Aug. 15, 2002
Vol. 21 No. 19

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    Ferdinand Kramer, Life Trustee, dies at 100

    Ferdinand Kramer, University Life Trustee and a distinguished real estate developer and philanthropist, died Tuesday, July 16, at his home in Chicago. He was 100 years old.

    As head of the real estate firm Draper & Kramer Inc., Kramer demonstrated a consistent commitment to economic and racial integration and earned a national reputation for the development of nondiscriminatory, middle-income housing, including the Prairie Shores, Lake Meadows and Dearborn Park communities in Chicago.

    He also was instrumental in the stabilization of the Kenwood/Oakland community on Chicago’s South Side. Kramer had a leadership role in virtually every major urban renewal project in Chicago during the past 50 years.

    A native Chicagoan, Kramer, who was known by the nickname “Ferd,” attended the University Laboratory Schools. In World War I, he was a West Point cadet, and following that he returned to the University, where he received a Ph.B. in 1922. That year he joined the real estate firm of Draper & Kramer, which his father and another partner had established in 1893. In 1944, Kramer was named chairman of the firm. At his death, he was chairman emeritus and he continued to work full days at the company’s downtown Chicago headquarters well into his 90s. In World War II, Kramer was program supervisor for the Division of Defense Housing Coordination.

    Kramer was a lifelong volunteer and contributor to the University and was awarded the University Alumni Service Medal in 1997. He served as Chairman of the Board of the University Alumni Fund and founded the President’s Fund for major donations to the University, serving as its first fund-raising chairman.

    He was instrumental in the planning, funding and creation of the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, where he sat on its Visiting Committee and worked with his close friend Sydney Stein Jr. in the establishment of the Sydney Stein Jr. Professorship in Public Policy. His donation established the creation and maintenance of the Stephanie Shambaugh Kramer Memorial Walk and flower beds on the Main Quadrangle, in memory of his first wife, who died in 1973 and who was a landscape architect and consultant to the University. More recently, Kramer was a significant supporter of the University’s new Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, now under construction.

    Among his numerous civic roles, he was president of the Metropolitan Housing and Planning Council of Chicago, chairman of the steering committee of the United Negro College Fund, a life member of the board of governors of Michael Reese Hospital as well as a member of other boards. In 1952, he received the Individual Distinguished Housing and Redevelopment Service award from the National Association of Housing officials, which was among many awards he received for his civic contributions.

    An exceptional tennis player all his life, Kramer participated for many years in the U.S. Tennis Association and held its No. 1 ranking in the over-75, over-80 and over-85 divisions.

    He is survived by his wife, Julia Wood McDermott Kramer, who is a member of the University Library Visiting Committee, its Women’s Board, the Library Society Steering Committee, and a life member of the Harper Society; three children: Douglas Kramer, Anthony Kramer and Barbara Kramer Bailey; three step-children: John McDermott, Jeanne McDermott and Charles McDermott; and 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.