Ernest R. Wish complemented his professional career with his civic and philanthropic work. In 1955, he began his career with the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand. When he was named managing partner in 1975, he assumed control of the 10th-largest accounting firm in Chicago. He directed the Chicago office through dramatic changes in its accounting practice and was instrumental in the development of new services, both within the firm and in the industry. Wish was named executive partner in 1989; by the time he opted for early retirement in 1992, the firm was the second largest in the city.
In November 1992, after leaving Coopers & Lybrand, Wish accepted the appointment by Governor Jim Edgar as chairman of the Illinois Healthcare Reform Task Force. In 1993, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Wish city clerk. Assuming the role in the wake of a series of scandals involving the office, Wish restored respectability to the position. This success led Daley to appoint him director of the revenue department in 1995. By 1999, he was chairman of WRM, Incorporated.
In addition to his successful careers in the corporate and government arenas, Wish distinguished himself through his extensive philanthropic involvement. Always interested in education, Wish founded and was the first president of the Ledger & Quill, the alumni organization of the School of Accountancy at DePaul University. He later served as chairman of DePaul University's board of trustees. He has chaired DePaul's council and been president of the business advisory council at the University of Illinois. His contributions to Chicago Booth have been similarly exceptional. In addition to his service as a life member of the Council on Chicago Booth, he has served the Chicago Club and the Executive Program Club.
A resident of Chicago, Wish was an active volunteer for various organizations throughout the city including the Lincoln Park Zoological Society, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Chicago United Way Crusade of Mercy. In recognition of his outstanding public service, he earned the Chicago Jaycee's Distinguished Service Award, the American Jewish Committee's Civic Leadership Award, and the First Annual Outstanding Alumni Award presented by DePaul University. Wish also is the recipient of an honorary doctor of law degree from DePaul University.