James J. O’Connor

Founding Chairman

Mr. James O’Connor is one of the original founders of the Big Shoulders Fund and has been Co-Chairman since its inception in 1986. In 1998, James O’Connor retired from his position as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Unicom Corporation and Commonwealth Edison after 35 years of employment. Since then he has devoted his time to philanthropy.

In recent years, he has served on the philanthropic and corporate boards of a number of organizations including Corning Incorporated, United Airlines, the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago Urban League, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Adler Planetarium, the Chicago Symphony, the Lyric Opera, the Museum of Science and Industry, the 100 Club of Chicago and Northwestern University.

Monsignor Kenneth Velo


For more than forty five years, Monsignor Velo has served as a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago. In that time, he has held numerous positions including vice chancellor of the Archdiocese, executive assistant to Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, and President of the Catholic Church Extension Society. He began serving as a senior executive in the Office of Catholic Collaboration at DePaul University in 2001.

Monsignor Velo became the President of the Big Shoulders Fund in 2003, and in 2012, he joined John Canning and James O’Connor as a Co-Chairman of the Big Shoulders Fund.

Monsignor serves on the board of Lurie Children’s Hospital and the 100 Club of Chicago. He is a trustee of Saint Mary’s College Notre Dame and he also serves in pastoral duties at Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago.

John A. Canning, Jr.


John Canning is Chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners. Prior to co-founding MDP, Mr. Canning spent 24 years with First Chicago Corporation, most recently as Executive Vice President of The First National Bank of Chicago and President of First Chicago Venture Capital. He has more than 34 years of experience in private equity investing and currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Corning Incorporated, Exelon Corporation, Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Sage Products, LLC; and is a Life Trustee of Northwestern University.

Mr. Canning is Co-Chairman of the Big Shoulders Fund, a Director and former Chairman of The Economic Club of Chicago, a Trustee and Chairman of the Museum of Science and Industry, former Chairman of The Chicago Community Trust, a Trustee and former Chairman of The Field Museum, and former Director and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Joshua Hale

President and Chief Executive Officer

Joshua Hale began at the Big Shoulders Fund in 2005. He previously served as Director of Development and Public Relations for Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, a nationally recognized model for inner-city college preparatory education.

Mr. Hale is also involved with numerous professional and philanthropic organizations. He was a fellow in the Leadership Greater Chicago program and an inaugural member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Emerging Leaders Program. Currently, Mr. Hale serves on the Forums Committee of the Economic Club of Chicago, the Board of Directors of The Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago, the Board of Directors of Amerigo, and the Next Generation Ad Hoc Committee of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He is a member of The Chicago Club, the Chicago Commonwealth Club, and of Vistage International. In 2010, Mr. Hale was recognized by Crain’s Chicago Business Journal as one of Chicago’s “40 Under 40.”

Big Shoulders Fund Board of Directors→