John Butler "Jack" Schwemm

John "Jack' Butler Schwemm, 77, died peacefully on October 28th. Mr. Schwemm was born in 1934 in Barrington, Illinois to Earl and Eunice Schwemm, and attended Barrington High School. Mr. Schwemm graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College, Massachusetts in 1956 with a bachelor's degree in religion, and attended Michigan Law School, graduating in 1959. While at Michigan Mr. Schwemm was elected to the Barristers Society and the Order of the Coif. He also served as Associate Editor of the Law Review. While still in law school, Jack married his high school sweetheart, Nancy Prickett. Upon graduation, Mr. Schwemm joined the law offices of Sidley and Austin in Chicago and in particular worked on the merger of the Great Northern and Union Pacific Railroads. Mr. Schwemm left Sidley and Austin in 1965, joining the law department of R.R. Donnelley and Sons, a printing and communications company based in Chicago. By then the family had settled in Downers Grove, where they raised two daughters, Cathy and Kari. Mr. Schwemm was very active in local community affairs and in 1964, was elected president of the Jaycees and appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals. He was also elected to the elementary board of education, serving as its president in later years. Mr. Schwemm became chief counsel for R. R. Donnelley in 1969 at the age of 34. In 1975 Schwemm moved from R. R. Donnelley's law department to operations, where he was assigned to oversee a printing plant in Mattoon, Illinois. After a short year in Mattoon, the family returned to Downers Grove when Mr. Schwemm was promoted to head the Book Group. In 1981, Mr. Schwemm was elected the eighth president of R. R. Donnelley, and in 1983 became only the second person outside of the Donnelley family to serve as Chairman of the Board. During his chairmanship, Schwemm also served on the boards of directors of Walgreens Company, Square "D" Corporation, USG Corporation, and later William Blair and Company. He was also a Trustee of the Newberry Library and Northwestern University. Mr. Schwemm retired from R. R. Donnelley in 1989. Throughout his career, Mr. Schwemm remained committed to a personal philosophy reflecting a commitment to hard work and ethical behavior. Upon retirement, Jack and Nan spent much of their time in the Sarasota, Florida area where they enjoyed entertaining friends and spending time with family. In particular, Jack enjoyed numerous visits from his grandchildren, with whom he had a special bond. Both Jack and Nan were very involved in supporting their church and in helping in many of the church's humanitarian efforts. Hobbies including getting his pilot's license, golfing, visiting the country's National Parks and watching sports. Like so many others, Jack was a lifelong Cubs fan who was still waiting for that ultimate victory. Mr. Schwemm, married to Nancy for 55 years, is survived by daughters, Catherin Schwemm (Tim) and Kari Gies (Steve); brothers, Richard and Robert Schwemm; cousin, Phil Hardacre; sister- and brother-in-laws, Jacquie and Jack Rieke; grandchildren, Annie Swank, Joey Tuck, Bridget Coonan and Carrie Coonan; and several nieces and nephews. Services will be held on Friday, December 9th at 3:00 pm at the First Congregational Church, 1047 Curtiss Street, Downers Grove, Illinois and all are welcome to attend. In lieu of flowers the family requests that those who wish please donate to a social or environmental charity of their choice in memory of John and Nancy Schwemm. Arrangements handled by Toon Funeral Home, Downers Grove. Info: 630-968-0408 or

Funeral Home

Toon Funeral Home - Downers Grove
4920 Main Street  Downers Grove, IL 60515
(630) 968-0408

Published in South DuPage Reporter/Progress on Nov. 2, 2011