Nearly fifty years after meeting in a Loyola Academy German III class for Ramblers and Regina Dominican students, Ellen S. and Peter G. Leemputte '75 continue to keep Loyola close to their hearts. With a generous multimillion dollar leadership gift to help fund the Second Century Campaign's Theater Initiative, Ellen and Peter have supported a bold vision for the future of Loyola and helped usher in a new era defined by a transformed campus and a dazzling new theater that bears their name.
The impact of their generosity and their very presence as leaders in the Loyola community—Ellen and Peter are parents of Mary '04, Peter '08, John '10, and Daniel '12 and Peter served on the Board of Trustees from 2016 to 2019—has benefited scores of Loyola Academy students past, present, and future.
The couple's support for Loyola reaches back to the 1990s, when they relocated to Chicago from Pittsburgh to be nearer to family and so that their children, young at the time, would eventually attend Loyola Academy. Their early support came as gifts to Loyola's Annual Giving Program (now The Loyola Fund), Ramble, and President’s Dinner. "We gave to my university at one point, but we felt there’s a bigger impact at the high school level," explains Peter, a Skokie native who received tuition assistance and worked during the summers to attend Loyola in the 1970s with his twin, Patrick J. Leemputte '75, and younger brother, Michael D. Leemputte '76.
“Giving students an early advantage is important. Loyola can be transformational for young people—it certainly was for me. It really opened my eyes to so much more in the world, not just regarding academics but also life. When you give to support families that otherwise can’t afford a Loyola Academy education, you can really change someone’s life,” he says. “Ellen and I have always felt that giving to support education is not a one-time gift; it’s the gift that keeps on giving because you can help someone decide what they want to do for the rest of their life; you can open doors to collegiate education, and you can see this impact for generations.”
And that’s a lesson well-known to the Leemputtes, who are proud of the four generations of Jesuit education in their family dating back to Ellen’s grandfather, Edmund Scholter, who attended Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin; Marquette University, and St. Louis University Medical School, and then returned to Marquette University where he taught in the medical school. Ellen’s parents, Mary Rose and Francis Edward Schlax, both attended Marquette University, where her mother studied philosophy and Latin and her father went on to study law. Ellen’s brothers (Timothy J. Schlax ’72, Gregory J. Schlax ’73, Peter M. Schlax ’77, and Tony Schlax) and Peter and his brothers (Patrick J. Leemputte ’75 and Michael D. Leemputte ’76) are all Jesuit educated at either the high school or college level—or both. And now all four of their children—Mary, Peter, John, and Daniel—and several nieces and nephews—Colleen Kawaters '01, Ryan Kawaters '03, Alessandra Leemputte '07, and Peter Edmund Schlax '18—have joined the ranks of Jesuit alumni. Anna Schlax '23 will graduate in the spring.
“I just love Loyola. My education set me up for my career beautifully,” reflects Peter, a chemical engineer turned financier. “I also had a lot of exposure to different communities and made friends from all over the city and northern suburbs. Some have been friends for life.”
One of those lifelong friendships is, of course, with his wife, Ellen, who was then a student at nearby Regina Dominican High School and taking German at Loyola in the fall of 1973 when the pair first met. “I wish I could go back,” muses Ellen. “There is such a shared pride and sense of community at Loyola, and I think it has only become better over the years. I’ve noticed this with our children’s journeys through LA: women and men for others is really built into the curriculum. Even in courses like English and math—teachers find ways to bring Jesuit values into their discipline.
“Loyola nurtures you for who you are,” she continues. “Loyola meets kids where they are at and puts a fire under their feet, and the beauty is that they all don’t have to go in the same direction.”
This is true of the Leemputte’s four children. Mary ’04, a collegiate rower at Princeton University, is now an anesthesiologist; Peter ’08, vice president at Wind Point Partners, rowed at Stanford University, where he studied economics; John '10 graduated from the University of Notre Dame and is now an MBA candidate at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business; and Daniel '12, leader of the title insurance business at Better.com, studied economics and psychology at Georgetown University.
“You can get a great education at a lot of places, but it’s the values at Loyola that make the difference,” says Ellen. “As young people are figuring out who they are and where they are going in life, the environment they are immersed in is very important. The spiritual emphasis at Loyola makes a difference. No matter how educated you may be, things will happen in your life that you have no control over. But you do have control over how you deal with them. Loyola provides a foundation for young people to realize that they aren’t alone in life. There’s a God there, behind it all. This is part of the culture at Loyola, and it’s something you can’t get at a secular institution.”
In 2004, the Leemputtes established the Peter John and Mary Jean Leemputte Scholarship in honor of Peter’s parents. Five years later, they funded the Francis E. and Mary R. Schlax Scholarship in honor of Ellen’s parents.
For Peter, the decision to fund scholarships was a deeply personal one. “I grew up in a family with six kids, and my brothers and I would not have been able to attend Loyola Academy without tuition assistance,” he says. “The scholarships that Ellen and I established in our parents’ names were our way of passing the gift of a Jesuit education on to the next generation.”
In 2014—ever thoughtful about their giving—the Leemputtes sat down with then-president Rev. Patrick E. McGrath, SJ, to discuss the school’s most pressing needs. “The Second Century Campaign was just getting started at the time, and we wanted to make a significant gift to support the campaign,” recalls Peter. “Because the arts are key to educating the whole person, Ellen and I decided to make a lead gift to the Theater Initiative.”
The Leemputtes gave a multimillion dollar leadership gift to help fund the theater and the new 29,000-square-foot Performing Arts Center. This gift reflects their shared belief that the benefits of a high-quality performing arts program extend far beyond the stage. The scope of their vision extends through every facet of the fine and performing arts to communication and conversation in every industry and field.
“One of the traits that has been critical to my success as a CFO for several organizations is the ability to communicate and feel confident in front of a group,” comments Peter. “Participation in the performing arts teaches young people how to communicate effectively, work collaboratively, and take command of a stage, which will serve them well throughout their lives.”
“Everyone has inherent dignity and a lot to say,” adds Ellen. “And communication is so important no matter what field you go into. We need people with goodness in them to be able to get up in front of people and speak out. More broadly, I hope the new theater and performing arts space helps students find their voices and express their ideas and feelings in beautiful and creative ways.”
And so Loyola’s new theater bears their name, but it’s an entire generation of students that will be impacted by the Leemputte’s generosity and vision.