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'Magnificent' gift enhances family resiliency program

Gary Beaumont, College of ACES
(217) 333-9440


Chancellor Nancy Cantor has announced a $11.5 million gift from Doris and Jay Christopher and The Pampered Chef Ltd. to support the Family Resiliency Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The gift provides funds for a new building, a maintenance endowment, and an endowed chair.

"This magnificent gift reflects the Christophers’ extraordinary vision and generosity in supporting a program of research and teaching directed so immediately at a critical societal need," said Cantor. "Healthy families are the basis for a healthy society."

The building constructed with the Christophers’ gift, expected to be completed in early 2005, will be the culmination of a lifelong interest by Doris Christopher in family resiliency. It will become the base for innovative research, education and outreach initiatives designed to enrich the well-being of children, individuals and families.

"Today's families are challenged in so many ways," Doris Christopher said. "The goal of the new facility is to focus on learning more about what makes families strong and able to meet the challenges of the 21st century."

The Family Resiliency Program is located in the department of human and community development, part of the university’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). The department focuses specifically on research and education programs directed at the lives of individuals, families and communities.

"We currently have the most talented group of emerging scholars in human development and family studies ever in the college's history," said Robert Easter, dean of the College of ACES. "And the Christophers' and The Pampered Chef gift is particularly timely, because it addresses a societal need in ways that will directly benefit our state and nation."

To further enhance the Family Resiliency Program, The Pampered Chef has established an endowed chair in human and community development. The chair holder will be an expert in some aspect of family resiliency, such as balancing work and life, family stress and coping, or community-family linkages.

"The recipient of the first endowed chair will have a wonderful opportunity to pursue scholarship in family resiliency, as well as to enhance the national and international visibility of the Family Resiliency Program," said Constance Shapiro, the head of the department of human and community development. "At a time in our nation's history when families face unique challenges and communities strive to marshal critical resources, the professor holding the endowed chair will be uniquely positioned to address these concerns with rigorous scholarship."

Doris Christopher and The Pampered Chef

Doris Christopher graduated from the University of Illinois in 1967 with a degree in home economics. Her first job was teaching high school home economics. She went on to work for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service teaching adults. That experience became the foundation for her business. One of The Pampered Chef's goals is to educate adults in the kitchen and make their time there efficient and enjoyable.

In 1980, Christopher started a home-based business because she wanted to keep a presence in the business world while maximizing time to raise her two daughters and make a home for her family. The business grew into The Pampered Chef, a direct-selling company that offers high-quality kitchen tools through home demonstrations.

The Pampered Chef is now a multimillion-dollar business occupying 780,000 square feet, employing more than 1,100 staff in the home office, and supporting more than 71,000 Kitchen Consultants across Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The author of "Come to the Table" (Warner Books, 1999), Christopher consistently has been recognized by Working Woman magazine as one of the "Top 500 Women Business Owners." She has served as the chair of the board of directors of the Direct Selling Association in Washington, D.C. Additional board memberships include America's Second Harvest, Dominican University School of Business Advisory Council, the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois, and the University of Illinois Foundation.

Christopher also is a member of Chicago Network the Direct Selling Association, and the Committee of 200.