The Hamills: A Chicagoland Family With a Long Record of Environmental Giving

In 1994, Jonathan C. Hamill cofounded Segall Bryant & Hamill, an independent investment firm based in Chicago. Hamill currently serves on the board of Openlands, which protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region. He's also trustee emeritus of the Illinois chapter of The Nature Conservancy. These board involvements only begin to tell the story of the Hamill family's commitment to environmental issues.

To begin this story, let's go back to Hamill's parents, the late Corwith "Corky" Hamill and the late Joan Smith Hamill. In life, the couple were active in environmental causes in the Windy City and beyond. Corwith was once president of the Chicago Zoological Society. Joan, meanwhile, is considered a driving force in the creation of the Illinois Prairie Path, an old railroad line that is now a 61-mile trail in the Chicago area. Joan also was an accomplished horsewoman who continued riding into her 80s. Decades earlier, Joan helped with the transition of the United States Equestian Team from the U.S. Army to civilians.

These strong forces continue to animate the grantmaking of the Hamill Family Foundation, a low-profile charitable vehicle steered by Jonathan Hamill, as well as his sisters, Elizabeth Bramsen and Nancy Winter. Hamill's sisters, too, have a long record of environmental activism. Elizabeth is a founding board member at Barrington Area Conservation Trust, a land conservation and preservation organization in Barrington, Illinois. Nancy, meanwhile, says she was an "eco-warrior", protesting development that she and others felt was jeopardizing rural Kane County, where she grew up. She became involved with The Nature Conservancy in the late 1980s, and also helped start Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation, a "nonprofit charitable educational organization", as well as the Equine Land Conservation Resource, which works with landowners to protect rural lands for horseback riding.  


Got all that?

Suffice it to say, Hamill, Elizabeth, and Nancy have thoroughly followed in their parents' footsteps, and their philanthropy reflects this. The siblings via their Hamill Family Foundation have strongly supported Chicago Zoological Society, home to the Hamill Family Wild Encounters. Other big winners include Openlands, Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Conservation Foundation, Nature Conservancy in Illinois, and Teton Regional Land Trust. 

The Hamill Family Foundation recently made a substantial gift to Openlands to establish the Corwith Hamill Legacy Fund, which will help "protect and restore critical natural lands within the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding area." A multi-year $1.5 million gift to The Conservation Foundation, meanwhile, established the Joan and Corwith Hamill Fox River Land Fund to support land acquisition in the Fox River Valley, where the Hamills spent much of their childhood.

The family's support of enivronmental and animal organizations extends beyond Chicago, too, though grants tend to be smaller. Grantees have included Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club Foundation, WWF, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, African Wildlife Foundation, and International Crane Foundation.  The family has even helped bankroll environmental programming for PBSKids.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, the Hamill Family Foundation does not appear to accept unsolicited proposals. Those working within these issues in Chicago and beyond will have to work to get on this funder's radar. For a complete overview of the Hamill family's philanthropy, read our guides below.