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Stanley Freehling

Stanley Freehling Obituary
Freehling, Stanley M. Longtime investment banker and philanthropist Stanley M. Freehling, widely hailed as Chicago's Patron Saint of the Arts, and "the third lion" of the Art Institute, died peacefully Friday, September 20, at his Highland Park home, surrounded by family. He was 95. A native son of Chicago, Freehling was born in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood, attended the University of Chicago and received his BA from the University of Stockholm. For decades he was a Senior Partner with Freehling and Company, a NYSE firm on LaSalle Street. Intensely devoted to the civic life of Chicago, he served as a Life Trustee of the University of Chicago, a trustee of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the John G. Shedd Aquarium, Lake Forest College, and the Chicago Public Library. His greatest passion, however, was for the arts, where his accomplishments have left an indelible mark on the city. With his business savvy and avuncular affability, Freehling raised millions of dollars for such venerable institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Ravinia Festival, the Arts Club of Chicago, the Goodman Theatre, and many more. He served as Chairman of Ravinia, President of the Arts Club, a Life Trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago and Chairman of the Sustaining Fellows of the Art Institute, and as a trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Hubbard Street Dance Company. He served as the chairman of the Illinois Arts Council, as a member of the Chicago Theatre Group, the National Corporate Theatre Fund, and Sadler's Wells Theatre Association in London. In 1985, Ronald Reagan appointed Freehling (along with Frank Sinatra) to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Mr. Freehling's talent for parting donors with their money was legendary, and he jokingly referred to himself as a "pickpocket." Martin Koldyke, former chairman of WTTW labeled Stan and his wife Joan "The Robin Hood and Maid Marian of Chicago," saying "They are great robbers of the rich." His long association with the Art Institute began in 1950 when, as a young executive-in-training at the First National Bank of Chicago, he volunteered to serve as treasurer. Freehling went on to serve on multiple boards and committees. More than 250 works in the permanent collection include Joan and Stanley's name in their credit lines. Their connoisseurship and special devotion to works on paper were recognized by the Art Institute with the exhibition Collecting for Chicago: Prints, Drawings and Patronage in 2008. Their generosity can be found in the Modern Wing as well - Karl Schmidt-Rotluff's Two Girls in a Garden (1914), a gift made in memory of Freehling's mother, and Max Beckmann's Bathers (1928) are two notable works donated to the permanent collection. The Founding Chairman of the Goodman Theatre, Freehling launched a $2 million campaign in the 1970s to make the Goodman a self-governed institution, independent of the Art Institute where it had been flailing financially. He also started the first capital fund drive at Ravinia to raise more than $2.2 million to rebuild the Pavilion stage (redesigned by George Balanchine), enlarge the orchestra pit, and install a new sound system. As Chairman of the Ravinia Festival in 1967, he hired Edward Gordon, a brilliant arts administrator with the admonition "let's turn this organization around," and turn it around they did. Ravinia held a special place in Freehling's heart. It was there that he courted Joan (nee Steif), who was a formidable fundraiser herself, compiling the Noteworthy cookbook for Ravinia's Women's Board, which made the New York Times best-sellers list. Mr. Freehling was instrumental in identifying and funding numerous works of public art in the city of Chicago. The Dubuffet in the front of the State of Illinois Center and the Miro at the Brunswick Building are among the most visible. At Ravinia he guided the establishment of the park's collection of outdoor sculpture. Richard Hunt's massive two-piece Music for a While was the first sculpture in Ravinia's ever-growing collection that now includes works by Plensa, Chadwick, and Botero. Throughout his career, Freehling received many honors and awards, including the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award, the Harvard Club of Chicago Award, the Grant Park Symphony Special Award, the Rosary College Bravo Award, and the Sydney Yates Arts Advocacy Award. He was the recipient of the Joseph Jefferson Award for Life Achievement in the Theatre, and the Merit Music Program's Alice S. Pfaelzer Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts. Other Awards include the American Jewish Committee's Human Rights Award, The Anti-Defamation League Distinguished Service Award, the Friends of Literature Award, the first Governor's Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Illinois, the International Visitor's Center Gold Medallion Award, the United States Marine Corps Distinguished Service Award and the Harold Washington History Maker Award for Distinction in Public Service. Freehling was an avid golfer and sports fan, who loved the Chicago Bears and White Sox. He and Joan were active travelers who visited every continent throughout their many decades together. He loved a dry Beefeater martini, a good meal and, being a consummate host, the company of good friends. He was a long-time member of Lake Shore Country Club and a host of city clubs, including the Mid-Day Club, the Commercial Club and many others. In his later years, Mr. Freehling had the great fortune of being cared for by two outstanding and devoted women, Verginia Maeva and Maya Tonina, whose loving care made it possible for him to live a full and rich life despite his declining health. He is also survived by his indispensable friend and assistant, Karen Love, whose devotion to Mr. Freehling's well-being was of great comfort to him and his family. Stanley is predeceased by his two brothers, Julius and Herbert, and wife Joan, who died in 2011 after 64 years of marriage, but is survived by daughters Maggie Freehling Phillips of Auburn, Alabama, Elizabeth (Debbie) Weidner of Des Plaines, a son, Robert Freehling of Sacramento, California, Dominique Parducci of Grass Valley, California and sons-in-law, Joseph Weidner and Scott Phillips. He also leaves behind five grandchildren, Benjamin Weidner of Des Plaines, Sam Phillips of Oakland, California, Max Phillips of San Francisco, Rosalind Parducci of Grass Valley, Daniel Freehling of Lima, Peru, and a great grandchild, Noah Freehling, also of Lima, a sister-in-law, Caryl Freehling, nephews Jim and Tom Freehling of Hollywood, Florida, and a niece, Julie Frodl of Surprise, Arizona. A public memorial service will be held at Ravinia's Gordon Bennett Hall on Friday, October 11 at 11:00 am. Please park in the South Priority Parking Lot. In lieu of flowers, donations in Mr. Freehling's memory may be made to one or more of the following institutions, the Ravinia Festival, 418 Sheridan Rd. Highland Park, IL 60035 or at www.ravinia.org, Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Chicago, IL 60601 or at www.goodmantheatre.org/Support/Make-A-Donation/, the Art Institute of Chicago, Attn James Allan, 111 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60603 or at www.artic.edu, or the University of Chicago, 5235 S. Harper Court, 4th Floor, Chicago, IL 60615 or at https://www.uchicago.edu/. For info or directions please contact Kelley & Spalding Funeral Home at 847-831-4260 or www.kelleyspaldingfuneralhome.com.
Published in Chicago Sun-Times on Sept. 29, 2019
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