Don’t Miss! Jim Hackett Talks Faith and Leadership

Want to be inspired by a successful life built on great values?

If your answer is yes, please join me on Friday, December 4 at Kenilworth Union Church at 7 a.m. to hear Jim Hackett speak on “Faith And Leadership.”

maureen and jim hackett

Maureen and Jim Hackett. Image courtesy of Inside IUPUI.

Hackett grew up in Winnetka and graduated from New Trier High School in 1972. He married his high school sweetheart, Maureen. Her influence kept their life together focused on serving others, even as they raised four children and Hackett charged through Harvard Business School and a spectacular career with a series of energy companies.

Most recently, Hackett served as Executive Chairman of the Board and CEO of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, one of the world’s largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies. He also is the former Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, a board member and/or adjunct faculty member of multiple colleges, a board member of two Fortune 500 companies and a partner in the private equity firm Riverstone Holdings LLC. 

That’s impressive success indeed.

But what most intrigues me about Hackett are four other facts:

  1. He stepped back from the pinnacle of corporate success in order to pursue a Master of Divinity at Harvard University.
  2. He cites two high school English teachers as life changing.
  3. He calls Maureen the more inspiring member of their marriage.
  4. With Maureen, he endowed the Women’s Philanthropy Center at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

This is a powerful man living by powerfully good values.

The Hacketts live in Houston.  But they returned to the North Shore in 2013 when he was inducted into the New Trier Alumni Hall Of Honor.

Hackett proved to be an engaging speaker that night. So I’m delighted that he’s returning to discuss faith & leadership, confident that his message will inspire you and honored to be able to introduce him.

Please join me and be inspired too.  It’s a great way to start your day.


Why I’m Grateful for Make It Better’s Powerful Audience

Make It Better August September Best Of 2015 IssueDear Make It Better Readers,

You—our audience—curated our August/September magazine issue and our online “Best of 2015” content. You chose well, too. Thank you.

You cast over 105,000 online votes to choose the Best Of 2015 winners. To be precise, you cast exactly 105,617 online votes. Those are extraordinary numbers!

It’s my great pleasure to present the Best Of 2015 winners to you in the August/September issue, online at and at our Best Of 2015 Celebration at the Chicago Botanic Garden on September 1. (By the way, please be our guests for this music-filled night under the stars in Chicago’s most beautiful outdoor venue by registering at

In the August/September issue though, you didn’t just curate the Best Of 2015 list. You also influenced much of the other content too, because we “reverse publish” from online into print what our audience finds most engaging. This includes content about food, family, fun, fashion, money, love, home, fitness and ways to make a difference.

I’m also particularly proud to share two other newsworthy facts with you:

Fact #1
Make It Better Cofounder Mindy Fauntleroy and I recently received Top Women In Media Folio Awards.make it better folio award top women in media

We were given these awards as Most Inspiring Entrepreneurial Women in New York City on June 8. We were the only regional publishers to win. Other winners included the New York Times, Hearst, Financial Times and the Harvard Business Review. In the publishing world, this was a bit like winning an Oscar. Pretty cool, right? You can see the video at

This award was only made possible because of the outstanding quality of our audience. Remember, we reverse publish what you tell us is important to you. Fortunately, because you are smart and have great values, you intuitively create or support win/win scenarios. So following your lead takes us in inspiring and successful directions. Again, thank you very much.

Fact #2
94% of our audience reads our magazines cover to cover.
The Circulation Verification Council (CVC) audit data we recently received proves that our audience keeps our magazines three months or longer, refers others to our content, and intentionally supports our advertisers.

CVC LOGOThis is powerful data. And, again, that is because of you. You are powerful for us too.

Therefore, please keep engaging with Make It Better Media. If you don’t yet do so, please follow us online by subscribing to our biweekly “Better Letter” email newsletter, watching MIB TV videos, joining our vibrant social networks listed below and coming to the events we sponsor.

But, even more importantly, please keep telling us what is important to you. Because you are important to us.

Thank you, very much.

With Warm Regards,


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Kohl Children’s Museum and My Family: Still Growing Together

My children and the Kohl Children’s Museum grew up together. The museum opened in 1985 in Wilmette on Green Bay Road, next to the Walker Bros. Pancake House, about the same time that the second of our six children was born and we moved to the North Shore.

We quickly discovered that a morning spent at the museum followed by a maple syrupy Walker Brothers lunch was the perfect family outing. I toddled my way through 4 more pregnancies and about two decades of such merriment.

Kohl Children's Museum

Image courtesy of Kohl Children’s Museum

What I didn’t appreciate then was that my family was enjoying the labors of a visionary educator who also was bringing educational best practices to under-resourced kids too: Dolores Kohl. Through her education foundation, Kohl opened teaching centers, supported arts and education programs around the world, and launched a traveling literacy program called StoryBus.

“Children are the messages we send to generations that we will never see,” Kohl declared during my 2011 interview with her as explanation for her determined efforts, her blue eyes twinkling. Kohl is pretty brilliant. She’s brilliantly pretty, too.

The museum grew from one of the original teaching centers. The messages my kids absorbed there through interactive exhibits helped them learn to think critically, develop confidence, and become life-long readers and learners. The message that the world absorbed was that the museum was such a valuable resource it needed to grow. So Kohl stepped aside from her daily activities at the museum and hired strategic and persuasive Sheridan Turner as the next President and CEO. Turner had previously led a highly successful Museum of Science and Industry expansion.

In 2005, Kohl Museum moved to a new and much larger facility in Glenview. Turner gives substantial credit for this accomplishment to Rick Waddell, who served as Chairman of the museum’s board of trustees during the expansion. “We simply couldn’t have accomplished all of this without Rick’s extraordinary leadership,” Turner declares proudly.

Kohl Children’s Museum celebrates its 30th Anniversary this coming school year with a plethora of activities—starting with a September kick-off party at the stunning Burdeen’s Jewelry in Buffalo Grove, a not to be missed October 17 gala, and a Make It Better Shop For Good partnership just in time for holiday shopping.

Kohl Museum now serves over 330,000 visitors annually, provides extensive outreach programs in Chicagoland and beyond, consistently ranks as one of the top 10 children’s museums in the country, and is about to launch a pioneering program for veterans and their families.

Dolores Kohl’s vision has already touched an extraordinary number of children and families. The ripple effect to future generations will be a substantial gift to the world. And the museum is still growing.

Fortunately for me, our family is still growing too. The next generation was born in time to share in the 30th celebration too. I’m excited to take my grandson to the museum soon. I’ll miss having Walker Brothers right next door for a mighty dose of maple syrup though.

Make It Better is proud to be the media sponsor of the entire year of 30th Anniversary celebration activities. If the museum has touched your family too, we hope you will share the good news about this, and join us at one of the events, too.

Thank you.

Better Together in Memory of Sarah McCausland and Mary Catherine Hayes

The deaths of two vibrant, creative, beloved recent grads who had flourished in New Trier High School’s performing arts, left their grieving families, friends and New Trier staff searching for a way to honor their lives.

Bold decisions by their parents and the school’s leadership eventually created a fitting opportunity: Raise $1 million to outfit a black box theatre inside the high school’s ongoing construction and name it in their memory. Thus was “Raise The Stage” born.

Make It Better is proud to be a media sponsor of this initiative and of our intern Olivia Loucks, who was a good friend of Sarah McCausland’s, for taking a big lead in the launch.

My heart hurts whenever I think about McCausland and Mary Catherine Hayes even though I never met them. But for the grace of God, it could have happened to my children.

But really, in one sense, it did. All children in our hometowns are our children. We are all better together too, working to heal hurt and build opportunity for future students with the Hayes-McCausland Black Box Theatre.

Please learn more from the article below written by Loucks and Livia Abuls. And please join us at the Kick-Off event on Monday, August 17.


Looking to pack as much fun as possible into your last few days of summer? Spice up your Monday by rallying the troops to the Black Box Kickoff Concert on August 17 for a night of live music, great food and better company.

black box sarah mccausland

Sarah McCausland. Photo: Gabby Jones

The best part? You can do it all while supporting a cause close to home. The concert is kicking off the Raise The Stage campaign to outfit New Trier’s new Black Box Theatre, to be named in memory of former theatre students Sarah McCausland (‘13) and Mary Catherine Hayes (‘10).

Sarah and Mary Catherine dedicated their New Trier careers to performing arts. After graduating, they both went on to college with big dreams of where that experience would take them in the future. After Mary Catherine courageously battled a rare form of liver cancer, she passed away in June 2013. Sarah passed away during her first year at Bard College, after being struck by a drunk driver in January 2014. Both women left behind powerful impacts on our community, and are remembered for possessing incredible spirit, creativity, and passion. With this in mind, friends of Sarah dreamed up an event to honor both girls’ unmistakable fire for life, which has developed into the Black Box Kickoff Concert.

Black Box Mary Catherine Hayes

Mary Catherine Hayes. Photo: Howard Hess

Make It Better is excited to partner with friends of Sarah in an effort to create a meaningful and community-driven event. Additional sponsors include Nick’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, the New Trier Educational Foundation and the New Trier Performing Arts Association. The venue, Nick’s, is not to disappoint. Not only was it voted Best Neighborhood Hangout in Make It Better’s Best of 2015 , but also the friendly feel is the perfect spot for this local cause.

So mark your calendars for Monday August 17 from 4-7p.m., because this is an evening you won’t want to miss. The night will include live music, a silent auction, appetizers and a cash bar. We’ll be in the presence of some of Chicago’s hottest up-and-coming talent. Opening will be Ava Suppelsa, a talented singer/songwriter from Evanston, followed by Johnny Edwards. Closing the night will be Leah Capelle and Elizabeth Lyons, both recently featured in “6 Local Musicians You Should Listen to Now.” We can’t wait to see you there, as we Raise The Stage and end this summer with a bang.

For more information and updates on the event, find us on Facebook!

Shop Oak Street Chicago: Help the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and The World

“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo
Win/win/win virtuous circles is a powerful idea whose time has come.
So is growing what is great about the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.  For decades it’s been ranked the best rehabilitation hospital in the country.

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Civic leaders know that Dr. Henry Betts led RIC to the top of the rankings because of his  extraordinary focus on patients, talent for advocacy and ability to implement leading edge research for people with disabilities.  Learn more here.

His successor, Dr. Joanne Smith, not only carried forward Betts’ legacy, she improved upon it. This includes her brainchild, the Ability Lab,” which put a high quality, light filled rehab therapy space decorated with positive messages next to appropriate research scientists and laboratories.  This proved extraordinarily effective and is one of the many good reasons behind RIC’s campaign to build a new hospital filled with similar spaces.

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Improving business by supporting local treasure nonprofits is another great idea whose time has come.  So, Make It Better is happy, happy, happy to be the media sponsor of the Oak Street Shop Around this Thursday, June 18 from 10 – 6 pm, at which participating stores donate 15% (not just 10%, rather 15%) of their sales to RIC.Could there be a better win/win/win, virtuous circle than this?You enjoy the best shopping in Chicago to support the best rehabilitation research and facilities in the country, with festival-like amenities that include live music, summer drinks and photo shoots too.
Please join us.Register here and you earn a free raffle ticket for fabulous prizes too:

Working With, And Leading, Greatness

The not-so-secret sauce of Make It Better’s success is our people. Many great people – talented, kind leaders all – laid a strong, trusted, valued and valuable community foundation when we launched on May 1, 2007. Watch that story here.

Susan B NoyesMany more have been building greatness upon this foundation ever since – particularly our staff, savvy advertisers, outstanding nonprofit partners and smart, engaged audience. I thank and celebrate each and every person.  But, most of all, I thank and celebrate my partner (and sister in a former life), Mindy Fauntleroy.

Two days ago, in New York City, Make It Better’s unique success was recognized nationally – when we received Folio’s Top Women In Media Award as Inspiring Entrepreneurs.

Other Folio Award recipients included publishing superstars from the New York Times, Hearst, The Atlantic, Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes, Time, Glamour, Meredith, Guggenheim, Harvard Business Review and Slate. Here’s the full list.  See #FolioTopWomen too. So we were in delightful, inspiring company. You can watch the story on this video.

Not Me, But WeFolio Top Women in Media Awards

Others often comment to me, “Can you believe how much you’ve done with Make It Better – and so quickly?”

My response, “It’s not what I’ve done, but what so many others have done.  And it doesn’t feel fast to us!  It’s been – and continues to be – so much work.”  Again, it’s only because so many talented, great people have worked well together that Make It Better has grown.

Yes, it was my brainchild.  But it’s taken a very large village to raise it – and grow our most trusted, easy to use community resource. Again, Mindy is at the heart of this success.

More than 10 years ago, I took her to lunch and invited her to be my partner launching a website for North Shore women.  Mindy has all the organizational skills I lack and an even bigger make it better heart.  She’s the perfect ying to my imaginative, self-deprecating yang. With four young children and a husband who travels a lot, Mindy only agreed because she thought this meant we were starting a little neighborhood blog.Mindy Fauntleroy

Ha! Little did Mindy know.

Now we’re a full service print, online, video and events media company with an annual audience of at least 75,000 engaged, unique online users, 150,000 print mag readers, 1000s of event attendees. And we create virtuous circles as fast as we can. Oh yeah, and along the way we also launched a Foundation.   And soon we will officially launch our Shop For Good eCommerce too.


We’ve attracted great people to help with every new initiative.  Talented writers, videographer, sales reps, marketers, nonprofit leaders, social networkers, audience members and more. I love them all.  No hyperbole.

Our world is ever more complex and interconnected; so, it will be ever more important for people, brands and institutions to work together to solve problems, share their passions and joy, and to lift each other up. That’s why the mission of Make It Better is to be the most trusted, easiest to use community resource that helps you make your life and the lives of others better by connecting you to the businesses and resources you support – online, in print and in person.

Thanks Mindy for living our mission so well, helping us attract and work with great others together, too.

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.” African proverb

Living The Dream: Everyone Deserves One Good Chance

Harvard College GraduationImagine how magnificent our world would be if every person got at least one good chance in life and made the most of it.  It’s easy for me to envision this right now, after I spent last week attended Harvard graduation events. The speeches, the exemplary lives honored and the hope for the future on display everywhere inspired this.

I was at HarvPatricia Grahamard’s commencement to celebrate with the Honorary Degree recipients. The group of ten included two of my friends, who also have been featured in Make It Better : Patricia Graham and Renee Fleming. A third recipient – Honorable Deval Patrick. – has a strong Chicago connection. He descended from slaves, grew up on the south side and was the first person in his family to attend college. After completing his eight year tenure as Governor of Massachusetts last year, Deval dove into the innovative and hopeful field of social impact investing at Bain Capital.

Of course, the other honorary degree recipients were inspiring too.  The entire list also includes:

Svetlana L. Alpers

Robert Axelrod

Wallace S. Broecker

Linda B. Buck

Denis Mukwege

Deval L. Patrick

Peter Salovey

Bryan Stevenson

Harvard College Honorary Degree Recipients 2015“We got our chances and lived up to them.” -Honorable Deval Patrick’s acceptance on behalf of all honorary degree recipients.

This is the statement that got me thinking about the possibilities inherent in our American society to give every person around the world at least one good chance in life.  We have the wealth, freedom, democratic structure and abundant good intentions to realize this magnificent dream – sooner, rather than later.  The dream to give every person at least one good chance, every family at least one good resource to help, and every child a caring village of support.

Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick

Every child should have at least one person who sees their potential and helps them develop it.  Every family should have at least one good community resource to help them with whatever struggle they face. Some type of committed, loving community should be available to everyone.

Our country’s vast resources can and should more readily align around the most effective problem solving programs and institutions to accomplish this.  Honorary degree recipient Patricia A. Graham serves as an example of someone who has consistently worked towards this and has had great impact.

“She not only illuminated the history of education, she made it.” – Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust’s comments about Patricia A. Graham.

I couldn’t be more proud of my association with Pat Graham.  I’m so fortunate to have her as my Godmother.   She is also a role model for everyone else, as well. Her career as a teacher, historian of education, federal agency director, author, first female dean of Harvard, president or chair of multiple foundations, corporate board member, highly prized education expert nationally and internationally is extraordinary. She used each role to create more opportunities for women and the indigent while she also helped the politically displaced receive a better education while exercising common sense and wisdom on behalf of each institution.  She lifts up each person and program she touches.

Pat’s vision and influence is intertwined with America’s growing determination to better educate every child. It was particularly delightful to hear President Faust declare Pat a maker of history. Pat’s example continues to inspires me in my own life and my Make It Better publishing journey.  I hope her extraordinarily well-lived life will inspire you too.

“She is both diva and divine, known for her arias, but not for her airs.” Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust comments about Renee Fleming.

Opera star, literacy advocate, National Medal of Arts recipient, author, crossover singer, teacher, fashion icon, champion of new music, TV host, Creative Director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, proud mother of two.  Renee Fleming is all of this and more.

She describes her work as “beauty, humanity and history every day, combined with the joy of singing.” This may be true of all great opera singers.  What inspires me about Renee is what makes her different from other divas – her focus on including the most meaningful facets of a well-lived life that aren’t related to singing, despite the demands and opportunities of being “The Voice.”   Renee once explained to me that few international opera stars marry, have children and enjoy a great relationship with their offspring; they are too busy enjoying the opportunities and demands of an international career.

Renee FlemingRenee has always prioritized her kids, given back, focused more on others than herself, taken risks, tried new things and helped others.  She’s a natural collaborator and an out-of-the-box thinker, working ever smart to grow new audiences for the music she loves and new opportunities for the next generation of artists.  This is exactly the type of thinking and opportunity creating we need to achieve my dream of giving every person at least one good chance in life.

“It’s much better to fail while daring greatly than to be a bystander.” Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean Jim Ryan, quoting Teddy Roosevelt. Watch his speech here.Dean James Ryan, Harvard

It’s such an exciting time.  New technologies accelerate our knowledge and our ability to connect every day.  Good people can spread good ideas faster than ever too. For this reason, in my own small way, I have dared greatly too – with Make It Better Media. This has been a journey inspired by a belief that paying good fortune forward is the best way to grow something of enduring value.   With the help of so many good people and the inspiration others like the honorary degree recipients, I’m living a worthwhile dream.

As Make It Better Media accomplishes its’ mission to be the most trusted, easiest to use community resource and magazine that helps our audience make their lives and the lives of others better, we’re growing a valuable network of good. More good people, finding more good ways to help, giving at least one good chance in life to those who need it the most.