John E. Hughes (1927 – 2021)

It is with great sadness that The Coleman Foundation shares the news of the passing of former board member and chairman, John E. Hughes. John served on the Board from 1981 to 2014, providing an impassioned vision and dedication to individual independence and to under- resourced people and communities.

An educator, entrepreneur, CPA, CEO, and philanthropist, John founded his own accounting firm in 1969, of which Fannie May Chocolates became a client. Eventually, John was invited to join the Fannie May team. He sold his CPA firm and went on to serve as the candy company’s CEO from 1981 to 1991. John led a dedicated team of employees, and mentored the next generation of business executives, which included Michael Hennessy, while growing the company’s revenues and expanding market share through a mail order business and an ice cream line.

John is remembered as a dynamic and passionate force in the Foundation’s history. One of John’s many passions was baseball — he played on the 1944 Chicago Cub’s rookie team. During speaking engagements, he would present a slide, which used the metaphor of a baseball diamond to graphically illustrate his running of the bases of life and chronicled his progression of “Passions, Interests and Lifelines of This Entrepreneur.”

Working with board trustee and Executive Director Jean Thorne, John challenged the Foundation to consider the impact it could have on the community if it focused its efforts to encourage and support the next generation of business owners. This dialogue led to the creation of one of the Foundation’s hallmark programs, which helped to establish entrepreneurship as a field of study at colleges and universities throughout the country.

Under John’s leadership, and in partnership with the board and immediate past President Michael Hennessy, the Foundation further developed its philanthropic role and vision by expanding funding to cancer research — a reality which personally touched the Coleman family, the intellectually and developmentally disabled, efforts to alleviate poverty and unemployment, and access to education.

Michael added, “John was the right person, with the right passions and business skills, to come to the Foundation at the right time. His get-it-done attitude is embodied within the Foundation as it, working closely with its programmatic partners, continues to play a catalytic role to create and apply innovative solutions to Chicago’s most pressing needs.”

John’s obituary and tribute wall can be read here.