Francia Harrington: Career Building Potential of Volunteerism

Just how did bank executive Francia Harrington—Francee to her friends—become a civic and philanthropic leader in Chicago?

The answer might surprise you; the Junior League Chicago deserves substantial credit.

Harrington is a natural to grow good ideas and good institutions: she’s smart, listens well, thinks strategically, collaborates wisely and elevates others with her leadership. During a recent interview, it became clear that her League service substantially informed the development of her vision and skills—particularly her tenure as President.

Now, as JP Morgan Chase Senior Vice President for Civic Affairs and as a board member for several nonprofits, she creates and nurtures visionary new programs and helps grow effective existing ones. Harrington has become an important figure in Chicago’s robust philanthropic community.

In honor of the Junior League of Chicago’s 100th Anniversary, and at lunch in a JP Morgan private dining room, Harrington explained the League’s model, “The League identifies opportunities, pilots programs, nurtures their growth, then turns them over to another organization.”

A good example is “Next Step,” developed during Harrington’s tenure as League President, which partnered the League with the University of Chicago and the Illinois Subsequent Pregnancy Prevention Initiative to support teen mothers and help them get a college education. The program was so successful that teen fathers now ask for their help too. The League turned this successful program over to the Chicago Child Care Society several years ago.

The League model and Harrington’s skill set informed the creation of the “Chase Your Dreams Program” at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, which allows Children’s to mentor youth in Chicago’s most underserved communities by offering them professional, meaningful, hands-on experiences intended to inspire them to continue their studies and pursue a career in a health care field. Alice Archibald, Vice President of the Lurie Children’s Foundation, credits Harrington for “connecting the dots to create this highly effective program.”

Her comments mirror those of others who have worked with Harrington, “We are lucky to have Francee Harrington as a leader, innovator and mentor in the  philanthropy world. She has truly enriched the lives of so many!”

These days Harrington is particularly enthusiastic about her board work on behalf of the Chicago High School For The Arts. “In the history of Chicago, this is the first free high school for the arts. This provides a pipeline of diverse students into our world class arts organizations.”

Harrington says, “I enjoy a remarkable opportunity to listen to nonprofits and learn what their needs are.” Chicago enjoys the good fortune of her leadership in our civic and philanthropic affairs.

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