BY LIZ SHARP
Over 1,000 guests comprised of corporate, civic, and philanthropic leaders from all over Chicago gathered at the Field Museum’s 2018 Women in Science Luncheon on April 3, 2018, at the Sheraton Grand Chicago to hear keynote speaker, Dr. Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, and to celebrate the renowned scientist’s 84th birthday. Dr. Goodall’s groundbreaking research began in 1960 on the behavior of free-living chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, and she is known across the globe as an activist for all life on earth. The Sarowitz family was the generous underwriter of Dr. Goodall as the luncheon speaker.
The huge popularity of Dr. Goodall garnered record attendance for this annual luncheon started by the Women’s Board of the Field Museum and raised more than $500,000 to support opportunities for young women aspiring to STEM careers. These include summer internships, graduate fellowships, post-doctoral work, and other outreach. Prior to the luncheon, Dr. Goodall engaged with 45 young women from Chicago Public Schools and talked about conservation and women in science. “The students asked wonderful questions!” enthused Tonja Hall, one of the event co-chairs. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the fantastic support of this event,” added co-chair Julie Goff.
The table décor by the Flower Firm was simple and conservation-minded, providing a beautiful backdrop for the delicious vegetarian lunch featuring a flavorful salad with Cowgirl Creamery cheese and a sundried tomato quiche with feta cheese, spinach, and basil, topped with a petit salad. Dessert offered guests an assortment of mini-pistachio raspberry tarts, hazelnut silk cheesecake, or lemon bars.
Setting the stage for Dr. Goodall’s presentation was a wonderful video produced by Anne Kavanagh, a member of the Women’s Board, which highlighted Field Museum scientists and the recipients of the internships and stipends from the WIS event, underscoring the need to support women in science and to plug the “leaky pipeline” causing many to drop out.
Kicking off her remarks, Dr. Goodall gave a full-throated chimpanzee greeting to the delight of all. Her 45-minute speech transfixed the room, followed by an interview with Dr. Corrie Moreau of the Field Museum. Dr. Goodall shared her journey to Africa to study wild chimpanzees, citing her wonderfully supportive mother, a love for animals, and fascination with Africa, spurred by books like Dr. Doolittle and Tarzan of the Apes: “Tarzan married the wrong Jane,” she quipped.
Dr. Goodall’s perseverance, ability to seize opportunities presented to her, and work with Dr. Louis Leakey led her, as a young women with no scientific training, to begin her groundbreaking observational research of chimpanzees. In 1986 she came to Chicago for a conference with other scientists who studied chimpanzee behavior around the world. The event was transformative. Dr. Goodall learned of the widespread destruction of the forest, the bush-meat trade, the killing of mother chimpanzees to take infants for amusement, and cruel experimentation with chimpanzees. “I came a scientist and left an activist,” she told the audience.
Galvanized into action, she established the Jane Goodall Institute and its global youth-based Roots and Shoots program and became a tireless advocate of conservation and its education and engagement and providing sanctuaries for chimpanzees, traveling 300 days each year sharing her message with the world.
The event closed with the hotel’s pastry chef, Gabriel Geers, presenting a beautiful cake to Dr. Goodall and an enthusiastic crowd singing “Happy Birthday” to her and her sister, Judy, who also shares the same birthday. A well deserved celebration, indeed.
PHOTO CREDIT: KYLE FLUBACKER