Jesse Ruiz has earned a reputation throughout Illinois as an outstanding attorney, a tireless volunteer, and a stalwart champion of the rights of children and minorities.
The son of Mexican immigrants, Jesse was born and raised in the Roseland neighborhood, on Chicago’s South Side, where his father worked the evening shift in a commercial bakery. After graduating from his parish elementary school, St. Anthony of Padua, Jesse went on to Marist High School on Chicago’s Southwest Side – a commute that required taking three different CTA buses.
To pay his way through college, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Jesse worked multiple jobs, including stints as a sales clerk, a machine operator, a meter reader, and a handyman. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1988 and spent four years working in the steel industry before entering law school at the University of Chicago.
While in law school, Jesse took a seminar class on racism and law taught by then-faculty member Barack Obama. Jesse became one of Obama’s earliest political supporters knocking on doors with Obama and hosting one of his first fundraisers in Obama’s race for the Illinois State Senate. Years later, Jesse worked as a volunteer on Obama’s presidential campaigns.
As an attorney at Drinker Biddle & Reath – a nationally renowned law firm – Jesse has spent more than 20 years advising clients all over the world. The past president of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, Jesse also serves as legal counsel to the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation, which has twice honored him with its Leadership Award.
From the beginning of his legal career, Jesse has devoted countless hours to volunteering in the public interest. He served nearly seven years as Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and then spent over four years as Vice President of the Chicago Board of Education. In 2015, he stepped in to take on the volunteer role of Interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, and served in that role for three and a half months. He now serves as President of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners.
In 2003, Crain’s Chicago Business named Jesse to its list of “40 Under 40 Rising Stars in Chicago Business.” That same year, he was recognized by Chicago Lawyer as one of “40 Attorneys Under 40 in Illinois to Watch” and a Business Leader of Color by Chicago United.
Jesse and his wife, Michele Ilene Ruiz, met when they were both law students at University of Chicago. Michele is now a partner at Sidley Austin LLP. The couple live on the south side of Chicago with their two young sons.