Advancement & Public Services
Robert & Blenda Ontiveros
Ontiveros = Group O = Opportunity
Robert Ontiveros, Chairman of Group O, headquartered in Milan, Illinois, knows a thing or two about creating and seizing opportunity. Most recently, Ontiveros has created an opportunity for Hispanic students at Western Illinois University in the form of a generous scholarship endowment.
Ontiveros was born in Moline in 1938, the second of twelve children. He graduated from Moline High School, then immediately enrolled in Moline Community College (now Black Hawk), graduating in 1960. From there he went to the University of Cincinnati for 1-½ years. Short of money his last semester, he left school to marry his sweetheart, Blenda Lou Crummer, and return to his home.
“I think having been brought up so poor and having to work all the while I was in school gave me a ‘real world education’ as well as book learning,” said Ontiveros, “I was not a good student, barely above a “C” average. However, looking back, what I gained was the ability to network and make life-long friendships.”
Indeed, Ontiveros’ firm, Group O Companies, which he started by literally knocking on factory doors over 30 years ago, is now a multimillion-dollar enterprise with four separate businesses and the 9th largest Hispanic owned business in America.
“I never would have dreamed that we’d (the company) grow to where we are today,” Ontiveros says about Group O’s success. “But I do think growing up in an environment where maybe you wouldn’t think I’d be successful made a difference. Throughout my life, whenever I’ve been successful it was when someone had thrown a stumbling block in front of me, and I climbed right over it. I think it gives you a stronger character and work ethic. To be successful, you overcome these things.”
Throughout his career, Ontiveros has seized the opportunity to rise to every challenge with integrity and an entrepreneurial spirit. Respected for his value-focused way of doing business and philanthropy in the region, he is now creating an opportunity for Western students.
Bob and Blenda Ontiveros have committed $100,000 to establish a scholarship endowment for full-time Quad Cities students with demonstrated financial need. Preference will be given to students of Hispanic origin. Five scholarships will be awarded each academic year.
“The only way out of poverty is education and learning the new technologies of our current world. It’s an ever-changing world and I think I can make a difference by providing these scholarships,” Ontiveros stated.
“The Ontiveros scholarship is a tremendous gift for WIU-Quad Cities,” said Joe Rives, Vice President for the Quad Cities, Planning and Technology. “Western is the only Illinois public university and only Midwestern public university cited among 20 other US institutions by The Education Trust for successful graduation rates for Hispanic students. The Ontiveros scholarship will strengthen Western’s success while transforming the lives of the individual recipients. We are grateful for, and humbled by, Bob and Blenda’s generosity and vision.”
“As a local business owner, I fully appreciate the economic impact that WIU brings to our local economy,” said Ontiveros. “WIU’s beautiful new campus on the banks of the Mississippi River makes the Quad Cities a truly strong learning center for higher education, enabling us to compete in the global market place.”
“My intent,” he continued, “is to make the best use and help the most we can with this endowment.”