Cheryl Mendelson

Development Committee Chair

Cheryl Mendelson was named the first Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park in 2014. Mendelson leads the strategic vision and operations of the Theater, and is responsible for the senior management team who has oversight of 100+ full and part-time employees. As a collaborative leader, she has developed a performance-based culture to deliver measurable, effective results, while also embracing the creative energy that drives the Harris Theater's artistic mission. Mendelson plays a critical leadership role in ensuring the fiscal health of the theater through all aspects of earned and contributed income and investments totaling more than $50 million in 2015. Under Mendelson's leadership, the theater is completing a $10 million capital facility project to re-imagine a new experience for the 100,000 visitors annually. Additionally, she was responsible for the site identification, and build-out to relocate 27 full time staff members to new administrative offices off site. Since her arrival in 2008 as Executive Vice President of External Affairs, Mendelson has been recognized as a thought leader in developing marketing and branding programs for the Harris Theater Presents Series of national and international music and dance luminaries. She has executed award winning campaigns receiving 3 national marcom/PR awards for the launch of the US tour, and Chicago debut of the Paris Opera Ballet, the Harris at 10 anniversary, and the Imagine the Extraordinary, season twelve campaign. Mendelson has pioneered new community engagement programs including Access Tickets which has served more than 8,000 children and their families through underwritten performance tickets since its inception in 2009. In addition, she secured the first Endowment for the Arts grant to establish the Harris Theater Learning Lab, a capacity building program to serve the 35 resident music and dance companies who perform annually at the Theater. Mendelson was also the chief architect in building the strategy and execution of the $38 million Imagine Campaign, achieving more than 60% of the goal in the first year.

Prior to joining the Harris Theater, Mendelson spent 13 years at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), nationally ranked the #1 rehabilitation hospital since 1991, in several senior positions leading the organization’s growth and perpetuity. As Senior Vice President of Marketing, Strategic Communications & Philanthropy, Mendelson led campaigns raising more than $150 million from individuals, foundations, and corporations throughout the country establishing endowed chairs, fellowships, and new clinical and community programs. She also oversaw fundraising for capital expansion projects at RIC’s flagship hospital and the Searle Research Center. Additionally, she spearheaded pivotal public relations and marketing initiatives that brought international media attention to the groundbreaking research discoveries of RIC’s Center for Bionic Medicine, President George W. Bush’s Commission on Wounded Soldiers and the hospital’s award of the first Department of Defense contract to treat wounded soldiers at a private rehabilitation hospital. In 2006, Mendelson and her team won 6 national and local awards for marcom/PR campaigns for Transforming Medicine –Transforming Lives which achieved 8.1 million impressions in 24 hours across 31 countries.

Prior to joining RIC, Mendelson served as the Director of the Annual Fund for the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business during its successful completion of the $70 million campaign to build the downtown Gleacher Center and expand the business school to Europe. Mendelson began her career as a development officer at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital, an academic partner of Harvard University Medical School. A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Mendelson received her BA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She also completed the Management Institute Program at the University Of Chicago Booth School Of Business in 2005.

Mendelson is a frequent lecturer on leadership, and industry best practices. She is a member of the Arts Alliance Illinois, Communications Task Force, and the COO Forum. From 2008-2010, She served as a national peer mentor for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and was a founding member of the Corporate Council of Forum 2000, an international think tank of business and political influencers established by Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, and human rights leader Elie Wiesel. Mendelson was featured in the inaugural publication of FW Magazine as a "Philanthropic Powerhouse," and has been named a 2015 Key Influencer in Musical America's 30 Professionals of the Year, Special Report.