Ron Gonen '93 admitted that it had been a while since he set foot on Germantown Academy's campus when he took the stage in the Art Center to talk to the Upper School about his book, “The Waste Free World,” and the path that he has taken to become CEO of Closed Loop Partners, a New York based investment firm that finances businesses that are making a positive environmental impact. He was called “A Recycling Czar for New York City” by The New York Times in May of 2012, but Gonen was doing work to help the environment long before then.
Gonen interviewed with the late Peter McVeigh 1760 when he was applying to GA – a man who would later have a huge impact on his life. Gonen began at GA in 7th grade and feels that attending the school allowed him to open is mind and realize he was not being spoon-fed an education; rather he was encouraged to think about the world and his own ideas and how to solve problems.
“I had this experience with Mr. McVeigh through the Community Service Organization where, rather than just learning about the problems in the world in the classroom and reading about the types of solutions, we actually went out onto the streets and worked with people who were dealing with some of the most drastic challenges that you could face.” Gonen said. “We dealt with them on a personal level and worked at trying to figure out how to help people”
Since his graduation from GA, University of Massachusetts, and Columbia Business School, Gonen has held several positions where he has been serving others, including as the Deputy Commissioner of Sanitation, Recycling and Sustainability in New York City in the Bloomberg Administration. He oversaw the collection and processing of NYC’s paper, metal, glass, plastic, textile waste, electronic waste, organics, and hazardous waste as well as public policy. In 2013, the Natural Resource Defense Council and Earth Day New York named Ron as the Public Official of the Year in New York City. During his career, Gonen has been recognized with a number of business and environmental awards including the highest distinction for environmental protection given by the United Nations, recognition as a ‘Champion of the Earth’ by the United Nations Environment Program and the Medal of Excellence from Columbia University which recognizes alumnus under the age of 45 for excellence in scholarship, public service and professional life.
Even though he has moved on from Germantown Academy, Gonen is still helping to make a change on campus. While talking through slides featuring all the innovative companies that his firm works with, Gonen announced that he was donating a HomeBiogas anaerobic digester to GA. The digester breaks down food waste and creates gas that can be used to cook or heat water. He added that he hopes that eventually there will be no food waste from GA in landfills, and that the energy from the digester is used on site.
Gonen ended his visit by imploring students to think differently and answering questions that students may have had during the presentation. He even stuck around after the students were dismissed to talk with a handful of interested young minds.
“My GA experience is so connected to everything I’ve been able to accomplish so far in my life,” Gonen said. “I can tie back everything I have come across in my professional life to something that I learned or experienced at GA, or a relationship that I made at GA.”