Michael W. Gonzalez, engineer, co-founder of Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation, dies – Chicago Tribune

Michael W. Gonzalez founded an engineering firm in Chicago and also co-founded the nonpartisan and nonprofit Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation, which provides scholarships to college students.

“He took (the foundation) very seriously, and had such a commitment to the Latino community,” said state Rep. Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez, D-Cicero.

Gonzalez, 63, died of colon cancer July 8 at his home, said his wife, Leticia. He had been a University Village neighborhood resident.

Born in Chicago, Gonzalez grew up in Pilsen and attended the now-shuttered Holy Family School. After graduating from St. Ignatius High School in 1973, he received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1980.

After college, Gonzalez worked as an engineer for power plant builder Sargent & Lundy before co-founding and serving as the executive vice president of Primera Engineers, an architectural and engineering firm.

“As one of the founders of Primera Engineers, he was a consistent strong advocate for ensuring that Latinos had participation in the building trades and architecture sectors,” said former state Sen. Miguel del Valle, a longtime friend.

In 2007, Gonzalez founded Maestros Ventures, a small Loop-based engineering firm that specializes in providing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems for commercial and public sector buildings.

Maestros Ventures’ projects have included building systems for the new Joliet Transportation Center and helping to renovate several Chicago public schools.

“I learned a lot of things from him, including always be diligent in your work and be resilient,” said Jesus Alquicira, a structural engineer for the CTA who worked for Gonzalez at Maestros Ventures and also received a scholarship from the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation. “He’d always oversee what you did, but he would also always let you fall and he’d be there to pick you up and guide you through the process.”

Gonzalez’s wife said that dating back to his childhood, her husband loved numbers and making calculations. His success in his work, she said, stemmed from combining his technical skills and his strong interpersonal abilities.

“He did an excellent job of networking, meeting people and convincing them that the company could do the job,” she said. “He was very persuasive.”

Gonzalez in 2002 helped form the Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation, a group of lawmakers and other leaders who provide scholarships to college students. Gonzalez ultimately served as vice chair of the foundation.

“He was the force behind the establishment of the scholarship,” del Valle said. “The scholarship program that the foundation developed evolved into really targeting undocumented students who needed assistance. We were one of the first groups to provide that support to these students, who are not eligible for federal financial aid.”

Gonzalez served three terms on the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, receiving appointments to that board from two Illinois governors.

“(The board) needed Latino representation and his name was out there with political people,” his wife said. “He wanted to make sure there was equity and fairness with people getting contractors (for) these facilities.”

Gonzalez also served on the board of WTTW-Ch. 11 from 2004 until his death.

“He wanted to make sure people had access to (public television), and to be sure that it reached the people in the community,” his wife said.

Gonzalez also was president of the Chicago chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and of the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association. He also chaired the Museum of Science and Industry’s 1989 Hispanic Festival.

In addition to his wife, Gonzalez is survived by a daughter, Giselle; two brothers, Rich and Ricardo; two sisters, Sally Ann Kmety and Patricia Garcia; and his mother, Grace.

Services were held.

Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter

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