Leaders & Legacies: Mark & Marcie Peterson, building bridges in Alan & Milly's footsteps
Leaders & Legacies: Stories of Local Impact is an ongoing series brought to you in partnership with the Daily Herald and DuPage Foundation. It highlights the inspiring stories of local individuals, families, and businesses who have made or are making a lasting impact for our community through their generosity and leadership.
The series continues with Marcie A. Peterson and Mark A. Peterson of Wheaton.
Marcie Peterson raises millions of dollars for DuPage County nonprofit organizations.
"That's what she brings to the table," said her daughter, Erin Peterson. "She is someone who has the power, work ethic, talent, and connections to raise significant amounts of money."
Unwaveringly supported by her husband and biggest fan, Mark, much of Marcie's success in philanthropy lies in her event planning skills.
"She uses her attention to detail and ability to plan a great party with every organization she's been a part of," Mark said. "This is where she shines."
The daughter of Dr. Bernard and Mrs. Joyce Eddy, Marcie credits her upbringing with much of who she is today.
Marcie and her three brothers, Bill, Bernie, and Chris, grew up in Niles, Ohio, as a part of the generous and community-minded Eddy family.
Later, Marcie met Mark Peterson at Ohio University while earning a degree in education with an emphasis in early childhood. They were married in 1980, and moved to the Chicago area, closer to Mark's parents, Alan E. Peterson (1929-2020) and Mildred "Milly" C. Peterson (1931-2020).
Though she did not know it at the time, Marcie's life-changing, philanthropic journey had begun.
"During our early years of marriage, I didn't know a lot of people in the area," Marcie said. "We lived close to my in-laws, so Milly quickly became a confidante of mine."
Milly was an avid golfer, gardener, and bridge player, and a passionate past member of the Glen Ellyn Junior Woman's Club. She connected Marcie to its sister club in Wheaton, where Marcie made lifelong friends, held several offices, and perfected her event planning skills. She served as president for the 1993-1994 Wheaton Junior Woman's Club year with more than 100 members under her leadership.
Growing up, the Petersons' three children, Erin, Patrick, and Matthew, watched as their mom volunteered countless hours for the benefit of others. Clothes and toy drives, fundraisers, and kids crafts were family affairs as all members of the family were expected to participate.
"From a young age, we were made aware that our family had resources other people did not," Erin said. "And, with that, there was an expectation and a responsibility to share what we had."
Alan, the patriarch of the Peterson family, was legendary with his generosity. He came from humble beginnings, working his way through college and quickly climbing the corporate ladder at Arthur Andersen, an accounting firm based in Chicago.
During the 1980s, Alan first discovered the Chicago headquarters for Metropolitan Family Services, a nonprofit that strengthens families as a whole by providing wraparound care. Alan understood that empowering families with financial assistance, food, child care and counseling came full circle. Healthy families created healthy, active communities and healthy, successful businesses. He served on the board of Metropolitan Family Services for 15 years in support of this mission.
A strategic force in Glen Ellyn, Alan believed in forming relationships to strengthen the tight-knit community in which he and Milly chose to raise their family. He listened, he paid attention, and he built bridges wherever he went.
"My dad was usually the most brilliant man in any room," Mark said. "And his greatest skill was making other people feel like they were."
It was in 2002, after Marcie coordinated an 800-person black-tie event for the Licensing Executives Society (LES) that her interest in event planning soared.
The thrill of its success and the appreciation she received encouraged her to pursue further training in event planning. She went on to spearhead additional LES meetings, including those in Boston, San Francisco and Vancouver.
For many years, Alan watched as his daughter-in-law's expertise proved fruitful for the organizations with which she was engaged. He knew what Marcie was capable of and began introducing her to his contacts.
Following one of these introductions, Marcie became actively involved with Metropolitan Family Services DuPage (MFSD), a community center in the MFS network that Alan strongly supported. Marcie was an incredible asset to its gala committee, as Alan knew she would be. Additionally, Mark's business, Robinwood Consulting, as well as Alan and Milly, served as generous sponsors of the gala for several years.
Marcie and Mark were following in Alan and Milly's philanthropic footsteps. They were building their own bridges.
"While Alan was a corporate leader within his circles, Marcie isn't," said Theresa Nihill, chief operating officer of MFS. "She's a smart, committed, thoughtful wife and mother, and because of that, she has remarkable leadership qualities that people admire and respect."
These qualities led to Marcie's appointment as the first female chair of Metropolitan Family Services DuPage, which she held from 2016-18. During her tenure, she led the board through important business, including an increase in fundraising dollars.
She also implemented an attitude of gratitude among the board that focused on celebrating those who were involved with the organization. Board members, staff, and volunteers were recognized regularly by Marcie for their impactful work.
As Alan's consulting business grew over the years, Milly managed their home life. Raising her two sons, Mark and Doug, was her proudest accomplishment.
An avid reader who was always curious, Milly sought out opportunities where their support could facilitate learning, such as scholarships and specialized training. They found many worthwhile educational projects at Central DuPage Hospital.
It was here that Paul Pyrcik, Jr., director of development for Central DuPage Health Foundation at the time, first connected with the Petersons.
"Alan, Milly, and I had a common bond as supporters of Metropolitan, and professionally, I had the privilege of proposing hospital projects for them to support," Pyrcik said. "When the hospital wanted to purchase high-tech, electronic training models, for example, the Petersons were on it. They recognized the importance of a tool that would allow nurses to practice their skills without risk."
In addition to health care and education, Alan and Milly were well-known supporters, attendees, donors, and idea-generators of College of DuPage.
Perhaps the most brilliant step in Alan's bridge-building efforts came in 2016 when he connected longtime friend Carlos Philips with the leadership team of the Cleve Carney Museum of Art and the McAninch Arts Center at COD. Carlos is the son of Dolores Olmedo and director of Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico, which houses the largest collection of Frida Kahlo artwork in the world. Alan's friendship with Carlos was so strong that this extraordinary exhibit was recommended, not to the Art Institute of Chicago or the Louvre in Paris, but to the community college in Glen Ellyn.
Diana Martinez, director of the MAC, was stunned by Alan, Marcie, and Mark's proposal. Alan believed hosting this exhibit would enrich the quality of life in the region, boost local business, and expand cultural understanding. He wanted to put the College of DuPage on the map.
Doing so was going to require millions of dollars in building enhancements and exhibition expenses and years of work to prepare the community college's gallery for this caliber of art. The Petersons worked tirelessly toward this goal, and, as a result of their leadership and personal investment, more than $600,000 was raised in support of the "Frida Kahlo: Timeless" exhibit that launched in 2021.
It was heartbreaking when both Alan and Milly passed away in 2020, one year prior to the "Frida" exhibit's once-in-a-lifetime debut. Though they did not see their work come to fruition, they would have been thrilled with its success. More than 100,000 people visited the three-month exhibition.
"This crazy project we were all so devoted to for four years worked," Martinez said. "We made back the investment, the art arrived and was safely returned, strong community relationships were formed and COD now has the credibility and space to do similar exhibits year after year. That was Alan's vision."
Those surrounding the Petersons saw a transition in Marcie following the success of the "Frida" exhibit. While Marcie started her philanthropic journey showing up when invited by her father-in-law, now she's confidently guiding committees and leading board decisions throughout DuPage County. She has found her passion and brings her own connections to the table.
"That's the magic of Alan," Pyrcik said. "He was always able to see the bigger picture, sometimes two or three layers out. Alan knew Marcie was special from the beginning, and now she knows it, too."
The Peterson family's legacy of bringing high-quality art to DuPage County did not end with Alan. Marcie has arrived.
As "Frida" wrapped in 2021, COD pursued the Bank of America Art in Our Communities collection for its next world-renowned exhibition. While this loan program typically focuses its philanthropy in downtown Chicago, because of Frida's success in Glen Ellyn, Bank of America was thrilled to partner with COD.
Marcie had found her next project, "Andy Warhol Portfolios: A Life in Pop." She and Mark served as invaluable champions, contributing to strategy and volunteer recruitment for the exhibit's fundraising gala -- all while enthusiastically advocating for the show to their personal networks. They helped set the stage for a successful 2023 debut.
COD is enjoying an unbelievable response to the Warhol exhibit with 23 DuPage communities engaging in their own Pop Art events this summer.
"We need experiences that bring us together," Martinez said. "Warhol is such a fun artist, inspiring crazy colors and vibrant energy, so schools, community centers and government officials are excited to get in on the fun. I will be forever grateful to the Peterson family for paving the way for this experience."
Bank of America's art collection may be touring the country, but the 11,000 square feet of immersive, multifaceted exhibit space is custom built for DuPage. All are invited to "Andy Warhol Portfolios: A Life in Pop" on display June 3 to Sept. 10 at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art and McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage.
Marcie joined the College of DuPage Foundation board this spring and is committed to advocating for the arts in DuPage County.
"Everything I do, I dive in full speed, which I learned from Alan," Marcie said. "What started as an art show is now a multi-community celebration of the arts. It's a tribute to what Alan started, and I am now continuing it as my own."
There is no question that if Alan and Milly were here today, they would be Marcie's proudest cheerleaders.
Marcie and Mark are an example of what a philanthropic partnership can accomplish. They were recognized as 2021 Philanthropists of the Year by the West Suburban Philanthropic Network.
"The Petersons' philanthropy is the complete package," said Karen Kuhn, executive director for the College of DuPage Foundation. "They write checks, and they also serve on the committees. They open their networks, and they advocate tirelessly for the cause. Whatever they support, they are all in."
Alan and Milly funded countless community projects during their lives and inspired their children and grandchildren to follow in their footsteps.
They were the catalysts for creating their family's next generation of philanthropists. As for what Marcie and Mark's legacy will be, that story is still being written.
They are building their own identities as philanthropists committed to investing in a bright future for DuPage County, now home to their four grandchildren.
"My dad is the brains, and my mom is the heart of their duo," Erin said. "Their strategic investments in individual people, education, health care and the arts are impactful and will leave our corner of the world better than it was when we got here."
Not a fan of participation points, Mark prides his family on their ability not simply to try, but to succeed.
With Marcie at the forefront, there is no doubt that is exactly what they will do.
• The Leaders & Legacies series is brought to you by the Legacy Society of DuPage Foundation. Suggestions for future stories can be sent to Robin Carroll, director of marketing & communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested in learning more about how you can make an impact or create a legacy for your community and favorite causes? Learn more at dupagefoundation.org or call (630) 665-5556. DuPage Foundation is located at 3000 Woodcreek Drive, Suite 310, in Downers Grove, IL 60515.
'Andy Warhol Portfolios: A Life in Pop/Works'What: Andy Warhol Portfolios: A Life in Pop/Works from the Bank of America Collection
Featuring: The multifaceted exhibition, custom created for DuPage County, encompasses 11,000 square feet of space. Experience Andy Warhol's life with 94 original works on loan through the Art in our Communities program. Elements include an interactive mural, children's print factory area, Studio 54 experience, and a Central Park-inspired outdoor cafe, creating an immersive exhibition focused on one of the most influential artists of the past century.
When: June 3 to Sept. 10
Where: Cleve Carney Museum of Art and McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
Cost: Tickets start at $25 per person
Questions: Contact the MAC Box Office at (630) 942-4000, Tuesday to Saturday, from noon to 6 p.m. Visit theccma.org/warhol for more information.