Is Separate Better?

The heir of a high-profile Chicago family, Tim King has devoted most of his professional life to educating less fortunate young black men. Now he’s betting on the promise of a new all-male high school.

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Tim King’s father, Paul King Jr., is the chairman and chief executive officer of UBM, the state’s largest black-owned construction company, and has a long history of advocacy and organizing on behalf of African Americans in the construction industry. His mother, Loann King (an Englewood native), taught in the Chicago Public Schools for 17 years and later worked as a dean and vice president, respectively, at Olive-Harvey and Kennedy-King colleges.

 

The family: King’s parents (seated) and (standing, from left) his brother, Paul; Keith Robbins; and Tim

Tim grew up in the house where his parents still live today in the African American upper-middle-class community on the South Side known as Pill Hill. “The people on my block were doctors and lawyers and business owners,” he says. “The guy next door owned a chain of gas stations. As a child, I got to see many successful black men and women, and everybody was married. I can’t think of anybody on my block who was divorced.”

As a child, King moved in the circles of the city’s black elite-a phrase he accompanies with finger quotes-including membership in Jack and Jill, an upscale African American children’s organization. He spent summer weekends with his family in a rented three-bedroom cottage in Union Pier, Michigan, that rests on a bluff overlooking the lake, and winter vacations at the family’s second home in the Bahamas, a three-story house with panoramic views on Cable Beach in Nassau.

Despite his family’s affluence, King started earning his own spending money at an early age, rising at five on Saturdays as a child to record orders left on an answering machine at his grandfather’s produce business. “I didn’t like it,” he admits. “It was very cold; it was early; I was sleepy.”

His earnings went toward movie tickets and “the ridiculous clothes your parents would never buy for you,” he recalls. King is a lifelong movie fanatic with a devotion to the Star Wars series-he saw each of the six movies on opening day, and his buddies clock how long it takes him to make a reference to the films during their weekly Thursday-night poker games.

He attended St. Ignatius College Prep, a private Catholic high school, and Georgetown University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in foreign service and then a law degree. (He also studied at universities in Italy and Kenya.)

At a former professor’s invitation, King began teaching a history class at a private Catholic school in Washington, D.C., while attending law school. He eventually went to work there full-time as a teacher, college counselor, and fundraiser while finishing his degree. Returning to Chicago in 1994, he was hired as a vice president in charge of development and administration at Hales Franciscan-one of only three all-male African American Catholic high schools in the country-and became the president and chief executive officer the following year.

In his five years as president, King increased class requirements, lengthened the school day, upped recruitment by elite colleges, had the gymnasium rebuilt (with his father’s help), and raised more than $6 million for the school.

“He brought a lot of energy; he raised the visibility of the institution,” says Mike Miller, a partner in the Chicago office of Heidrick & Struggles, an executive search firm, who was the chairman of Hales’s board of trustees for most of the time that King was president. “It was a better place for his having been there.”

 

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