Lester Crown

Engineer, Billionaire

President of Henry Crown Company


Alumni Association Awards

Twenty-one honored for distinguished service to Northwestern, their community and profession

Alumni Medal

The Alumni Medal is the mark of highest distinction granted to Northwestern alumni who have achieved eminence in their communities and fields of endeavor and who have rendered exceptional service to the University, bringing honor to themselves and their alma mater.

The Alumni Medal was awarded to Lester Crown (McC46), president of Henry Crown & Company.

Crown is a contemporary patriarch — a dedicated leader, benefactor, and mentor for a family circle that extends to the Northwestern community, the city of Chicago, and the Jewish community worldwide.

Henry Crown & Company manages investments and/or operations in defense, aerospace, transportation, oil and gas, cellular phones, outdoor furniture, and resort properties. Crown is chairman of Chicago-based Material Service Corporation, a major provider of construction materials, and a director of General Dynamics Corporation, one of the nation’s leading defense suppliers for the United States and its allies.

He is also vice president of Arie and Ida Crown Memorial, a private charitable foundation named for his grandparents, who emigrated from eastern Europe. The family’s philanthropy supports such interests as Jewish issues, Chicago organizations, education, arts and culture, health care, and community development.

Son of the late industrialist Henry Crown, Lester Crown developed a strong work ethic in his early years. As a teenager he worked in the quarries of Material Service Corporation, the business founded by his father and his uncles Irving and Edward. Entering Northwest-ern in 1943 during World War II, Lester and many of his fellow classmates took extra classes to complete their undergraduate degrees early, denying themselves the social life and campus activities normally associated with the college experience. He was a member of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honorary society and the Pi Mu Epsilon mathematics honorary society. After receiving a BS in chemical engineering in 1946, he spent a year teaching mathematics at Northwestern and then went on to Harvard Business School, earning his MBA in 1949. Crown then worked as a research chemist at Medusa Portland Cement Company in Cleveland before returning to Material Service, where he held a number of positions at its subsidiary, Marblehead Lime Company, and at the parent company.

For nearly 45 years Lester Crown has volunteered his time and talents to benefit North-western. Since 1958 Crown has been a member of the John Evans Club; he was made a life director in 1978. An active member of the University’s Board of Trustees since 1960, he was named a life trustee in 2000. Crown served on the search committees that selected University presidents Arnold Weber and Henry S. Bienen. A member of the Technological Institute Advisory Council since 1980, Crown helped raise more than $100 million for the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science as cochair of the Campaign for Engineering and the Physical Sciences in the 1990s.

As a trustee Crown welcomed the opportunity to work with Northwestern’s presidents and deans to enhance the University’s academic reputation. He gives special credit to Weber and Bienen for their leadership in raising the University “from a fine school to a superb one.” And though he calls Campaign Northwest-ern a spectacular success, he is concerned about the increasing cost of private education, both at Northwestern and elsewhere. Says Crown, “I don’t think the issue of rising tuition costs and scholarships at today’s universities is being addressed as much as it should be.”

The Crown family’s generosity to Northwestern is well known. In 1961 Henry Crown and his three sons — Lester, Robert (WCAS42), and John (L55), the latter two now deceased — donated $1.8 million to Northwestern for construction of the Rebecca Crown Center, named for Henry’s wife and the sons’ mother. In 1984 the University broke ground for the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, a $13.4 million recreational sports center named for their father.

Alumni Merit

Alumni Merit Awards are presented to alumni who have distinguished themselves in their particular professions or fields of endeavor in such a way as to reflect credit upon their alma mater.

Alumni Merit Awards were presented to 11 individuals. Awards committees in each school evaluate nominees and select the recipients.

Recipients are:

Richard C. Boronow (WCAS56, FSM59)

Edward J. Campbell (McC52, KSM 59)

Jack Guthman (WCAS60)

Alice Bourke Hayes (G72)

Betsy Holden (SESP78, KSM82)

Jerome P. Kenney (KSM67)

Mark W. Lingen (D90, GD94, GFSM96)

Frederick Miller (Mu57, GMu58)

Charles Pecoraro (SCS71)

Don H. Reuben (EB49, L52)

Mary Lou Song (J91)

Service to Society

The Service to Society Award recognizes the voluntary efforts of alumni in various areas that contribute to the advancement of causes or the improvement of society, thereby reflecting favorably on the University. The Alumni Awards Committee selects one recipient.

Throughout her life, Karen Lipschultz DeCrow (J59) has challenged the ways women and men view their roles in society and in the family. Her leadership in the pursuit of gender equity and equal opportunity has not only helped break the corporate glass ceiling, it has affected family dynamics and nearly every other aspect of today’s society.

An attorney, author, and lecturer specializing in employment law, civil liberties, and gender and age discrimination, DeCrow has worked to open doors shut by outdated attitudes and social conventions. Her ultimate goal, in her words, is “a world where the gender of a baby will have little or no relevance to future pursuits or pleasures — personal, political, economic, social, and professional.”

Born and raised in Chicago, DeCrow attended Joyce Kilmer Elementary and Sullivan High School. She expresses gratitude that, throughout her life, her parents — the late Samuel Meyer Lipschultz and Juliette Abt Lipschultz — encouraged her and her sister, Claudia Abt Lipschultz, to pursue their personal and professional goals. DeCrow earned a bachelor’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism in 1959 and says the school taught her to write on deadline and deepened her appreciation of a free press. In particular, she credits Jacob Scher for teaching her about fairness, objectivity, and ethics in writing. Literature classes with Bergen Evans and Saul Bellow sparked her intense fascination with the human condition and the art of writing — interests she still pursues. “I remember endless, marvelous hours sitting in the Grill, discussing truth, beauty, and goodness with my friends. We were very philosophical and idealistic — I think I still am.”

Service to Society

Alumni Service Awards are presented to individuals in recognition of loyal service voluntarily rendered to the University, through the Alumni Association, an affiliated alumni group or one of the schools or colleges.

The Service Award recipients are:

Wade Fetzer (KSM61)

Vicki Hood (WCAS74, L77, KSM77)

Henry B. Reiling (WCAS60)

David R. Sanderson (WCAS55, FSM58)

Louise Yao (N62)