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Joe Nolan: Making Good Things Happen at Mercy Home
“I tell people, no good things happen after 11 o’clock at Ringside,” Joe Nolan said with a laugh.
But as fate would have it, something merely good didn’t happen to Nolan at Mercy Home’s black-tie fundraising gala ten years ago – something great happened.
As midnight approached and the party reached full swing, an opportunity arose that turned into one of the most fulfilling accomplishments of Nolan’s life.
Darryl Schimeck, whose term as chairman of Mercy Home’s Board of Regents was approaching an end, asked Nolan if he would consider taking over the position. Nolan had been a member of the board for several years but leading the group was never on his radar. A meeting shortly after helped make his decision a little easier.
“I had lunch with Fr. Scott, and who can say no to Fr. Scott,” Nolan recalled. “When the opportunity was put in front of me, I was happy to answer the call.”
For the past six years, Nolan has served as chairman of Mercy Home’s Board of Regents with great enthusiasm and passion. He’s been instrumental in growing the board, ushering in a new era of committed supporters who will help further Mercy Home’s mission for years to come.
But like all good things, and all board chairmanships, Nolan’s tenure has come to an end. He recently passed the baton to the next chairman, Johanna Rahal, who had served as vice chair throughout the past year. While Nolan plans to remain an active board member, his time as chairman reflects an inspiring journey during which he continually sought new ways to deepen his commitment to the home and open more doors for young people.
Dream, Believe, Achieve
Nolan’s path to Mercy Home began several years prior to that fateful evening at Ringside. Having achieved professional success as a partner with a private equity firm, he was looking for more ways to give back to the community. He wanted to focus his efforts on helping youth, and when he read an article about Mercy Home in the Chicago Tribune, he found the perfect fit.
“It was some type of divine intervention where God put that article in front of me,…Once you’re in the home, it sells itself.”
“It was some type of divine intervention where God put that article in front of me,” he said. Nolan’s next move was calling the Home to schedule a visit.
“Once you’re in the home, it sells itself.”
Shortly after his visit, Nolan joined the Board of Regents, the main advisory board that provides oversight of strategic planning and fundraising initiatives. But after just one year, Nolan felt he needed to take his commitment to the next level.
He met with the board chairman to brainstorm ways that he could become even more connected with the Home. The result was one of Mercy Home’s most impactful programs.
“I thought of my own children and how they got connected to college,” Nolan said. “They would visit a friend in college, or they’d visit a brother or sister, and they’d see college and they’d kind of get it in their head that, ‘hey, college is cool. I really want to go to college.’”
From this idea, Nolan and his wife Janet helped launch our Dream, Believe, Achieve! program, which exposes children to the college experience. Through Dream, Believe, Achieve!, our kids tour universities all over the country. These trips are vital in inspiring children to pursue their education. It shows them that college is more than another level in their schooling – it’s a comprehensive experience in which they will live in a new place, meet new people, try new things, and grow into well-rounded adults.
Forming helpful friendships
Since joining the board more than a decade ago, Nolan has been involved with countless Mercy Home events from black-tie galas to intimate gatherings. But there is one celebration that Nolan looks forward to every year more than all others.
“The academic awards event has always been a really fun night for me,” Nolan said. “To see all the kids cheering and pulling for each other, and happy for each other to get awards – the excitement of that night has always been really fun.”
Nolan cherishes the relationships he has formed through his work at Mercy Home, including bonds he has formed with our coworkers and with his fellow board members. But since becoming chairman, he has worked especially closely with our president and CEO, Fr. Scott Donahue.
“One of the great things in life has been for me to be able to work with Fr. Scott and to become friends with him – he is really a special person,” Nolan said. “I kid and call Fr. Scott ‘Padre’, but there’s no better name for him than Father. He is a father figure to so many youths, and I truly am honored to be his friend and to help him in any way I can in his role as CEO of Mercy Home.”
“And I’m very proud to work with so many great people who give their time and their efforts every day to make the home a better place and to serve the youth”
Homegrown and giving back
Nolan is a lifelong Chicagoan – he was born and raised on the city’s South Side and completed his education locally as well. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting with high honors from the University of Illinois and his MBA from the University of Chicago.
When he reached a point in his own life when he was able to give back and help others, Nolan decided to make an impact locally. His goal? To give kids from the South and West sides of the city a better chance at succeeding.
Nolan has certainly made a difference in the city of Chicago. In addition to his involvement with Mercy Home and its Board of Regents, he also serves on the board of directors for the Chicago Children’s Choir and is a trustee of the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Here at Mercy Home, the results of his hard work are clearly visible to all. With every child who visits a campus, moves into a dorm, or receives their college diploma – the Dream, Believe, Achieve! program has played a significant role. When every Mercy Home fundraising event builds on the success of the previous year in generating the resources we need to help kids, Nolan’s leadership on the board is unmistakable. Every time a board member makes possible a life-changing opportunity for a young person in our care, Nolan’s legacy at Mercy Home deepens.
“It’s really been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things I’ve done with my life, to be chairman,” Nolan said. “And I’m very proud to work with so many great people who give their time and their efforts every day to make the home a better place and to serve the youth.”
We are forever grateful for Joe Nolan’s time as our chairman of the board. His passion, energy, and dedication have been contagious – and our board is stronger than it’s ever been.
And as it turns out, good things do happen after 11 o’clock at Ringside.