MANY PEOPLE people give money to charitable causes, but Ernest
Wish is one of those rare individuals who also gives generously
of his time.
Wish has provided long-term leadership for more than 10 nonprofit
organizations, supplying key assistance in raising funds and steering
organizations through the sometimes choppy waters of the nonprofit
world. Described as highly energetic, focused, sharp, and persistent,
Wish is the ideal volunteersomeone who not only donates a significant
amount of his week but also has the skills and acumen that nonprofits
Why does he do it? The answer is simple: I have some experience
and expertise in development, said Wish, XP-29 (71), and somebody
has to help those in need.
In recognition of his commitment to volunteer work and his service
as city clerk and director of revenue for the city of Chicago,
Wish was named the 1999 Distinguished Public Service Alumnus.
Those who have worked with him wonder at his dedication, persistence,
and efficiency. Charlie Ruder, president and CEO of the Chicago
United Way when Wish was chairman of the board, said Wish helped
the United Way during a difficult time, even though we were just
a parta small partof his activities, Ruder said. He is crisp
and tough-minded, with a heart about as big as anybody Ive ever
seen. Hes an old softie. And he has tremendous staying power.
For three years, Wish headed the Chicago United Way Crusade of
Mercy, the development arm of the organization, while also serving
as chief crusader, chairman of the northern division, and chairman
of the major employers group. As chairman of the board he not
only helped raise $90 million annually, he also worked closely
with Ruder in developing an alliance between the Chicago United
Way and the United Way of suburban Chicago.
There were large challenges, it was very political, but Ernie
did heavy negotiating work and found a way that was fair for everybody,
Wish has also served as chairman of the board of trustees for
DePaul University, and he has assisted in the fund-raising work
of the GSB, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the University of Illinois.
He is known as a
strategist and a problem solver, developing endowment strategies
and recruiting committee members.
He is a rare individual who really cares about the institutions
in the city, said Bill Bennett, 71, who was chairman of Lincoln
Park Zoo when Wish served as chairman of the DePaul board of trustees
and who is also a trustee of DePaul. He helped the zoo at a critical
time, when we took over operations from the Chicago Park District.
He ran a very successful capital campaign.
Wish received his B.S. from DePaul University, where he was also
awarded an honorary J.D. He joined Coopers & Lybrand as an accountant
in 1955, ultimately becoming a managing partner in 1975. He directed
the Chicago office though dramatic changes in the accounting profession
and was instrumental in developing cutting-edge services, both
within the firm and for the profession. By the time he retired,
Coopers & Lybrand had become the second largest accounting firm
in the city.
After 17 years, Wish realized he wanted to turn his considerable
expertise to a new challenge, so he and his wife decided that
he would retire early, taking six months to relax before throwing
himself back into volunteer work. That changed a month before
his planned retirement when a friend called to say he had recommended
Wish to head the Illinois Health Care Reform Task Forceand the
appointment couldnt wait. I never did get that six months off,
Wish said, laughing. Wish was appointed by Governor Jim Edgar
and spent his year as chair heading a 45-person committee that
researched the health care system in Illinois and provided the
state legislature with a set of recommendations to make the system
more cost efficient and to enhance medical services.
This was not the end of his government service, however; soon
after his position on the Health Care Task Force ended, Mayor
Richard M. Daley appointed Wish to fill the position of city clerk,
which was left vacant when his predecessor was indicted for corruption.
Daley wanted someone with the skills to improve the department
who was also squeaky clean after the embarrassment of the former
city clerk, and Wish fit the bill.
Wish wasnt a politician and didnt want to campaign for election,
so he and Daley agreed that Wish would serve only the remaining
two years of the term. In those two years, Wish was a tornado,
improving staff morale, increasing office efficiency, and reducing
annual paperwork from an amount six times the height of the Sears
Tower to a pile that was two-thirds the height of the Sears Tower,
Wish so impressed Daley that the mayor then appointed him director
of the Revenue Department, which handles the collection of over
$2.5 billion in license fees, taxes, and parking fines. There,
too, Wish worked his magic, resulting in annual revenue improvements
of $100 million for the department.
Wish is now chairman of the board of Wish Enterprises, a company
started by his son David. Wish manages the apartment rental arm,
which is called Wish Residential Management Company Inc. (WRM).
A self-described workaholic, Wish divides his time among WRM;
his wife, Joan; his three children and six grandchildren; and
his volunteer work.
He is particularly excited about two new endeavors. As chairman
of the board of trustees for the newly created Jane Addams Hull
House Foundation, Wish is recruiting other board members and shaping
the foundations strategy for raising an endowment. The foundation
is the development arm of the Jane Addams Hull House Association,
which provides programs in 35 Chicago-area locations for children,
adults, and seniors, including foster care, domestic violence
advocacy, and home delivered meals.
Wish is also heading the new CPA Endowment Fund, which develops
and supports programs to expose youth to the importance of finance
in their everyday lives and encourages them to consider accounting
as a career choice.
And, of course, Wish makes time to participate in the life of
GSB. He began serving on the Council of the Graduate School of
Business in 1979 and is now a life member. He also has served
several committees, including the Centennial Celebration Task
Force and the Committee on Corporate Relations.
Giving money to causes he cares about is important, but Wish says
that for him, volunteering is more satisfying.
People who care about others should try to give of their time,
not just their money. Its eminently more enjoyable. When you
give time, there are a lot of other benefits, psychic benefits,
Wish said. Its exciting to plan for something and see it happen.Jennifer Vanasco