PAWS: A Wealthy Chicago Couple Cares About Animals

In the the 1990s, Peter and Paula Fasseas took a family trip to Crete. One day, as they explain to Chicago Splash, a stray terrier followed their daughter home. According to the family, Greece’s stray dogs are often poisoned by farmers. Upon learning this, the family decided to bring the stray dog—dubbed Pippen—back home to Chicago.

On the heels of the trip, Paula Fasseas founded PAWS Chicago—PAWS is short for Pets are Worth Saving. PAWS Chicago is home to the Pippen Fasseas Adoption Center, the first cage-free, no-kill adoption center in the Midwest. Chicago has faced a pet overpopulation problem, which galvanized the Fasseas family’s interest in this area.

As Paula describes it, “I started reading all things dogs…I started seeing articles about dogs being killed in Chicago and I was surprised. Why would shelters be killing dogs? I didn’t see strays around here, so I didn’t think that was an issue.”

According to PAWS Chicago, between 1997 and 2015, the euthanasia rate in the city of Chicago has been reduced by 80 percent, from 42,600 animals killed in 1997, to around 8,700 in 2015.

Peter and Paula Fasseas married in Paula’s native Tucson in 1975 before moving to Chicago, where Peter was working as an attorney. The couple launched their business in 1978, leveraging their home to purchase North Community Bank—the cornerstone of what would grow to become the Metropolitan Bank Group (now Byline Bank) which was sold in 2013.

It’s unclear how much the couple is worth, but they’ve directed their philanthropy through the Peter & Paula Fasseas Foundation, which in a recent year awarded a little over $2 million. The family has continued to support PAWS Chicago (Paula serves as chair) via their foundation, as well as places like Animal Welfare League, Hermitage Cat Shelter, PETCO Foundation, and Puppy Mill Project, whose goal is to “raise awareness and educate the public about puppy mills and their connection to puppies sold in pet stores, on the Internet, and through other outlets.”

The couple is also especially interested in health and have directed millions to University of Arizona, home to the Peter and Paula Fasseas Cancer Clinic, which opened last decade. Other grantees have included Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center, and Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation.

For a full overview of this funder, read our Wall Street Donor profile below.

PROFILE: Peter and Paula Fasseas