Obama's connection to Econ Alumni

One Econ alumnus responds to Obama's UI visit, award



Today is the day that former President Barack Obama speaks to students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus (live stream at 11 a.m. – go.illinois.edu/live.).  In all of the chatter among students about the impending event it was remembered that the Economics Department has at least two alumni that have a connection to Mr. Obama, Mr. Jesse Ruiz (Econ ’88) and Mr. Billy Dec.

We were fortunate enough to catch up with the very busy Jesse Ruiz, a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP in Chicago.  When hearing about the University’s award to Obama, Jesse said

I am very happy that the University of Illinois, is honoring my former law professor, President Barack Obama, with the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government.  I commend the University’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs  for recognizing the high standards, and integrity, with which President Obama carried out his public service on behalf of our state and nation. In tumultuous times, President Obama’s distinguished record of service stands as a bright beacon for students, and all of us, to follow.”   

Jesse tells us that he and Mr. Obama stayed in touch after graduation and in fact Jesse worked on one of Obama’s presidential campaigns as well. 

Another alumnus of the Economics Department that has had a connection to Mr. Obama is Billy Dec, Founder/CEO of Rockit Ranch Productions, many other business ventures, actor/tv personality, and former member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under the Obama administration.  Although we were not able to reach Billy for comment at this time, it’s safe to say that he’s enjoying the news of Mr. Obama’s receiving the award and visit to his alma mater.

Any other Economics students or alumni with connections to Mr. Obama?  Reach out to econ-alumni@illinois.edu – we’d love to hear your story! 

Since releasing this story, we have heard from another Economics alumnus that has a connection with Mr. Obama.  Dan Johnson (Econ '97) also had Mr. Obama as a law professor at the University of Chicago Law School.  Dan currently still works in the political arena as an Illinois lobbyist for Progressive Public Affairs.  Dan shared a link with us to an article where he talks about one of the lessons he learned from Mr. Obama in law school https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/04/07/email-dan-johnson-professor-obama.


Marsha Hatchel