Updated: Former Illini golfer to join UI board of trustees

 

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SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner has filled one of the three open seats on the University of Illinois Board of Trustees with a former business associate, naming Chicago private equity investor Donald Edwards to a six-year term.

Edwards, a former UI golfer, is chief executive officer of Flexpoint Ford, a private equity investment firm he founded in 2005. The company has offices in Chicago and New York and manages $2.2 billion in assets, according to its website.

He is a former principal at Rauner's old private-equity firm, GTCR, where he worked from 1994 to 2002. He was then chief executive officer of Liberte Investors for two years. He also worked as an investment banker with Lazard Freres in New York from 1988 to 1992.

In a statement issued to The News-Gazette, Rauner said Edwards' passion for the university and his extensive background in financial management made him an "excellent addition to the board."

It's unclear when Rauner will fill the other two vacancies on the board, which has nine appointed members and one voting student. Three terms expired in January — for Democrats Patricia Brown-Holmes and Ricardo Estrada and Republican Karen Hasara.

Edwards, a Democrat, earned his bachelor's degree in finance from the UI's Urbana campus and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

"I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve the university that I attended and that I love very much. I look forward to doing what I can to help," Edwards said Friday.

He was a four-year letter-winner in golf at the UI from 1985 to 1988, playing alongside current Coach Mike Small and PGA Tour pro Steve Stricker. He still shows up at tournaments to support Stricker and Small, according to a 2015 profile in Crain's.

In that interview, Edwards said he was at Harvard when he first talked with Rauner, who called to talk with him about joining his private-equity firm.

Edwards is also friends with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whom he met through business. He and his wife, Anne, donated more than $300,000 to Emanuel's two mayoral campaigns and more than $160,000 to Rauner's campaign for governor, according to state records.

Edwards is also on the Board of Commissioners for the Chicago Park District, the Board of Directors for World Business Chicago, the Board of Trustees for the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Board of Trustees at Lurie Children's Hospital.

Reporter/Columnist

Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is jwurth@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).