CHAIRMAN & FOUNDER
When working with Hawthorne, Chairman and Founder, Gene Reineke, will be one of the first faces you see, and – during these remote times – he might also have a unique Zoom background behind him such as Lake Michigan or outer space.
At H+K, he rose to U.S. chief operating officer and head of client service, in addition to leading offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. While there, Gene honed his skills in client crisis management, working on significant events including Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid and for various universities during investigations that were in the public eye.
Gene’s professional career is deeply rooted in Illinois, where he spent almost twenty years in state government under two gubernatorial administrations. He held a variety of positions ranging from chief of staff to serving in the governor’s cabinet before moving to the private sector to work on behalf of corporate clients and other organizations at the international public relations firm of Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
Gene was on-site at AIG when the firm was at the center of the economic ‘great recession,’ and at Cigna as the interim chief communications officer in the lead-up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’).
In 2012, Gene left H+K to establish Hawthorne Strategy Group, where his experiences in government and agency life were paired perfectly. Hawthorne’s first client was Aflac, the supplemental insurance company. Quickly, under Gene’s leadership, Hawthorne grew to over a dozen employees and partners with nationwide clientele in wide-ranging business sectors, from healthcare to higher education. Local Chicago-based clients include the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (McCormick Place), Vyaire Medical, and various civic nonprofits serving the greater Chicagoland community (e.g., Big Shoulder Foundation).
Outside of work, Gene has experience serving on numerous nonprofit boards including Loyola University Museum of Art, Advance Illinois, Student Conservation Association as well as advising the Chicago Foundation for Women and Equality Illinois.
As a testament to his leadership and expertise, Gene was recognized as the 2019 PRSA Chicago’s Professional of the Year.
Education: Master’s degree specializing in American Politics from Boston College, Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Loyola University Chicago, and professional certificates from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business in digital marketing, negotiations, leadership, management, and inter-cultural studies. A lifelong learner, Gene is currently working towards a master’s degree in ethics and leadership at The University of Chicago.
Outside of Work, You’ll Find Gene: Splitting his time between his condo in Lakeview and family home in Valparaiso, near America’s newest national park at the Indiana Dunes