It was a behind the scenes tour of the Field Museum and its expansive collections that cemented what is sure to be a lifelong connection between Wilbur H. Gantz III, known to all as Bill, and the storied institution that opened its doors to the public in 1893 during Chicago’s Columbian Exposition. “I came away thinking ‘this is something very special,’ ” Gantz recalls.
And so, 12 years ago he joined the Board of Trustees, bringing with him a tireless dedication and knowhow that demonstrates his vast experience. Born in a small town in Pennsylvania, Gantz studied at Princeton and at Harvard Business School. In 1966 he joined Baxter International, serving a variety of roles over the years with the company, including vice president and COO, eventually rising to the role of president. After leaving Baxter, he joined the world of biotech, founding PathoGenesis Corp. and on to Ovation Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Gantz currently serves as president of PathoCapital, LLC, an investor in healthcare companies.
Now residing in Winnetka with wife Linda, it is their charitable efforts and ecological commitment that steer him. And these efforts have not gone unnoticed. Just last year, the museum presented him with the Marshall Field V Award for Distinguished Leadership in recognition of his years of exemplary service and philanthropy.
But it is not the accolades that guide him—it is the important work the museum is doing and has yet to do. In 2015, the Gantz Family Collections Center was founded to manage the museum’s impressive reserve of specimens and artifacts, one of the top collections in the world.
This includes the Field’s newest dinosaur—the world’s largest—a titanosaur named Máximo. This means the most famous T. rex in the world, SUE, has a new setting upstairs, accepting visitors once again in late 2018. Exhibits like Antarctic Dinosaurs, on dinosaurs found on the continent and the scientists who discovered them, Gantz says, “help people understand the museum’s work, what it takes to bring it all together. The stories behind the collections are fascinating.”
The museum is far more than the sum of its specimens, Gantz assures. “Yes, there are wonderful, interesting exhibits, but we also have a group of scientists, all eminent in their fields, working on evolving science and new discoveries. And there’s our action committee, in countries like Peru and Colombia, opening new public parks, which will conserve thousands of acres of wildlife.”
This focus on conservation hits closer to home as well, working with residents and organizations in Chicago to replan and replant indigenous species in the Burnham corridor south of the museum. This “forever project” will expand down to Indiana and has seen more and more communities get involved as the effort has progressed. “It’s local people taking the initiative and coming together. It’s a demonstration of what cities can do to help build their environment.”
Just last month, Gantz, along with his fellow trustees, announced the public phase of their capital campaign, coinciding with the museum’s 125th anniversary, also being celebrated through this month’s gala, which will recognize the Grainger Foundation and its unwavering support. The campaign has a target of $250 million and an eye on endurance, not just for the Field but the planet. “Our goal is to ensure the future of the museum—to continue bringing in and attracting the top talent in their fields. Most of all, we want to continue this critical work—we’re not just a museum, we’re about action, about getting out there. This campaign sets the tone for what’s to come.”
For more information, visit fieldmuseum.org.