Last year Nancy Ronquillo announced her retirement after 18 years as Children’s Home & Aid’s President and CEO; she will officially leave her post this summer. Below is a tribute to Nancy and everything she’s accomplished for the 40,000 children and families whose lives are touched each year by Children’s Home & Aid.

In the summer of 2001, Children’s Home & Aid named Nancy Ronquillo president and CEO. Eighteen years later, full of progress, challenges, and friendships, she is preparing to retire and focus on an entirely new journey. Nancy’s interests and fierce passion for human services began much earlier than Children’s Home & Aid. “I wanted to make a difference. I’ve seen first-hand what it’s like to struggle as a family and the impact on children; that’s always fueled me.”

Nancy first entered the field of human services in 1975 working with adults with developmental challenges. During that time, she had a part-time job working with young adults. Working with youth inspired her to pursue a role in child welfare in Chicago. “The promise and potential of young people was a magic moment. I fell head over heels for the work,” she says. This role allowed Nancy one of the first big chances to show her creativity and natural leadership skills as she started a new city-wide youth employment program. The task of designing and working with others to create opportunities was a moment of discovery and the start of a theme in Nancy’s career.

Nancy became a CEO at Children’s Foundation in Bloomington in 1989, a time when not many women, even in social services, were the head of agencies. She remained there until 2001 when she became Children’s Home & Aid’s President and CEO.

One of Nancy’s greatest accomplishments is the figurative and literal growth of the agency, an additional – at least – 100,000 sq.ft. of newly-built centers and another 100,000 sq.ft. in renovated program sites dedicated to our mission. During Nancy’s tenure, the agency’s budget has nearly doubled in size.

The Mitzi Freidheim Englewood Child & Family Center, the Marletta Darnall Schaumburg Child & Family Center, and the Jerri Hoffmann Child & Family Center were also all constructed and expanded under her guidance. Under Nancy’s leadership, early childhood programming grew dramatically. She feels strongly that early childhood services strengthen families and provide life-long learning advantages to every child.

Additionally, Nancy believes wholeheartedly in the abilities of all the services and programs offered by the agency and is proud of their success. “One of the greatest things about Children’s Home & Aid is its incredible mission depth and reach—positive youth development, prevention and family support, prevention, child welfare, juvenile justice.  Our programs are diverse and high-performing.”

Nancy is also very proud of the success of the Every Child Comprehensive Campaign. The Campaign raised over $58.5 million. “The Board of Trustees and our incredible supporters have invested in creating innovative approaches and new programs, like BestStat, as well as increasing our foundation for long-term sustainability.”

Those who work with Nancy knows there is something specific she wears nearly every day. Through Nancy’s years at Children’s Home & Aid, she always wears a beautiful butterfly pin. She says this is a symbol and reminder of the role we play in the lives of children and families. “The butterfly has its own special journey: from caterpillar to a soaring butterfly.”, Nancy explained, “It’s all about the transformational journey. We are lucky to be part of that figurative transformation for the people we serve.”

Charlie Gofen, Chair of Children’s Home & Aid’s Board of Trustees, says of Nancy, “Her fierce passion for making the lives of children better comes through in everything she does. Her compassion and grace are extraordinary, and the positive impact she has had through her decades of leadership is immeasurable.”

Nancy sees the future of Children’s Home & Aid full of innovative ideas and partnerships. When asked what she will miss the most, Nancy simply says, “the people… what resides in the people is this big beating caring heart that is Children’s Home & Aid.”

Nancy of course has ideas on staying connected to the mission of Children’s Home & Aid, but also has plenty of hobbies in her personal life to keep her busy during retirement. Writing has always been a love of Nancy’s and she will soon be finished with her memoir. She also looks forward to spending time with her dogs and showing her artistic side with some water coloring. Additionally, Nancy will soon take on one of her most exciting adventures yet – “I will be a grandma in the fall.” Nancy gushes, “My first grandchild is coming and I cannot wait!”

Looking back, she calls her employment at Children’s Home & Aid one of the greatest joys of her life. It can be difficult for anyone to sum up a career, especially in a service area as broad as child welfare. However, Nancy has a powerful call-to-action for the next CEO, staff, and to anyone in the life of a child: “don’t let up now, there’s more work to do… this is another huge moment. Say yes to that moment.”

“Everyone can do something to help children thrive. You don’t have to choose this as your life’s profession, but you can always choose something in your own communities to enliven opportunities that every child deserves. Don’t pass up that chance! It will enrich your life in ways you could never imagine. Your energy and investments are needed in the world.”