On April 28th, the Lincoln Presidential Foundation presented Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO and President of Ariel Investments, with its prestigious Lincoln Leadership Prize, for her dedication and leadership in the areas of corporate leadership, financial literacy and diversity. The award was presented by internationally acclaimed musician Wynton Marsalis. Ms. Hobson is an established leader not only at Ariel Investments but as the Chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation, a director of JPMorgan Chase, and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ariel Investment Trust. Previously, Ms. Hobson served as Chairman of the Board of DreamWorks Animation and a board member of the Estée Lauder Companies.
In her acceptance speech, Ms. Hobson spoke very movingly about growing up in Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln is especially venerated, learning about him when she was a child and then growing up with a more nuanced understanding of his legacy and his times. She was introduced by her longtime close friend, Mr. Marsalis, who was as graceful with his words as he is with his music. And then he serenaded her to the stage with “When the Saints Go Marching In.” She also had recorded greetings from Michelle Obama, Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Rubenstein (who said it was annoying how perfect she was), Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, and more, all who spoke of her dedication, insight, integrity, and wisdom.
RogerEbert.com publisher Chaz Ebert was a gracious and elegant host of the event, delivering a beautiful tribute to Josephine Minow, board member of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and mother of our site's Contributing Editor Nell Minow, which included a personal note thanking Mrs Minow for pushing Marshall Field’s to hire Black models, opening up an opportunity for the late Dori Wilson, one of Chaz’s friends and a fixture in Chicago philanthropy.
"I was honored to serve as the Emcee at the Lincoln Presidential Foundation’s annual Lincoln Leadership Prize ceremony, and was especially pleased that the recipient was Mellody Hobson," said Chaz. "She received the Lincoln Leadership Prize because she has demonstrated a lifetime of service in the spirit of President Abraham Lincoln through her extensive community and civic involvement, as well as her leadership in seeking increased opportunities for underserved and underrepresented Americans. Mellody Hobson came from a modest background on the Southside of Chicago, and throughout her climb up the corporate ladder, she has consistently lent a hand to reach back to help so many. The authenticity of her philanthropy caused that evening to be one of the most poignant in memory."
Ms. Hobson's community and civic involvement is extensive, and includes serving as Chairman of After School Matters, a Chicago non-profit that provides area teens with high-quality after school and summer programs. Additionally, she is the vice chair of World Business Chicago, co-chair of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, and a board member of the George Lucas Education Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies. She also serves on the board of trustees of the Center for Strategic & International Studies, and of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Ms. Hobson is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The Rockefeller Foundation Board of Trustees and serves on the executive committee of the Investment Company Institute.
Ms. Hobson earned her Bachelor of Arts (AB) from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of International Relations and Public Policy. In 2019, she was awarded the University’s highest honor, the Woodrow Wilson Award, which is presented annually to a Princeton graduate whose career embodies a commitment to national service. She has also received honorary doctorate degrees from Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, St. Mary’s College, and the University of Southern California. In 2015, Time Magazine named her one of the “100 Most Influential People” in the world.
Since 2006, the ALPLF has awarded the Lincoln Leadership Prize to outstanding individuals who serve in the Lincoln Tradition. Previous recipients include: Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; Civil Rights Activists The Little Rock Nine; Astronaut James Lovell, Jr.; Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson; Filmmaker Steven Spielberg; 42nd President of the United States Bill Clinton; 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush; Former Polish President Lech Walesa; Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin; former Polish President Lech Walesa; Journalist Tim Russert; Astronaut James Lovell, Jr; Philanthropist David Rubenstein and award-winning actor and Philanthropist Gary Sinise.
For more information, visit the official sites of the Lincoln Presidential Foundation and Ariel Investments.