Wednesday, April 10, 2019 — The inaugural benefit dinner, OnWord2019, brought together donors, patrons and supporters of the American Writers Museum for a night of performance, laughter and community that raised over $500,000 for the organization. The April 9, 2019 event was hosted by Peter Sagal, the host of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” and displayed numerous typewriters used by famous writers — a sneak peek to the Museum’s upcoming exhibit Tools of the Trade, which opens June 22.

The event featured a performance by The Boston Typewriter Orchestra, remarks by OnWord 2019 co-chairs Hill Hammock and Roberta H. Rubin and special awards presented to inspiring figures who have contributed to the literary scene in our vibrant city and beyond.

Edward J. Wehmer, president and CEO of Wintrust Financial, received the Cultural and Civic Leadership Award, which was presented by the Museum’s founder Malcolm E. O’Hagan. Tom Elieff, an author, teacher and educator who has headed five private schools across the country, received the Inspiration Award. His dedication to helping children from early childhood all the way to high school succeed has been an inspiration to all, but particularly to Rebecca Makkai, one of his former AP students who is now a best-selling author. Her most recent book, “The Great Believers,” was a 2019 winner of Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.

“Reading and writing are always acts of imaginative empathy, and so is teaching,” Makkai said as she presented the award to Elieff.

The Friend of the Writer award was given to Marie Arana, an author, editor and Senior Advisor to the U.S. Library of Congress and Director of the National Book Festival. A. Scott Berg presented the first-ever award and expressed his support of American writers like himself, a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize Winner.

The inaugural event highlighted the American Writers Museum as a unique cultural landmark in Chicago, with broad reach and deep impact for people of all ages and backgrounds. OnWord2019 will provide important support, allowing the Museum to continue to present educational exhibits and programming that celebrate freedom of thought, connection and understanding.


Located in the historic former International Harvester Building at 180 N. Michigan Ave, American Writers Museum sits among the Chicago Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, Millennium Park, Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago Theatre District, and several cultural and artistic icons.

American Writers Museum is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and is open seven days a week. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and free for children ages 12 and under. Visit AmericanWritersMuseum.org or call 312-374-8790 for more information.