Christopher Clinton Conway, a globally engaged nonprofit leader serving iconic nonprofit institutions and high-net-worth individuals in pursuit of meaningful impact and lasting change, is leading a breast cancer research organization? Of course, he is! Conway has built a storied career making deliberate but often unexpected choices as to where to apply his considerable talents building successful nonprofit brands and fundraising programs. From international development to healthcare, the visual or performing arts, Conway is sought after by philanthropic and nonprofit boards. Whether assisting a former U.S. president cement his charitable legacy and win a Nobel Prize or lead the itinerant and struggling Joffrey Ballet into a new, Chicago facility and fiscal solvency, Christopher Clinton Conway is the nonprofit world’s go-to for what’s next.
But why breast cancer research?
My entire life, I was very close to my grandmother. Her name was Catherine Wiley Hamilton and she was inimitable. She lived by the motto, “Born invited.” For her, and for me, that means to have confidence in your experience and education, a responsibility to make a contribution and the inalienable right to be a part of the conversation. My grandmother and her four sisters were known as the “Wiley girls” in the small farming town of Little York, Illinois. She lived into her nineties but breast cancer kept her sisters from sharing that long life. There is currently research being done into Irish families, like mine, that carry a genetic predisposition to breast cancer. Now that I am working in the breast cancer research space, I think of Nell, Bird, Martha and Ruth often.
Why here, why now?
I have a track record of working with organizations at inflection points. More than any of my nonprofit peers, I have worked with founders; from Former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter at The Carter Center, dancer Gerald Arpino at Joffrey, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, ophthalmologist Dr. Ron Smith at the Doheny Eye Institute, to entrepreneurs Bill Guthy and Victoria Jackson at the Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation. I am drawn to visionary, often volatile personalities who establish, lead and inspire.
Dr. Susan Love is a pioneer. Susan was one of the first public figures to come out as a lesbian in the 1970’s. She helped establish a culture where gay and lesbian leaders are heard and respected as professionals. My own experience coming of age during the AIDS crisis, I know what it means to fight for a cause and specifically for access to healthcare and research. Dr. Love and I share a special kinship based partly on being shaped by adversity and a passion for helping those who are struggling. Success is achieved when everyone comes together to support a common goal. I am proud to stand next to, and behind, the many women who have led organizations working to end breast cancer. I believe that the research led by Dr. Susan Love will uncover the cause of breast cancer in my lifetime. I will be part of the effort to build the necessary organizational infrastructure and strategic resources.