President and Chief Executive Officer of El Valor
story BY: CHRISTINA ZAMBION
Rey Gonzalez was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. His mother was a Mexican American from the south side and his father was raised by migrant farm workers in San Antonio.
Growing up in the shadow of U.S. Steel, he swore he would never work there. Instead, he put his efforts toward school.
One of five kids, his parents stressed education. They also emphasized getting a good job and working hard; he’d worked at their grocery store while in school.
But the importance of education was always in the back of his mind.
Gonzalez studied at a Catholic high school and did well. He was on the high honor roll. Motivated to pursue a college degree, he went to his high school counselor to ask for advice on how to apply to Notre Dame.
His grandmother affected him in a profound way. Gonzalez was frequently sick with asthma as a kid, and she would stay at his bedside, teaching him important life lessons. She always said, “Education is the great equalizer.”
El Valor supports and challenges urban families to achieve excellence, encouraging them to participate fully in community life. El Valor empowers and enriches the lives of people with disabilities, the disenfranchised, and the underserved.
“The beauty of it is, we keep families together,” Gonzalez comments, noting how influential his own family had been in his mission in life.
Gonzalez faced many obstacles in his life, but he said it was anger and a strong, dogged determination that propelled him forward.
“I wasn’t going to let someone else define who I was, or who I was going to be,” he says. “I always tell people–control your career. Don’t be afraid to make a change, especially if you’re unhappy in a position. Start your search. Go on job interviews. And you have to always, always believe in yourself.”
He concludes with another valuable lesson, one that has served him throughout his career: “But most importantly, you can’t just be a taker–you have to give back. In a way, the more you give, the more you get back.”
Getting to know Rey:
Who is your favorite writer?
My favorite writer is John Steinbeck.
If you could have any other job what would it be?
I’m already doing the perfect job! There’s no other job for me.
What do you never leave home without?
I never leave home without my cell phone.
What is your worst habit?
My worst habit is I let my emotions get in the way, though it’s served me well.
What was the last movie you saw?
The last movie I saw was “The Revenant.”
What is your favorite thing to eat?
My favorite thing to eat is Mexican food.
What is one thing on your bucket list?
I don’t believe in bucket lists, I believe in life.