March 06, 2019

Mary Ladish Selander, 2018 AFP Chicago Benjamin Franklin Award

Each year, the Chicago chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals honors the committed, passionate individuals and corporations who work on behalf of the nonprofit organizations that AFP Chicago serves. The annual Awards Luncheon program recognizes the outstanding achievements of these individuals, foundations and corporate philanthropists, fundraising volunteers, and fundraising executives.

Lyric has been very fortunate to be among the organizations supported by various award winners in the eight categories over many years. Mary Ladish Selander, Lyric’s Chief Development Officer, has been chosen to receive the 2018 Benjamin Franklin Award, presented to a fundraising professional for significant achievements in a long career and who serves as a role model for the profession. 

Mary joined Lyric in 1995 as the Director of Annual Gifts and, for the past 17 years, has led all of Lyric’s development activities as Director of Development. Working with Lyric’s senior leadership, as well as philanthropists and opera lovers in Chicago and around the world, Mary has helped Lyric almost triple its annual campaign funding and oversaw a more than tenfold increase in annual production sponsorships. Prior to joining Lyric, Mary held major positions, including Director of Marketing for the City of Milwaukee (1992-1993), Marketing Director for the Greater Milwaukee Committee/Metro Milwaukee (1989-1992), and Executive Director of the Milwaukee Ballet (1985-1988).

“During her 22 years at Lyric, Mary spearheaded 22 successful annual campaigns totaling more than $400 million, oversaw three major capital campaigns totaling $200 million, and grew the endowment from $60 million to $186 million,” said Lyric general director Anthony Freud. “We are forever grateful to Mary for her many contributions to our company.” 

In recognition of Mary’s remarkable service to Lyric, the company awarded her with its highest honor, The Carol Fox Award, at Lyric’s Annual Meeting on June 29, 2017. It was one of the very rare occasions that a Lyric staff member, other than a general director, has received the award. On March 1, 2018, Mary will transition to her new role as Lyric’s Senior Philanthropic Advisor and will continue to engage with Lyric’s Board, major donors, and Lyric’s Development team, in this newly created consultancy role.

This AFP Chicago Benjamin Franklin Award will be presented at the 42nd Faces of Philanthropy Awards Luncheon on Friday, May 11, 2018.

For more information about the AFP Awards lunch and to purchase tickets, please click here.


  • Distinguished Philanthropist Award - Kenneth C. Griffin, Citadel
  • Emerging Philanthropist - The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation
  • Executive Leader Award - Ilene S. Gordon, Ingredion Incorporated
  • Outstanding Community Leader Award - Joy Aruguete, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation 
  • Professional Grantor Award - Julie Chavez, Bank of America
  • Benjamin Franklin Award - Mary Ladish Selander, Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Outstanding Volunteer Award - Michael Matters Foundation
  • Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award - Jahkil Jackson

Photo: Todd Rosenberg