The Baskes: Meet A Chicago Family Who Supports Arts and Culture

Chicago natives Roger and Julie Baskes move some of their philanthropy through the Baskes Family Foundation, a low-profile charitable vehicle which they run with their children who are spread over the eastern part of the United States. Roger, a Harvard Law graduate, is a veteran lawyer. Julie, meanwhile, is the daughter of the late Rochelle Zell. The Zells, of course, are a prominent Chicago family whose philanthropy we've written about before. The Zell Family Foundation is currently steered by billionaire couple Sam and Helen Zell.

The Baskes don't engage in philanthropy through their foundation on that level, but do steadily support Chicagoland organizations, particularly those of the arts and culture variety. Away from the world of law, Roger is an avid collector of atlases and other books with maps. His collection of geography books and related reference materials comprises over 15,000 books, containing over 500,000 maps! Roger is also immediate past chair of the board of trustees of The Newberry Library in Chicago, home to the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections. 

Baskes steadily supports his alma mater, University of Chicago, home to the Julie and Roger Baskes Group Study. The couple has donated rare and historical books with maps that they have collected. In a recent year, the couple gave $250,000 to UChicago to support a cataloguing project for individual copies of rare books. 

The family, via their foundation, meanwhile, has especially keyed in on opera and theater outfits. Big winners include Goodman Theatre, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Chicago Opera Theatre. Other grantees have included Newberry Library, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre,Grant Park Orchestral Association, Chicago Humanities Festival, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Chicago History Museum. 

The Baskes family earmarks funds for education, health/human services, and Jewish causes, too. They've supported, for instance, the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, a Jewish day school. Julie once said of her mother, Rochelle, who fled Poland in 1939, that she "felt a very strong urge to support what remained of Jewish life." In life, Rochelle was active in supporting Holocaust remembrance and Jewish education. Another charity associated with the family, the Julie and Roger Baskes Charitable Trust, was once called the Bernard and Rochelle Zell Charitable Trust.

Related: Baskes Family Foundation: Chicago Guide