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    About Us


    President & Founder
    Ron Gidwitz

    Ron Gidwitz is actively using his extensive background in business and education to tackle two of Illinois' most pressing issues: job loss and education needs. As Chairman of the Illinois Coalition for Jobs, Growth & Prosperity and Founder of Students First Illinois, Ron works at the state level to create an environment for job growth and provide every child with access to equal, high quality public education.

    In February 2003 he personally launched Students First Illinois (www.studentsfirst.us), a non-partisan, statewide grassroots coalition of private individuals and community organizations banding together to help put Illinois' 2.2 million children first in state policy. A companion Students First Foundation (www.studentsfirstfoundation.us) encourages public involvement and support in the education of the state's schoolchildren.

    "Gidwitz wants the voice of Illinois schools to be heard above the rest. He believes the full force of Illinoisans behind this effort will make sure that it is. We like the idea of engaging the public and giving them access to this debate. We wish him success."

    -- 3/27/2003 Southern Illinoisan Editorial
    "Organization offers a novel way to advocate for schools"


    Ron also serves as the Chairman of the Illinois Coalition for Jobs, Growth & Prosperity (www.jobsillinois.us), a coalition of employers representing more than 1 million workers. The non-partisan group's mission is to secure the future of Illinois by educating, informing and activating the public, stakeholders and elected officials to develop, promote and implement a stable pro-job, pro-growth, pro-investment climate in Illinois.

    As the former CEO of a Fortune 500 consumer products company and a longtime advocate for economic development, Ron Chairs the Illinois Coalition for Jobs, Growth & Prosperity (www.jobsillinois.us). Representing more than 1 million workers, this non-partisan group is working to secure the future of Illinois by educating, informing and activating the public, stakeholders and elected officials to develop, promote and implement a stable pro-job, pro-growth, pro-investment climate in Illinois.

    Ron was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Unilever HPC Helene Curtis Business Unit from 1996 to 1998. Previously, he served as President and Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the Board of Directors of Helene Curtis. He had served as President since 1979 and assumed the post of Chief Executive Officer in July 1985. Before being appointed President, he held a number of positions within the company, with responsibilities ranging from sales to manufacturing. After Ron took the helm of Helene Curtis in 1979, revenues increased sevenfold to more than $1.2 billion before its acquisition by Unilever in 1996.

    Today, Ron is a co-founder and partner of GCG Partners. He also serves as Director on the Boards of Continental Materials Corporation, Prairie Packaging and SEI Technologies.

    Ron is active in the Chicago business and arts communities. He was named Crain's Chicago Business Executive of the Year in 1988. He is former Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education and a member of the Chicago Central Area Committee.

    He has served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Field Museum of Natural History and is a member of the Board of Trustees/Directors for Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, the Museum of Science and Industry, Steppenwolf Theatre, and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Ron also serves as Governor of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Additionally, he has served as Chairman of the Economic Development Commission of the City of Chicago, the Board of Trustees of the City Colleges of Chicago, and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

    In 2003 Ron was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).

    Ron is a graduate of Brown University, with a bachelor's degree in Economics. He is married with two children and resides in Chicago.

    Click here to download Ron's full bio (PDF).

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    Students First Illinois | Ronald J. Gidwitz | 200 South Wacker Drive, Suite 4000 | Chicago, IL 60606 | email | (312) 943-1955 p (312) 943-8397 f

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