Michael Grant operates his own practice as a commercial mortgage banker and broker and is a licensed managing real estate broker and retired attorney. He previously was director of capital markets for Cohen Financial and has held senior positions with GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corp.; Mid-North Financial Services, Inc. as principal and co-founder; Salk, Ward & Salk, Inc.; and J.S. Grant Mortgage Company. He has been an active volunteer with professional and community organizations, serving as president of the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association and Member in Perpetuity of the Chicago Real Estate Council.

He spent 23 years on Rush University Hospital’s Neurological Leadership Committee, 20 years on the Dean’s Advisory Board of the DePaul University School of Music and time as chairman of the Glencoe Zoning Board of Appeals. Other Parker family members include his sister, Adrienne Grant Rosen ’66, who attended Parker in 2nd–10th grades, and his cousins, Lendy Smith Muller ’76 and Jamie Smith Shapiro ’77. He serves on Parker’s Alumni Association board and as an Honorary Trustee on the Board of Trustees. He majored in political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned his law degree from Loyola University Chicago.

Did you always plan to go to law school?  Was there an area  of interest?
It was between law school and the department of history at UW. So many of my classmates became professors that doing so was not unlikely. But I decided on law school instead, a decision I sometimes wonder about. I was very interested in the part of the law that focused on secured transactions, which is about crafting documents to effect loan transactions secured by all types of collateral, including land. I was also interested in not-for-profit law, especially when dealing with the Illinois-based National Fraternal Society of the Deaf, which, like many insurance companies, also invested in mortgages.
What have you found appealing about your work?
Every transaction is not only different, but often contains new issues. The basis is the land itself, but its many uses continue to fascinate me. Not only are transactions different but the people—the users of debt—are different, as are the providers of debt—life insurance companies, banks, credit unions, Wall Street-based collateralized mortgages, debt funds and agencies. Most important are my personal relationships with various borrower groups (mostly families, sometimes into the second and third generations). Further, both my father and maternal grandfather were in the mortgage banking field, so I was “born to it.” My relationships with debt providers are a very important part of my life. Building years of trust with them allows me to be more responsive and accurate for my clients.

Why did you open your own business? What have you enjoyed about it?
At the beginning of 2014, I had to think about commuting every day to the  city, something I had done my entire working life. I also had to think about the imposed structures from being with a larger firm. Many meetings and conferences were a real waste of time. I had never been in business before—by myself—and it took time to get used to this process and find people to assist me  on a case basis. Also, I had always relied on others to handle the IT world. It was a real awakening and a lot to learn. I attend and sometimes moderate seminars and classes and attend quasi-social business organizations to network. I also can moderate my hours as necessary.

What inspired you to volunteer? What have you found satisfying about it?
I was raised in a family that always was involved in charitable, educational, religious and cultural endeavors. The family always felt a responsibility to give back. Even in high school, I found time to be the head of Concessions and co-head of Tea Room for County Fair, be a varsity football player and swimmer, perform in plays and be business manager of the Record. My proudest, though saddest, achievement was being one of two seniors who were in charge of moving day from the old Victorian building to what we know as FWP today. I believe Science teacher Eggert Meyer and I were the last two in the building. Family with Alzheimer’s disease inspired me to join Rush Neurological, and my Dad was a 25-year member of the Dean’s Advisory Board at DePaul. I also was named an Honorary Brother of the National Fraternal Society of the Deaf.

Why did you get involved in Parker’s Alumni Association board? What are you most proud of?
During the ’90s, I wanted to spend more time at the school after being involved in our class reunions, and some of my interests started to change. Our family had been involved with FWP since 1956, when I entered in 6th grade, including my parents. Family contributions to the construction of what we called the New School resulted in a recognition plaque at the door of the new Record Office. I was also involved in updating the bylaws. My more recent stint has been much more rewarding, as other activities were winding down or sunsetting. One of our first assignments was to reimagine the Alumni Association’s role. I was appointed to a subcommittee to work out the details. Beginning in the late ’90s, I was often a co-host of Parker events and continued to be involved with our class reunions. Finally, two years ago, I became an even more active board member as co-chair of the newly established Governance Committee and co-chair of the ad hoc Bylaws Committee. I also attended meetings concerning advancement and alumni engagement. I was elected one of the three vice presidents for the coming term. I have participated in at least five Career Days. I also co-sponsored a Morning Ex with a Latin Trustee introducing Holocaust survivor Leslie Schwartz. I am a member of the Flora J. Cooke Planned Giving Society and was the “face” of the postcard handout at the 2019 Milestone Brunch.

I had for many years wanted to become active on the Board of Trustees. When I formally applied in early 2021, Co-Chairs Jenny Friedes and Isabel Polsky determined a role for me I never considered: Honorary Trustee. I consider this one of life’s great honors and still cannot believe it actually occurred. I also serve on the Board’s Ad Hoc Real Estate Committee.

What other ways have you been involved with Parker?
For more than six years, I have been a guest lecturer in Andy Bigelow’s American History classes for juniors. I guest-teach WWII history every May. When I chose the law, I realized I would always be a frustrated professor, so my interactions with Parker students are of great consequence to me. And Andy still wants me to return each year!
I enjoy sharing that I had a chance encounter with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a restaurant on the beach in Jamaica. There was a Southern Christian Leadership Conference retreat, and participants were taking a dinner break. I interrupted their dinner, and I will never forget that five-minute conversation!

Were there people or experiences during your time as a Parker student that influenced your decisions after graduating?
Being a Parker graduate meant a great deal to me and was significant when I applied to college and law school and for employment. I was able to do things I might not have at a large public high school. The strong lifelong bonds of friendship with several other graduates is extremely gratifying. The scholarship program always amazed me, supporting students from outstanding families who simply could not afford the tuition. Over the years I remained close with faculty members Jack Ellison and Bill Lowry ’52. Jack remained a mentor during his lifetime and Bill still is. French teacher Helen Richard did much to shape my future life, always emphasizing the importance of the arts, literature and history as part of the human experience.

What are some of your favorite Parker memories?
Our senior play, County Fair, the annual sports nights when players received their varsity letters and plays in our English classes, especially my lead role in J.B.  Free time in home room, faculty/student meetings, walking off the field with Rich Horwitch ’62 following a victory against Glenwood (senior year)—knowing we had just played our last football game—and going to the sideline to share hugs with our two elected co-captains who were too injured to play—namely, Prexy Nesbitt ’62 and Rob Corkran ’62—who remain great lifelong friends. Learning that one of my classmates went to the Principal to tell the truth about a class incident that allowed one of my best friends to graduate. The now-legendary story of how the late Paul Jefferson ’62 jumped out of the first-floor window exclaiming that he had had enough of typing class! Tutoring other students in Social Studies. And graduation—actually feeling the diploma in my hand.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m very involved with our five grandchildren, their families and their activities. I love to teach history, not only at Parker, but for other venues as well, including joint presentations with Churchill historian Lee Pollock. I like to travel, including a 2010 trip to Southeast Asia, a 2012 tour of South Africa and a 2019 trip to Normandy for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. I’m an avid reader, mostly nonfiction, and enjoy classical music concerts and plays. I have amassed a large collection of books concerning Winston Churchill. I spend many Wednesday nights at the Red Lion Pub with Colin Cordwell ’74 and a variety of Parker folks from different class years, including Connie Shirakawa ’62, Jim Ehrlich ’73 and Rich Horwitch ’62. I attend almost every summer art fair we can manage. I enjoy college and professional basketball, football and baseball games with the guys. I’m so lucky to still have some very close friends from childhood, and I miss those who are no longer with us.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.