Black History Spotlight

George Edward Manning, II

George ManningThoroughly Modern Renaissance Man: George Edward Manning, II Just prior to high school George’s Mother Jamesia and Father, George “the first” were discussing George’s Oedipal issues to decide whether George II would stay at home with mother or go with his father on a loooooooooong train ride to God only knows! It was decided that George would go with his father. George became the “pillow boy” on a train trip to the east that his father had helped to organize …. After three days and lots of pillows they arrived. Once there, George Jr.’s question, “Is it time to go home, yet” was answered with a kiss and the words, ”Not yet, baby…we just got here.” Walking several blocks they reached their destination with thousands and thousands of other individuals. During one of the speeches George Jr. shared with his father that the speech was redundant, saying, “The speaker has said, ‘I Have a Dream’ at least ten times, already!” To that George’s father said, listen for both of us (George senior was deaf – but read lips). This might be a very important speech one day”. The event was the March on Washington. The speaker was of course, Dr. Martin Luther King. George’s father was always right!

Equally at home, whether meeting with other members of various boards or at a piano, administrator of facilities for the Psychiatric Institute (PI) George E. Manning, II could probably make use of a clone to be in all the places he has to be and do all that he wants to do. A day in the life of this classically trained (violin, viola, pipe organ, harpsichord in addition to piano musician) troubleshooter at the UIC SPHPI (School of Public Health / Psychiatric Institute) facility can range from participation as an appointed (by Mayor Richard M. Daley) former full member and chair of the Public Services Sub Committee of the Chicago Community Development Advisory Committee to solving PI flooding and construction problems.

As a Department of Psychiatry administrator (Director of Research Surveillance; Director of Community Relations, Consumer Groups, and Special Events; and Project Coordinator of Educational, Research and Clinical Services), George, who prefers to be called by his first name, divides a major portion of his time between research and development meetings at West Side Veteran’s, civic meetings, construction meetings, UIC research meetings, building issues, fund raisers, and issues of mental health consumer and advocacy groups. He coordinates various concerns of the PI portion of SPHPI. Among them are reconstruction and re-configuration of an expanding scientific remodeling enterprise. Additionally, he acts as the liaison between the Department of Psychiatry and the UIC School of Public Health. In the not too distant past some of the more fun filled hours have been spent coordinating the activities of film production crews shooting scenes at PI, as for example, the series “Cupid” and the made for TV drama “Kwik Stop”. George was to be the music consultant for the Keeanu Reeves movie “HARD BALL” but pulled out of the negotiations when he became at odds with the productions “negative” use of kids and the age inappropriate language the youngsters would have to use. Nevertheless, George was responsible for helping to establish location shooting sites for the movie.

His past Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Greater Chicago (AMI-GC) Board of Directors position may have been fostered by his early employment experiences in the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities where his work began exclusively with autistic children. Later he worked with “fall between the crack youths” in a triple funded program (Tri-Agency Children’s Program) of the Illinois Department of Corrections, Children and Family Services, and The Department of Mental Health. He has held roles as Youth Supervisor, Mental Health Specialist, and Activity therapy Supervisor. His work ethic and creativity have been awarded the State of Illinois “Employee of the Year Award” three times while working for the historically reknown ISPI (Illinois State Psychiatric Institute). Today, the Institute has been transferred to the University of Illinois and renamed “The Psychiatric Institute”. George was instrumental in the early days of helping to combine the milieus and research endeavors of ISPI’s University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Unit with The University of Chicago’s Research Unit…the last survivors of what was an 11 story building that housed five floors of competing universities’ research.

This year marks George’s 38th year in mental health service. George is especially proud of the soon to be completed multi-million dollar research domain-- UIC Research Space for Behavioral Neurobiology (RSBN) space on the entire third floor and west wing of the second floor of the Psychiatric Institute – 35,000 square feet of new laboratories that will be cutting edge in Autism research, neuroscience, and translational endeavors. This is a grand accomplishment due in part to many hours of his input along with the talents of principal investigators, the Office of Capital Programs and the engineering / consulting / architectural firms of choice.

George attended Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin (Birthplace of the Republican Party). He has received advanced degrees from Roosevelt University (piano pedagogy) and the University of Chicago. His hobbies, avocations, and interest are too many to mention, but two interesting facts about George that may not be known by even those who see him daily are that he is knowledgeable in the Russian language and that he teaches ballroom dancing. Every four years George presents 40 young Chicagoland scholars in a gala Scholarship Cotillion at the Grand Ballroom of the Chicago Hilton and Towers. He teaches etiquette, workplace decorum, how to take tests, He tutors them in “SAT” and “ACT” achievement test… and they take field trips and encourages them to visit potential college campuses. Finally he teaches them to dance (a metaphor for placing one foot in front of another in one’s trek to success). Regularly, his phone is “on fire” receiving calls from youth who are watching “Dancing with the Stars” and Ballroom Competitions airing on Public Television. Over the past 25 years he has witnessed 90 per cent of his Cotillion Kids (250) to successfully go on and compete and complete college degrees and land impressive jobs. Moreover he is joyful that the participants are serious in their roles to be “producers rather than consumers” and furthermore understand the importance of their “unique” role in our global community.

George is proud of a select group (they selected him) that he calls his children. Their family name is “BUFF(S)” which stands for Brothers, Uncles, Fathers, and Friends (Sisters). These inquisitive, talented, attractive, self-less, scholarly, devoted, argumentative individuals have benefited from George’s mentoring and ombudsman role here at UIC. They openly call him Dad, Baba, Father, and Pops. There are about 20 young men and 8 young women who make up the “Family BUFF”. The family goal is to always be accountable for their action, know that they are not the only ones who are special in God’s creation of 6 billion all unique humanoids (the “big head” is not acceptable), and finally they know that ONE can make a big difference in the lives of many.

Not only is George an accomplished musician- performer (he has a grand piano in his UIC office and 4 grand pianos at home), he is also a composer / director. He attended Second City for courses in “Theatre Games”. His father and mother insisted that he take ballet. His dramatic musical work “Majesty” is presented annually at Christmastime at historic First Immanuel Lutheran Church (estab. 1854) in Chicago , near Roosevelt Road and Ashland Avenue (100 steps from George’s UIC office) where he serves as organist, artist in residence, choir master, music director. Currently he is the church’s project coordinator for its restoration program called “PAINT” (Preserving Architecturally Immanuel’s Nave Today), “POP” (Pipe Organ Project) – a project that replaces their 800 pipe theater organ with a four thousand pipe Austin pipe organ, and “VIEW” (Victorious Installation East Window) the restoration of the lost 26 foot in diameter stained glass Victorian rose window.

He has played for 3 US Presidents (especially fond of being organist of choice for two Habitat for Humanity convocations for President Jimmy Carter). He has performed on the organ at the Washington Cathedral, The organ at Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park, Illinois, Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest, First Congregational Baptist Church (Washington and Ashland, Chicago) which is the largest Kimball pipe organ, the Westminster Abbey Pipe Organ (St. Peters) London, England, and the amazing pipe organ in the Valparaiso University Chapel to name a few. Representing his high school, he played the violin in an orchestra of young, gifted musicians (Northwestern University) under the direction of Maestro Isaac Stern when he was 16 years old. George was concert master for the evening performance. At age five George began formal art lessons at the Junior School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He remained at the Art Institute School until graduation from Chicago’s near west side’s Crane High School. At the Institute he studied painting, anatomy, figure drawing,sculpture, print making, and ceramics. His painting and sculpture background served him well as a member of the Review Committee of the City of Chicago Arts grants.

A project somewhat now dormant yet hopefully revivable, George was involved in raising the level of attention for the redevelopment and beautification of “Enabling Park” gardens, paths, and fountains for the entire square block encompassing the Psychiatric Institute (PI), School of Public Health (SPH), Disabilities Health and Social Policy (DHSP), and First Immanuel Lutheran Church.

George personally and actively volunteers as a research subject. He feels AIDS Research (Howard Brown), Sickle Cell Research (“SCAVE” – Sickle Cell Anemia Volunteer Enterprises), Multiple Sclerosis (runs in the family), and Breast Cancer Research are high on his personal agenda.

He is the founder and president or member of several Chicagoland neighborhood associations (e.g. The Austin Schock Historical Association and The Society of Midway Park). George is passionately involved in the preservation of architectural and historic landmarks and often lectures and participates on panels on the subject. He has been a panelist on the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs presentation “Preserving landmarks: Preserving Community”, held at the Chicago Cultural Center, as one of four Chicago community leaders addressing how the preservation of architectural and artistic fabrics of their neighborhoods is instrumental to local pride, identity, and economic development. The neighborhoods to watch are Pilsen Little Village and Lawndale. Lawndale’s gorgeous gray stones are the next big thing on the preservationists’ list.

George’s own (single-handedly) restored 18-room Victorian home complete with third floor ballroom has been named a Chicago Historical landmark by the Chicago Commission on Architectural and Historical Landmarks. The home has been feature on Oprah, in numerous periodicals (Ebony, Inland Architect, Chicago Magazine, “Sun Times”, “Chicago Tribune”, and the “New York Times”). Several books have showcased the home. Most recently it is one of twenty carefully selected homes featured in the “table top” book The Queen Anne House, America’s Victorian Vernacular (by Janet W. Foster / photographs by Radek Kurzaj, publisher Abrams). George’s home represents the “Chicago / URBAN home”. Recently, George E. Manning’s home (which is also in the National Register of Historic Places District in the Austin Community) there was a 600 person gala given by George in celebration of his home’s 120th birthday. The home was built 400 years after the discover of the “New World” at the time of Chicago’s Columbian Exposition for lumber baron (President of Chicago veneers) Frederick Beeson / Frederick Schock, architect. The City of Chicago alphabetical listing and Historical designation of the home is “Beeson House and Coach House”. The 2007 celebration brought people from all over the world…and was a joyful event shared with many UIC colleagues!

Annually and generally during September and October George tries to escape to Europe where he travels between his home in Glattbrugg Switzerland (a suburb of Zurich) and friends / points of interest (Central Europe and Northern Africa). In turn, his Swiss housemates (Swiss Airline personnel) have the luxury of calling George’s Chicago home “HOME” when vacationing in the United States. George has worked for YMCA International / Peace Corps and lived abroad for over 40 years and has traveled to countries in Central America, South America, Europe, the UK, and Africa. He maintains that we speak “one” language – “Friendship”. He insists that everyone should have and use their passport. During orientation week at UIC / Department of Psychiatry he tries to address each individual in the language of the country of origin … therefore post doc, interns, and externs might hear him say “HELLO” (phonetically) in several languages: knee-how (Chinese), Buenos Dias (Spanish) Bon jour (French), Bon Journo (Italian), Dras we-che (Russian), Do bray-don, Good ni-den (Turkish), Ko nee she wa (Japanese). Then… at the “Welcome Picnic” he HUGS them!

As most know, George always ends his talks, speeches, presentations, chats with humor or a memorable quote, and to the readers he would like to say: “Remember Kindness¬a language deaf people can hear and the blind can see” (in their later years, his father was deaf and his mother legally blind).


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