Step up, Ladder Up

By Maraya Steadman | Spring 2012

Printer Friendly

When he was just 22, Bob Burke (ACCT ’94) walked into the office of a managing partner in the world’s largest financial services firm and asked him for money. Not for himself, but to support an idea he had for a charitable organization that would prepare tax returns and financial aid packages for the working poor on Chicago’s west side.

That was in 1994. Today, Ladder Up ( has made an economic impact of more than $325 million, serving 160,000 clients, exclusively through the help of 16,000 volunteers. Chicago magazine selected Burke as a 2011 “Chicagoan of the Year.”

“Everyone has that capacity to give, and when you do, you get so much back in return,” says Burke, who also manages Burke America, a private holding company he started in 2010. “I’ve learned more at Ladder Up than any other organization I’ve been involved in. It’s made me a better person, a better human being.”