Phil Ponce, host of WTTW Chicago Tonight presenting Andrew Mason, founder and CEO of Groupon, with the National Louis University Pioneer Award at the 125th Anniversary Gala of National Louis University on Jan. 19, 2012. Handout photo.
Updated: February 25, 2012 8:19AM
National Louis University, the private, not-for-profit teacher’s college founded in 1886 by a Jane Addams cohort, Elizabeth Harrison, celebrated a big birthday — its 125th year — and bigger gifts with an elegant dinner Thursday evening.
The university presented the inaugural Pioneer awards to Groupon founder and CEO Andrew Mason and retired venture capitalist Martin J. Koldyke and his wife, Patricia, in front of a 200-person crowd at a private downtown club. Co-chairs Elizabeth Louis and Diana Rauner — whose families each donated $500,000 to National Louis scholarship and research programs — represented their families at the function.
In a program emceed by WTTW’s Phil Ponce, Mason seemed shy as he stepped onstage, only managing a quick “Thanks” before shuffling back to his seat. Koldyke, however, made an inspiring speech extolling the history and impact of National Louis — which came from humble beginnings as a college to train poor, immigrant women in early childhood education — calling it “revolutionary” and “inspiring.” Today, National Louis University grants more graduate degrees in education than any other institution in Illinois.
A ticket to the benefit began at $250, and in total, more than $2.2 million was raised for the university.