Jesse Ruiz graduated from the University in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He was appointed to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees by Gov. JB Pritzker on Oct. 27.
Ruiz received his juris doctor from the University of Chicago Law School in 1995 and has served on the board of many Chicago and Illinois organizations. Most recently, he was the president of the Chicago Bar Association from 2019-20 and the president of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners from 2016-19.
From 2019-21, he worked as the deputy governor of education at the Office of the Governor in Illinois. Ruiz currently works as a general counsel at the Vistria Group, a private equity firm focused on social good. Ruiz’s appointment as a member of the Illinois Board of Trustees will last until 2029.
The Daily Illini sat with Ruiz to discuss his background and plans for the University system.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The DI: How has being an alumnus of the University shaped your life and career?
Ruiz: It gave me the educational foundation for my career. I earned my undergraduate degree in economics and then went into business for a number of years (at) both Inland Steel Company and Ryerson Steel Company. I got that first job out of undergrad at a job fair in the Illini Union, so I can directly point to the University for helping me obtain my first job out of college and then sparking my interest in law school since my undergraduate job was working in the Undergraduate Law Library.
Particularly as the son of Mexican immigrants, my dad only got to go to school through the third grade in Mexico … (I am) very grateful for the educational opportunities their hard work got me at the University of Illinois. I always point to the University’s motto of “Learning and Labor.” I think about the labor my parents had to do, … so as a first-generation college graduate … it’s not lost on me. An experience like obtaining a degree at the University of Illinois can help shape your life and change the trajectory of your life.
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