Rey B. Gonzalez, the Co-founder of USHLI and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the last 25 years, received the National Hispanic Hero Award at USHLI’s 30th national conference, held February 16-19 in Chicago.
Gonzalez, a lifelong Chicago resident, grew up on the Southeast side of the city and earned an advanced degree from Northern Illinois University. He worked for the Chicago Urban League and was Midwest Director for the National Council of La Raza, before accepting a position with ComEd as Public Affairs Director. In 1998 he accepted a position with McDonald’s as Vice President of Diversity. In 2002 Gonzalez accepted a position with the Exelon Corporation as Vice President for Corporate Diversity and now serves as Vice President for State Legislative and Community Affairs at ComEd.
His 30+ year career in community service began when he joined the Board of Directors of El Valor, a non-profit, award-winning organization that serves thousands of learning disabled children in Chicago each year. Gonzalez has served as Board Chairman of El Valor for over 20 years during which time the organization has expanded its service area, increased the number of children and families served, and its staff and budget. El Valor has built three Children and Family Learning Centers at a cost of $30 milllion and one is named after Rey B. Gonzalez.
Thirty years ago Gonzalez co-founded USHLI along with Hank Lacayo, the late Willie Velasquez, and Dr. Juan Andrade. The organization started with a staff on one and a budget of $90,000. Under his stewardship, USHLI has grown to a staff of 7-10, the annual budget has grown to $1.9 million, and its leadership programs have expanded to include Collegiate and Grassroots Leadership Development, Project SED (Students for an Educated Democracy), and the Student Leadership Series. USHLI has registered 2.2 million new voters, published 425 studies on Latino political demographics, trained over 300,000 present and future leaders, and sponsors the largest Latino leadership conference in the nation.
In presenting the award, USHLI President Juan Andrade said, “Rey’s commitment to community service is a model of servant leadership. Rarely has one person’s work risen to this magnitude or served to empower millions of Latinos in 40 states He is indeed a national hero.”