Illinois lost a true champion. The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) mourns the passing of Harrison I. Steans, an entrepreneur and founder of North Lawndale College Prep, a two-campus charter public high school.
Considered one of Chicago’s most successful bank investors, Steans was equally revered for his philanthropic endeavors. In 1987, he started an “I Have a Dream” program to support students in two elementary schools on Chicago’s North Side. Through his family’s foundation, Steans helped found North Lawndale College Prep, which opened in 1998. About 80 percent of the school’s graduates enroll in college—nearly double the college enrollment rate for all Chicago public high school graduates, which is 40 percent. The school’s campuses are in a neighborhood where less than six percent of the population has college degrees.
Steans is survived by his wife of 61 years, Lois. They are the loving parents of three daughters, who successfully and passionately carry Steans’ legacy. Daughter Heather is an Illinois state senator, and her twin sister, Jennifer, leads the family investment office born from Harrison’s career accomplishments. Youngest daughter, Robin, is president of Advance Illinois, an education advocacy group.
Those of us who work in education owe Steans a debt of gratitude. He will be missed and remembered.