Klues gift helps diversify advertising industry by opening doors for minority students

Jack and Beth Klues
Jack and Beth Klues. (Photo courtesy of Jack Klues.)


Jack Klues (BS ’77, advertising) remembers reading a book by Marshall McLuhan in his high school mass communications class where he learned “the medium is the message.”

This sparked his life-long interest in advertising. He was “completely fascinated” by the power of newspapers, television, and broadcast on society and consumer habits.

In a time where media industries are facing criticism, Klues said the world of information is always changing. He believes this necessitates a generation of media professionals who are grounded in the values of diversity, education, and knowledge.

With a 35-year career in global leadership roles at renowned media companies, Klues understands the power of bringing diverse ideas to the table. He is committed to helping Illinois advertising students from underserved communities gain access to opportunities and driving the industry forward.

In 2015, the Klues Family Foundation donated $1 million to the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising to fund scholarships for underrepresented students with significant financial need. Since then, more than 60 students have been aided by this gift. It has funded scholarships, internships, experiential learning opportunities through advertising immersion trips, and support for high schoolers to attend a College of Media summer camp. 

“I have always valued the power of diversification,” Klues said. “I want to see the industry thrive. … It’s what keeps me busy and keeps me happy.”

Looking back at his time as an advertising student, Klues said he has never forgotten some of the experiences he had with faculty members who helped shape his career. In particular, he remembered a Strategic Media Planning class taught by Professor Arnold Barban, former head of the Department of Advertising.

“Highly committed to the students’ success upon graduation, Dr. Barban spent extra time working with us on resumes, bringing industry experts into his classroom, and acting as a personal reference,” Klues recalled. “Beyond his assistance, I try to emulate his passion and empathy for others needing help toward achieving their own goals.”

Klues began his advertising career as an account executive in the media department at Leo Burnett, where he worked on planning and placement for companies like Pillsbury and Green Giant. By 1996, he was part of a management team that created Starcom, a media services agency under Leo Burnett. 

Leo Burnett merged with another media agency in 2000 and the Starcom MediaVest group was formed, with Klues as the global CEO. When Starcom was acquired by Publicis Groupe in 2003, he became the global CEO for Publicis Groupe Media. From 2007 until his retirement in 2012, Klues was CEO at VivaKi, one of the first fully digitally-integrated agencies.

Throughout his extensive career, Klues has seen the advertising industry change with the growth of the Internet. He said it’s these changes that kept his job interesting and exciting, as well as created diversity within the industry. Klues specifically recalls shifting leadership positions during his years heading Starcom.

“The reason Starcom grew was because I had the power of all these different perspectives and we had harnessed them for the good of the company,” Klues said. “That concept doesn’t leave me, so I hope the College of Media can benefit in the same way.”

For more than two decades, Klues has served in a variety of leadership roles related to education. He’s been a member of the James Webb Young Board, a professional advisory board for the Sandage Department of Advertising. He also serves on the board of directors for the Off the Street Club, Chicago’s oldest club for boys and girls, as well as on the board for his fraternity. In his retirement, Klues established Mentridge, a mentoring program for college graduates entering the job market.

“Advertising can be—and do—a profound, powerful good,” Klues said. “If in the right hands.”

Klues also hopes the College of Media can continue to create a generation of advocates for media industries.

“Not only create advocates, but advocates who are grounded on basic decency and are good citizens of the world,” he said.

Klues’s desire to help college students is rooted in the family values he grew up with and from seeing his parents give to those less fortunate than themselves.

“It’s very fulfilling to me,” he said. “You have the most satisfaction by giving.”

Vivian La, Communications Intern