Giving Back: A Driehaus Way of Life
It was a brisk, sunny afternoon when Inese Driehaus invited me into her home. The sun beamed into the exquisitely decorated living room, where we sat in front of a warm fireplace as Ms. Driehaus reflected on the day she met her husband, Richard Driehaus, the founder and chairman of Driehaus Capital Management.
“I met Richard at a finance seminar in London about four years ago,” she said. “We began long-distance dating, meeting in London and Paris, and he asked me to come to Chicago a year later.”
Before eventually moving to Chicago, Ms. Driehaus lived in her hometown of Riga, Latvia, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and owned My Lady salon. “Being in Riga, I felt like a big fish in a small pond, so I wanted to move on, experience Europe and continue my studies,” she explains. “I sold the business and went to King’s College in London for my master’s degree in psychology. I was always interested in that subject and had practices in hospitals and clinics, but I couldn’t see it being my profession. I’m very sensitive and take everything to heart, so I’d go home crying and think about how people are having such a hard time with things. When I graduated, I thought, ‘What’s next?’ Then a friend of mine invited me to work at his finance company, which is why I was at the seminar eight months later. And after meeting Richard, that was the start of my transition from London to Chicago.”
While living here for the last three years, Ms. Driehaus has become involved in the Driehaus Museum. “At this stage in my life, I feel a connection to art and architecture. Richard and I often attend auctions to obtain objects for his collection,” she says. “I’m interested in 19th Century American and European art, and Richard has an extremely good eye for it. He receives catalogs from Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and we’ll travel around the country and to Europe to see the items in person.”
Ms. Driehaus and her husband Richard are also known for their charity work. “Philanthropy takes up much of our time,” she admits. “We’re involved with Prince Charles’ foundation in England and also work with families in Latvia. It’s a small country, and unfortunately the population is declining because people can’t afford to have more than one child. So we’re helping families by giving them basic necessities like warm clothes and school supplies. In Latvia, we help struggling students with tuition. We’re currently working with two medical students and one musician.”
In Chicago, Ms. Driehaus is becoming more involved with local charities. “I’m looking forward to doing more for The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, which is run by Sunny Fischer – she’s wonderful! I’m really interested in working with the performing arts, and Richard’s foundation is very involved with theater and music programs.”
The Driehauses also host charity events like the Driehaus Awards for Fashion Excellence – an annual fashion show competition through the Driehaus Design Initiative where the top 25 students from local colleges show their designs Project Runway-style and compete for prize money, including a top prize of $5,000. Earlier this year, the 11th annual fashion show raised more than $100,000 to support fashion programs at Columbia College Chicago, Dominican University, The Illinois Institute of Art, The International Academy of Design & Technology and The School of Art Institute of Chicago. “Young designers are so talented and this is a great way to help them come forward and get early recognition,” shares Ms. Driehaus, who admits philanthropy is a way of life for her family.
“The idea of performing charity work really started when Richard was in grammar school,” reveals Ms. Driehaus. “The nuns taught him how important it is to give back, and I share that same view. I’ve learned if one is fortunate, there’s always an opportunity to help someone in need. It doesn’t matter if you do it with your skills, advice or finances. Philanthropy is a big tradition in our family.”