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Honoree Headshot

Gil Fonger

President & CEO
Marklund

Location: Kane County
Year Founded: 1954
Industry Group Specific: Non-profit, Human Services

Presented by:

When Gil Fonger joined Marklund in February 2011 as the president and CEO, he spent his first 100 days in one-on-one interviews with 118 staff, board members of various stakeholders. He toured the facilities, shadowed staff and developed a First Friday report where he gave monthly updates to the board and senior staff.

“I quickly realized that I was part of an organization with a rich history of service to individuals with developmental disabilities and a gifted staff, but they had no direction, no leadership,” said Fonger. “This led me to the creation of our first strategic plan a year later called Creating the Future.”

Since its founding in 1954 by Nurse Claire Haverkampf as the first skilled pediatric center in the State of Illinois for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities, the mission and the promise made to everyone served at Marklund is to make everyday life possible for individuals with profound disabilities.

Fonger has been in the non-profit world since he got out of the U.S. Coast Guard where he served as an active-duty officer for five years. “My passion is to see organizations and people grow,” he said. “What keeps me continually motivated is to help lead and facilitate that growth.”

Under Fonger’s leadership, the Marklund 2030 strategic plan is based on serving the underserved with a new Bridge Builder program for underserved adults on the autism spectrum. The Board of Directors just authorized the $15.5 million expansion and renovation of the Marklund Wasmond Center in Elgin. Beyond this, Marklund has a 3.5-acre site in Elgin to create an innovative small cluster of group homes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities that have behavioral and medical needs that makes them the hardest to provide residential options.

In the past 10 years, Marklund has gone from a revenue budget of $17.6 million to $44.5 million, annual fundraising of $1.9 million to $4.4 million, from serving 157 to 308 individuals on a daily basis and from 328 to 549 employees.

“I have an incredible daughter with developmental disabilities who is my inspiration for everything that I do,” said Fonger. “No matter what facet of our current or future operations, I always ask myself the question: ‘Would I put Jacquelyn in that program?’ It is an extremely high bar because if the answer is ‘no’ then we either don’t need to do it or need to improve it.”

As he continues to lead, Fonger said he sticks to the motto that “there are no easy roads to anyplace worth going.” For his continued commitment to supporting the community and his staff, Fonger has been named a titan.

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