February 20, 2004

SG's Trustee Speakers Series kicks off with a fireside chat

Craig J. Duchossois, CEO of Duchossois Industries, spoke to students in a "fireside chat" Thursday in the first installment of Student Government's Trustee Speakers Series. Duchossois stressed his desire to learn more about the student experience at the University, as well as his hopes to use the University's alumni network to further the professional cultivation of students.

Duchossois spoke about the relationship between a well-rounded education and success in the workforce. When president of Student Government Bo Shan asked what traits he most liked working with, Duchossois answered that he was attracted to people with an ability to communicate their enthusiasm and brilliance.

He said he would like to see the University more focused on group problem-solving skills and building contacts. "I hope you guys will help us increase the deficiency in alumni camaraderie here," Duchossois said.

Gabriela Coleman, a seventh-year Ph.D. candidate in anthropology, talked about her group, Save Our Student Health Insurance (SOSHI). She expressed her concern as part of the afternoon's overarching theme of making the University more accountable to its motto, "Crescat Scientia, Vita Excolatur" (As knowledge increases, life becomes enriched).

"The way health insurance is at the University contradicts the mission and is understandably part of the national healthcare crisis," Coleman said.

She referenced the existence of free health care for graduate students in the scientific fields, but not in humanities or social sciences. University-provided health insurance costs climbed twenty percent last year, and they are expected to rise another fifteen this year.

Duchossois said that the demographics of Hyde Park are highly skewed, and that all the hospital's profits are drawn from 1.16 percent of the patients. "We are the largest Medicare-Medicaid facility in Illinois, if not the Midwest," Duchossois said.

He also stressed that the best doctors and faculty were coming to Hyde Park "not because of the chocolate chip cookies," but for the facilities and great minds. In response to Coleman's concerns, he said the University was doing all it could, and that finding a cost-effective solution for providing free health insurance would be a long-term project.

Besides addressing particular inquiries from students about the University, Duchossois offered fatherly advice when asked about his life as a businessman and philanthropist. "I've always been taught that humility is a wonderful strength," Duchossois said, explaining how he tells employees that it is fine to make certain kinds of mistakes. If no mistakes are made, Duchossois said, entrepreneurs would not be able to "get out of the box."

"When you think you know all the answers is when you know you don't," Duchossois said.

Duchossois also had opinions about anger management. "If something's a bummer for me, I try to put it in the right perspective," he said.

Listening to concerns about the lack of a bustling Hyde Park social scene, Duchossois said the solution couldn't just be brick and mortar. "Bright people find ways to have fun here," Duchossois said, emphasizing the large number of student groups as a bastion of social life.

When discussing his life as a philanthropist, Duchossois said his generosity began with his mother and family. Duchossois's mother was treated for cancer at the University of Chicago Hospitals, and his family was impressed with the care given by a particular doctor. Duchossois gave a "modest donation," and he later was asked to join the board of trustees.

Duchossois said trustees deal with the overall concerns of the University rather than the day-to-day tasks, but he added that the University community could expect to see a more involved board of trustees over the years to come.