The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Loyola University Receives $50 Million Estate Donation

By Prescott Carlson in News on Dec 7, 2009 9:20PM

Loyola University is set to receive its largest donation in the school's history in the form of a 100 acre estate in north suburban Vernon Hills worth $50 million. The Cuneo Museum and Gardens was originally built as a private residence by Samuel Insull in 1914. You may be familiar with Insull's name -- he started a little utility company called Commonwealth Edison, and is also responsible for the building of Chicago's Civic Opera House. After Insull's fortune was wiped out during the Great Depression, the mansion and grounds were bought by printing magnate John Cuneo, Sr., and the Cuneo family has owned the property since. When Cuneo's widow died in 1990, Cuneo's son, John, Jr., opened up the 31,000 square foot home to the public as a museum. The inside is a stunning display of extravagance, filled with exquisite antiques and art, and many of the walls and ceilings feature paintings by famed muralist John Mallin.

But now John, Jr., who is 78, is "ready to move on" and wants to pass on the estate, and after much deliberation he has chosen Loyola University as the lucky recipient.

"This is a signal moment in the history of the university," said Jonathan R. Heintzelman, vice president for advancement [at Loyola]. "[John Cuneo's] been looking for a way to perpetuate his father's legacy. Fortunately for us, he's decided Loyola will be a good steward."

As part of the stipulations of the gift, the university must keep the museum open to the public for at least 20 years, but the school anticipates keeping it open for much longer. Loyola does intend to try and increase the amount of private function rentals of the property, however. In addition, the school is considering as a long-term objective (i.e., at least until after the real estate market rebounds) developing 50 acres of the currently vacant land for commercial use. The choice of Loyola for the generous donation comes as no surprise -- the Cuneo family has tens of millions of dollars to the university over the course of 60 years.