[Diocese of Chicago — Press Release] The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago announced April 25 that it will share a $10 million gift from Ab Nicholas and his wife, Nancy.
Mr. Nicholas is the founder of Nicholas Company Inc., a Milwaukee-based investment advisory firm that manages the Nicholas mutual funds. The gift is the largest in the diocese’s 187-year history.
The gift will be shared with Living Compass Faith and Wellness Initiative and will create The Nicholas Center, a facility at the St. James Commons in downtown Chicago. The center, expected to open in 2014, will be home to overnight retreats and programs that foster the health and wellness of Episcopal leaders and the vitality of church congregations.
The Nicholas Center will also serve as the headquarters of Living Compass, now located in suburban Milwaukee. Living Compass, led by the Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner and Holly Hughes Stoner, longtime associates of Mr. Nicholas, provides resources, coaching and training to help church leaders, families and teens gain balance and wholeness in their lives.
“Nancy and I are excited to join with and support the exciting energy that is already present in both the Diocese of Chicago and the Living Compass Faith and Wellness Initiative,” said Mr. Nicholas, a lifelong Episcopalian. “In my life in the business world I have seen that effective leadership makes all the difference. I believe it is the same in the church. We are delighted that the Nicholas Center will be a place and a program that will resource the leaders of the church.”
The announcement was made by the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, bishop of Chicago, at the dedication of St. James Commons, the renovated complex at 65 E. Huron St. that is home to the diocesan offices, St. James Cathedral, Episcopal Charities and Community Services and Episcopal Service Corps.
“What we focus on grows,” said Lee. “We need to focus on the health and wellness of our church leaders and the vitality of our congregations so we can do God’s work of feeding the hungry, advocating for the oppressed, and testifying to the power of the risen Christ in our lives and our world. This generous gift from Ab and Nancy Nicholas and our exciting partnership with the Living Compass Faith and Wellness Initiative makes possible outward and visible signs of the interior heart and soul renovation work that is our job as Christians.”
St. James Commons also includes the Pepper Family Plaza, made possible by a $3.2 million gift from Richard and Roxelyn Pepper. Mr. Pepper is chairman of Chicago-based Pepper Construction Group LLC. The gifts from Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas and Mr. and Mrs. Pepper are the two largest gifts in the history of the diocese, which was founded in 1835.
The dedication event was chaired by Kitty Beecken, who, together with her husband, David, established the D. Kyle Beecken Memorial Gallery at St. James Commons in memory of their son. David Beecken is a founding partner of Beecken Petty O’Keefe & Company, a private equity management firm working in the healthcare industry.
In 2011, the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago launched The Campaign for St. James Commons to undertake $12 million in significant and essential renovations to the diocesan center at 65 E. Huron St. in Chicago. The campaign has raised $8 million of its goal and the construction is nearing its end. Of the new $10 million gift from Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas, $1 million has been allocated to the current campaign goal. The remaining $9 million will make possible renovations at St. James Commons and ministry with Living Compass that were beyond the scope of the original plan for the St. James Commons renovation.
The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago comprises 40,000 people in 124 congregations in Northern Illinois.
Living Compass Faith and Wellness Initiative was founded in 2008 by the Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, an Episcopal priest, pastoral psychotherapist and spiritual director,and Holly Hughes Stoner, a licensed marriage and family therapist and former teacher. Today Living Compass works across the church providing resources, coaching and training to foster the balance and wholeness of church leaders, families, and teens.