Ernest Wentcher was just a young child when his family fled Siberia at the onset of the Russian Revolution. Following an escape route that snaked through Russia and Japan, his family found safe haven in the United States, and later moved to Belgium. When he was a young man, Ernest's parents sent him to the esteemed St. George's Boarding School in England, and later to the University of Brussels.
Upon graduating, Ernest returned to the United States. His father brought him to Chicago and set him loose. "He gave me a little to live and told me to get a job," Ernest once recalled in an interview. "I had a British accent. I didn't understand American ways." But Ernest adapted quickly. With time he worked his way up the corporate ladder of the life insurance industry, and later built his fortune as a real estate enterpreneur and investor in the stock market.
Few would disagree that Ernest Wentcher was an innately bright and assiduous man and yet he recognized that much of his success was made possible by the education afforded to him. This strongly-held belief shaped the next chapter of his life. After the passing of his beloved wife Bea, Ernest was left to consider the future. He later recalled standing along the curb of Chicago's Michigan Avenue awaiting a walk sign when it struck him. "I decided that I wanted to do something for young people." In the years to come it was exactly what he did.
The Wentcher Foundation selected its first ten scholars in 2002. With time, the Foundation continued to expand - adding more scholarships and programs under the guidance of Mr. Wentcher. Ernest felt very fortunate to see his vision come to fruition, and to be a part of the lives of the scholars he so passionately believed in. Despite his myriad accomplishments, Mr. Wentcher often said that these young people were the best investments he ever made.
In September 2013, Ernest Wentcher passed away at the age of ninety-nine. Because of his vision and generosity, the Foundation will continue on in perpetuity.