Join Our Monthly Giving Community!

On October 12, the Library Foundation brings together Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner, Top Chef Rick Bayless, and TikTok sensation Shermann “Dilla” Thomas to celebrate bold storytelling—from our tables to TikToks to theaters—and the powerful ways stories can nourish, connect, and inspire us to act.  

Legendary newscaster Bill Kurtis will emcee, and the evening’s centerpiece will be a conversation between Sandburg Literary Award honoree Tony Kushner and Scott Simon, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

The evening will be filmed and released in a specially produced free public broadcast available October 19, making the exceptional content this event is known for accessible to anyone, anywhere.

Read on for more information on our honorees and how you can support access to free lifelong learning opportunities for all at Chicago Public Library.

The Chicago Public Library Foundation will be adhering to governmental COVID-19 protocols. Please visit the website closer to October 12 for up-to-date recommendations and requirements prior to attendance.

Meet the Honorees

Tony Kushner

Carl Sandburg Literary Award

Critically acclaimed writer Tony Kushner is best known for his two-part epic Angels in America and his work on films including Munich and Lincoln.

Rick Bayless

Arts Award

Rick Bayless is an American chef and restaurateur who specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine with modern interpretations.

“Dilla” Thomas

21st Century Award

TikTok historian Shermann “Dilla” Thomas is a fascinating blend of modern historian and cultural worker.

The Chicago Public Library Foundation Awards raise critical funds that empower Chicagoans year-round. Since 2000, there have been:


years of celebration


raised for Library programs


number of Library lovers who have participated

Honorary Chairs

Mayor Lori Lightfoot & First Lady Amy Eshleman

Governor JB Pritzker & First Lady MK Pritzker

Event Co-Chairs

Francia E. Harrington 

Andrés Ordóñez

Event Producer

Donna LaPietra

Presenting Sponsor

Lead Sponsor

Grand Benefactor



  • Wendy A. Berger
  • Michelle L. Collins
  • Comcast
  • Conagra Brands
  • Crossland Literacy
  • Elizabeth & Mark Donnelly
  • Terrance L. Diamond
  • Jennifer Friedes & Steven C. Florsheim
  • Bette Cerf Hill and Bruce Sagan
  • ITW
  • Jones Day
  • Leadership Story Lab
  • Kate & Bryan Logan
  • PNC Bank
  • TAWANI Foundation
  • Wintrust

Premier Supporter

  • Carol & Larry Levy
  • The Segal Family Foundation (Carole & Gordon Segal)

Individual Supporter

  • Christie Hefner
  • Kristen Seeger

Special Thanks

Donate to the Library Foundation Awards

Contributions benefit lifelong learning programs at all 81 Library branches.