Mary Louise Gorno leads the Phoenix Society by example.

Born in Detroit, Mary Lou Gorno, MBA’76, was raised in an immigrant family with unambiguous values. Her parents instilled in her a passion for learning and ideas and the confidence to pursue a challenging education. After attending Saint Mary’s College as an undergraduate, Gorno earned a journalism degree at Northwestern University and subsequently went on to obtain a graduate degree from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Today Gorno is managing director of a global executive search firm, Ingenuity International, where she heads the recruitment of senior-level executives. She conducts searches for some of the most widely recognized names in consumer products and retail. When she joined the search profession, Gorno had accumulated more than two decades of experience in strategic planning and advertising. As a senior executive of the Leo Burnett Company she had helped Walt Disney, Reebok, and Procter & Gamble build their businesses. 

Gorno has been honored for her business accomplishments with the University of Chicago Alumni Association’s Professional Achievement Citation. Gorno believes her experiences at Chicago have contributed much to her success. “From my first conversation with a student in the library during my campus visit, I felt at home at the U of C. Many experiences have shaped me, but above all are those at the University, which have provided me with defining relationships and the appetite for an engaged intellectual life,” she says. 

Spurred by an extraordinary commitment to higher education, Gorno generously supports the University through planned and annual gifts. Her philanthropic work extends to the broader cultural community as well: she is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Humanities Festival, Court Theatre, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 

Gorno was elected to the University’s Board of Trustees in June 2004 and to the Executive Committee in 2007, and took on the additional leadership role of Phoenix Society chair in the fall of 2009. As chair, Gorno oversees efforts to increase membership and participation and to strengthen the University’s gift-planning initiatives. 

In this role, Gorno leads by example. “My planned gift strategy allowed me to make a larger gift and have a greater impact than I ever thought possible,” says Gorno. “Our gifts make many things attainable. Participation in the Phoenix Society provides the opportunity to satisfy our philanthropic goals while creating a lasting gift that fits our individual financial profiles.” 

To honor her mother and father, Gorno included a provision in her estate plans to establish the Joseph and Cecile Gorno endowed professorship. “My desire is to give back to the University, the place that has had such a critical impact on my life. This gift allows me to express my appreciation to my family and the University in perpetuity,” says Gorno. “I am passionate about learning and ideas and am drawn to people and institutions that change and enrich lives. Education changes lives. No institution of higher education better embodies change through ideas than the University of Chicago.”