Mary Eleanor Wall, a co-founder of DuPage Foundation, passed away on February 21, 2022, leaving behind a celebrated legacy and lifelong commitment to the community. She was 92 years old.
As a visionary in community and civic affairs, Mary Eleanor was an influential voice who helped bring DuPage Foundation to life in 1986 with the late Jerry Bradshaw and Brooks McCormick. She recognized the need for a local charitable organization that would raise the quality of life for the residents of DuPage County. Today, her vision remains as the Foundation surpassed $65 million in cumulative grants and operates under the same guiding principles created more than 35 years ago.
Mary Eleanor’s leadership within the community started long before the Foundation’s inception. An Elmhurst resident since 1959, she became actively involved in the community as she raised three sons. She was a member of the Elmhurst branch of the American Association of University Women and served as President from 1965 to 1967. She served as Illinois AAUW state president from 1979 to 1981.
In 1971, Mary Eleanor founded the DuPage County Democratic Women’s Caucus and, in 1974, became one of the first Democratic women to be elected to the DuPage County Board. She also served as a Forest Preserve Commissioner and DuPage County Regional Planning Commissioner in the late 70s.
In 1975, Mary Eleanor helped form the DuPage Senior Citizens Council. Later, she served as both a board member and the first executive director of Senior Home Sharing, Inc. She received two presidential appointments from President Jimmy Carter. Her first appointment in 1977 was to the nine-member presidential commission to make recommendations to the President for a new director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The second appointment was to the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, on which she served from 1980 to 1982.
In 1985, Brooks McCormick became a member of the DuPage County Planning Commission. At the time, he was also chairman of the executive committee for The Chicago Community Trust. Working together, Mary Eleanor and Brooks saw the extraordinary population growth in DuPage and believed in the power of establishing a local philanthropic resource to meet the County’s growing needs. Jerry Bradshaw, a prominent Wheaton banker, was asked to join the effort and The DuPage Community Foundation was established.
Six other community leaders were recruited for their special areas of expertise to guide the Foundation’s structure and scope of grantmaking. The first advisory committee included: Jerry C. Bradshaw, Elizabeth D. Eben, Jody E. Ellyne, John R. Horton, Brooks McCormick, Carleton Nadelhoffer, Hartman E. Stime, Charlie A. Thurston, and Mary Eleanor Wall.
Once the Foundation began making grants and became a permanent fixture and helping hand of the community, the momentum for community giving drew others to the cause. Mary Eleanor served as the Foundation’s first Board Chair from 1986 to 1991 and was designated a Trustee Emerita upon her retirement from the Board. She also served on several Foundation committees, including Grant Committee from 1988 – 2006; the Bylaws Committee from 1988 – 2017; and the McCormick Match Committee from 2000 – 2004.
“Mary Eleanor Wall was a driving force behind DuPage Foundation and one of the most celebrated leaders of our 35-year history,” said DuPage Foundation President & CEO Dave McGowan. “Without Mary Eleanor, there is no DuPage Foundation. She was a special person with a unique vision and strong ambition to make DuPage County a better place. We were fortunate to know her and its been our honor to carry out her vision of fostering philanthropy and building community partnerships.”
Mary Eleanor received countless awards for her dedication to helping the community. In 2000, she was named Humanitarian of the Year by the West Suburban Philanthropic Network and received the Community Service Professional Award from Metropolitan Family Services DuPage. A year later, she was honored as she was profiled in a book, The First Ladies of Elmhurst: Prominent Women of the Twentieth Century. The book was researched by the late Ruth Strand and written by Eugenie Urick.
When the Foundation celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011, Mary Eleanor reflected on the Foundation’s growth and was not surprised. She said, “We knew the potential was there. We fully expected it to work. We worked hard to bring together the right people and to create the right mission. The mission has never changed – it’s the right mission.”
About DuPage Foundation
DuPage Foundation, a 501(c)(3) community foundation, is the philanthropic leader in DuPage County, Illinois. DuPage Foundation manages more than $130 million in assets and has awarded more than $65 million in grants to not-for-profit organizations serving the residents of DuPage County since its founding in 1986. Individuals and organizations seeking to provide impactful support to address critical issues in DuPage County and beyond can create powerful customizable gift solutions and partnerships through DuPage Foundation. More at dupagefoundation.org. Doing a world of good in our own backyard.®