NU alum honored for ‘bunch’ of services

Erin Chan

Northwestern alumnus Greg Forbes Siegman will be honored before the Supreme Court next month — all because his friend Omari Mott was shot and killed on his way to the grocery store more than nine years ago.

Siegman met Mott at football camp in June 1990. They quickly became friends despite their different backgrounds. Seven months later, Siegman found out Mott was dead.

“It shook me pretty hard,” Siegman said. “I was in shock.”

But ever since the murder, the 27-year-old has been on a mission.

“My way of dealing with this was to make a positive difference in the minds of young people,” he said.

Siegman’s efforts, which culminated in the creation of the Brunch Bunch, a group which brings together kids and business professionals for brunch, and the 11-10-02 Foundation, which oversees the Brunch Bunch, have earned him national attention.

One of seven local recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Award, Siegman recently was selected by the American Institute for Public Service to receive the National Jefferson Award.

“I was surprised, but I was deeply honored,” Siegman said. “I felt very much like Forrest Gump, not exactly sure how I was ending up where I was ending up.”

On June 14 — nearly 10 years to the week Siegman first met Mott — Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor will preside over a ceremony to honor Siegman and 39 other National Jefferson Award recipients. At Siegman’s side will be his guest of honor: his slain friend’s younger sister, Shani Mott.

After Siegman graduated with Highest Distinction from NU’s School of Speech in 1996, he began substitute teaching in Chicago’s city schools. It was during this time that a disturbing experience inspired Siegman to “turn something negative into a positive” by creating the Brunch Bunch. In 1997, while teaching at Byrd Academy in Cabrini Green, Siegman took two kids out for milkshakes at the Oak Tree, a restaurant on Michigan Avenue that serves what Siegman described as “affluent clientele.”

While sipping their shakes, Siegman said he spotted a woman who looked at them “with disdain” and slid her purse to the other side of her table.

Siegman immediately got up and told Hale DeMar, the Oak Tree’s owner, that he would come back the next week with 10 kids instead of two. The owner happily obliged.

“It’s 166 weeks later, and we’ve never missed a week,” Siegman said.

Siegman’s initial outing with the two kids has since expanded beyond the Oak Tree. Every weekend, Siegman rounds up six to 10 kids along with six to 10 business professionals and ventures to restaurants all over Chicago.

“We take kids from all over,” Siegman said. “My goal is to recreate friendships like the one I had with Omari, to give people of all backgrounds a chance to meet.”

The Brunch Bunch has eaten more than 2,300 meals, with adults footing most of the bill.

After 70 consecutive weekends of brunch, Siegman started the “11-10-02 Foundation (brunchbunch.org),” a nonprofit organization whose goal is to oversee the Brunch Bunch and contribute to schools throughout Chicago, Siegman said.

And after he returns from Washington, D.C., next month, Siegman will be on hand to bestow the foundation’s first “Omari Scholarships” on need-based college-bound students, giving them the opportunity for higher education that Mott never had.