimagine civic institutions to engage and serve people impacted by poverty.

In 2019, Crain’s Chicago Business recognized Sáenz as one of Chicago’s 25 Most Powerful Latinos. Her extensive board service includes the Economic Club of Chicago, National Louis University, American Civil Liberties Union, Albert Pick Jr. Fund, Chicago Learning Exchange, Chicago Public Education Fund, Chicago Public Library Foundation, and Chicago United. She is a member of Leadership Greater Chicago and received an honorary doctorate from Dominican University. She holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies from Scripps College.

Dion Dawson

Dion Dawson is a food-based social entrepreneur, philanthropic leader, and founder focused on health equity through an innovative and logistical lens. Dion's penchant for challenging the solvency of food insecurity through the stabilization of last-mile delivery and logistics has reinvigorated the traditional food distribution model.

With data-driven operations, consistent quality, and a deep commitment to a resident-informed process that meets residents and recipients where they are, he prioritizes the end-user experience. Dion founded Dion’s Chicago Dream, a nonprofit organization that delivers a week’s worth of fresh produce to the door steps of food insecure Chicagoans, totaling more than 500,000 lbs of fresh produce provided, more than 20 jobs created and one powerful movement. Dion is an award-winning military journalist, public relations & communications expert, philanthropist, and son of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.

His philanthropic achievements include being named an Echoing Green Fellow, 2023 Aspen Institute Food Fellow, 2023 University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy Fellow, 2023 Chicago Bulls Martin Luther King Legacy Award recipient and 2021 American Express NGen Fellow. His writings have been featured in The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Crain’s Chicago.

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Upcoming events

Collaborating for Equitable Development in Chicago

featuring remarks from the Chicago Community President & CEO Andrea Sáenz
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moderated by Senator Celina Villanueva
Panelists: Brian C. Johnson (Equality Illinois) and Reyna Ortiz (TaskForce / SWAG)
Thursday, Apr 25, 2024
Doors Open at 11:30 am / Event Begins at 12:00 pm

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