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October 10, 2016

From the African-American history museum to Navy Pier

Chicago Sun Times
Deryl McKissack talks about being the project manager behind many of the nation's powering landmark achievements.

The project manager of the just-opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, is also a force behind building projects all around Chicago, including Navy Pier.

It’s all about “carrying out what the client envisions,” says Deryl McKissack, who was in Chicago last week for meetings around town. 

McKissack & McKissack is based in D.C. and has had a Chicago office for nearly 20 years. Chicago Public Schools has been a longtime client. More recently, the firm helped oversee construction of the $251 million new Malcolm X College and is managing some of the $500 million McCormick Place expansion, including for the new event center and the Marriott Marquis hotel. The firm also oversaw the Ferris Wheel re-do at Navy Pier. 

McKissack has a home in Chicago. She is friends with health care executive Eric Whitaker, a golfing buddy of President Barack Obama, and she counts Whitaker’s wife, Cheryl Whitaker, CEO NextLevel Health Partners, as a close friend along with Seaway Bank Chairman Veranda Dickens and Midway Broadcasting Chairman Melody Spann-Cooper. 

In Washington, McKissack’s firm worked on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial and on upgrades for the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. 

McKissack is a descendant of slaves, so work on the African-American history museum was especially personal. “I saw the museum in several different stages of construction, but it didn’t come to life for me until I saw the exhibits,” she says. “You start out with this lonely feeling and when you leave, you feel inspired.”

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