“Chris is an extremely successful businessman with a heart as big as the state of Illinois,” says IALC President Anthony Guida. “We’re so proud to present this year’s Man of the Year Award to him.”
Kennedy and his wife, Sheila, run Top Box Foods, a hunger-relief non-profit they founded to deliver high-quality, healthy, affordable foods to underserved neighborhoods. Previously, he served as Chairman of the Board of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the nation’s leading non-profit food distribution and training center, which provides food to more than 600,000 adults and children each year.
Kennedy managed the Merchandise Mart, one of the great economic engines of Illinois. As President of the Mart, he worked with governmental agencies, labor groups and independent small businesses to bring companies and good jobs back to Illinois. Under Kennedy’ leadership, the Mart became one of the largest LEED-certified buildings in the world. Now he is leading the real estate development project in downtown Chicago known as Wolf Point. Wolf Point is a massive construction project backed by more than $1 billion in private financing that is bringing 2,000 construction and permanent jobs to Illinois.
From 2009 to 2015, Kennedy served as Chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. At the U of I, he oversaw a $5.5 billion budget, 78,000 students and more than 23,000 faculty and staff. During his tenure, he reformed the administration and admissions process, grew the endowment, and increased financial aid. He is a former Trustee for the Catholic Theological Union, one of the largest schools of theology in the world.
Carrying on a family tradition, Kennedy has been a lifelong advocate of rights for persons with disabilities. He is a longtime supporter of Special Olympics Chicago and Special Olympics Illinois as well as Best Buddies International, an organization promoting social and employment inclusion of people with developmental disabilities. he is also a former board member for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, one of the nation’s leading physical rehabilitation hospitals.
For years, Kennedy helped lead the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness. He is a proud member of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, which promotes the benefits of comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.