Note to readers: Barry Schraders DeKalb
County Life column will appear every other Tuesday.
DeKalb High alumni from the Class of 1962 have never seen
Fred Eychaner at a reunion, but he sent a brief note to their
50th gathering that read: Working hard to re-elect Obama.
Eychaner, now 69, is known in political circles as one of President
Obamas biggest supporters, shelling out some $14 million
to Super PACS including $4.5 million to the Obama Priorities
USA Action Committee during the last campaign. He continues to
be a major player in both state and national Democratic fundraising,
hosting Obama and Sen. Dick Durbin for a major fundraiser last
month at his home in Chicagos Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Forbes magazine listed his net worth at $500 million some
12 years ago and today it is estimated as high as $1 billion
by other online sources. The company he founded,
Chicago-based Newsweb Corp., is a media company that publishes
alternative newspapers and operates several radio stations around
the country, some broadcasting in Spanish, as well as the Chicago
progressive talk radio outlet WCPT-AM 820. The company also owns
a Colorado TV station.
Eychaner is very low-key in his private life, but his Newsweb
Corporation is in the printing and broadcast business, certainly
a high-profile field.
Trying to get a phone call through to him is impossible, as I
tried more than once. So I turned to his former DeKalb classmates
to learn a little more about his background.
He could be considered one of the original geeks in high
school, classmate G.K. Jerry Wuori said.
Probably Freds first foray into politics was during
his senior year when Jerry ran for class president, although
unsuccessfully. Fred was a part of his campaign team, known as
the Barbocrats back when there werent many
Democrats in this area. Later when Fred came out as a gay
Rare shot of Fred Eychaner in recent years
Fred Eychaners senior photo in
DeKalb High School 1962 yearbook
man, he became politically active for gay rights as well as the
On April 23, he was honored with the National Liberty Award
by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, an organization
that promotes equality, and gave a speech, which was taped and
released on YouTube, which must have chagrined him. In that talk
he commented on his upbringing in DeKalb, crediting his parents,
Howard and Mildred Eychaner, whom he humorously referred to as
teetotaling Methodists, with accepting his sexual
orientation and then forming a Parents, Families and Friends
of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) chapter.
He said they even marched in gay parades, passing out cards
that read Proud of our Gay and Non-Gay Children,
at the time something that might seem out of character for Mildred,
who served on the local school board as secretary. Fred later
honored his parents, who spent their last few years as residents
of the Oak Crest Retirement Center in DeKalb, by donating a major
portion of a $6 million expansion of the health care facility
which was then named after Howard and Mildred.
Both parents died in 2005, just six months apart. At the
groundbreaking, Fred shied away from cameras and sought no publicity
for his generous bequest.
One can imagine that he will be a major supporter of the 2016
Hillary Clinton for President effort, since he backed her in
the 2008 campaign. Not seeking any high-level appointments, Fred
did accept an Obama offer of a board seat on the prestigious
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington,
D.C. He is also a life trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago
and on the executive committee of the Joffrey Ballet.
Maybe his classmates can get him to host their 55th class
reunion in 2017 at the Art Institute.