Frances Comer, the wife of our founder Gary Comer, passed away on Friday, December 4. A lifelong Chicagoan, her love for the city was profound, as was the spirit of generosity she shared with Gary.
In 1986, Gary and Francie created the Comer Family Foundation investing heavily in Chicago. In the early 2000s, they began to focus on revitalizing the South Side neighborhood where Gary grew up. In collaboration with the Paul Revere School (Gary’s alma mater) community, they envisioned a safe space for young people to go after school.
In 2006, they founded and built the Gary Comer Youth Center to provide enrichment programs and academic supports, helping youth in Greater Grand Crossing reach their full potential. Recognizing a need, Gary and Francie funded the creation of Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago, to ensure access to world-class healthcare with state-of-the-art pediatric facilities and programs for the children of the South Side.
Following the death of her husband in 2006, Francie carried on their philanthropic legacy. Partnering with her children, she established Gary Comer College Prep and helped fund the Grand Crossing branch of the Chicago Public Library.
In 2018, Francie conceived of High School Smarts, a program to teach teens about entrepreneurship. The educational partnership between DePaul University’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center (CEC) and the Gary Comer Youth Center aims to develop the talent, skills, and full potential of young people by showing how entrepreneurship can foster innovation, address societal problems, and create opportunities for success.
Francie was often described as a “force of nature" for her innate ability to bring people together, inspire collaboration, and effect positive change. She will be deeply missed.