Wealthy Chicagoan Barre Seid flies well under the radar. He's behind Trippe Lite, a leading manufacturer of surge protectors. He and his wife Barbara Landis-Seid move their philanthropy through the Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation, which doesn't have much of a web presence or a clear way to get in touch. The foundation's director, however, has a Linkedin profile.
While Seid is rather private, he's no stranger to controversy. Last decade, a steady stream of money flowed to great books school Shimer College in Chicago, which some saw as a right-wing attempt to take over its board and administration. Other philanthropy, meanwhile, through a donor advised fund allegedly funded controversial DVDs about radical Islam placed in newspaper inserts in swing states.
Despite all of this, money streaming from the Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation has primarily supported something much more run of the mill—arts and culture in Chicago. The forces here are strong and Seid's wife Barbara is a driving force here. Involved in the arts since youth, Barbara is a mezzo-soprano who has performed with numerous opera companies including Chamber Opera Chicago, Opera North Theater, American Opera Group, Golden Gate Opera, San Francisco Lyric, and the National Symphony Orchestra in the Dominican Republic. Barbara also wrote, directed and starred in a musical theater adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion.
Moreover, Seid founded Chamber Opera Chicago and Barbara has served as artistic director of that opera since 2005. A steady stream of money has flowed to Chamber Opera Chicago, including grants totaling around $1 million alone in 2014. Support has also gone to Dead Writer's Theatre Collective, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Classical Symphony Orchestra, Northbrook Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and more.
Apart from arts and culture, support in Chicago has also gone to education. A $200,000 grant went to University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in 2014. Other support has gone to Chicago Academy for the Arts. UChicago's Gary Becker Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics. Additionally, sums have gone to Jewish outfits including a large $250,000 grant to Jewish United Fund in 2014 and a large $500,000 grant to Jewish Federation of Metro Chicago that same year. Support has also gone to human services outfits in Chicago such as United Way of Metro Chicago and the Salvation Army.