Raymond G. Chambers
Businessman, philanthropist, humanitarian
Born: August 7, 1942, in Newark, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2013: Enterprise

Ray Chambers is known as a modest and private man. He prefers it that way. But truth be told, he is a towering figure, whose achievements in business and philanthropy deserve to be shouted from the rooftops.

Chambers grew up middle-class in Newark and attended West Side High School. He considered a career as a rock musician, but chose instead to continue his education at Rutgers University-Newark, thanks to the offer of a $400 state scholarship. “That made my decision,” he said upon his induction to the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2013.

After earning his college degree, Chambers started his career as a tax accountant for Price Waterhouse in Newark. By 1968, he had added an MBA from Seton Hall University to his resume, and had revealed his entrepreneurial side with the launch of a nursing-home company. Much bigger things were to come.

In 1981, Chambers co-founded Wesray Capital Corporation, a private equity holding company, with Paterson native William E. Simon, the former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Wesray became a financial powerhouse, engineering lucrative leveraged buyouts of companies such as Gibson Greetings, Simmons Mattress Company, and Avis Rent-a-Car. The deals made Chambers a millionaire many times over.

Having accumulated a fortune for himself and his family, Chambers turned his attention to philanthropy, first in Newark, then on the world stage. According to a 2010 profile in New Jersey Monthly magazine, Chambers’ first major beneficiary was the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newark, through which his foundation provided scholarships to thousands of Newark children. Over the years, he has contributed millions to the education and welfare of Newark kids.

If that largesse went largely unheralded, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center is a physical manifestation of his generosity. At a time when Governor Tom Kean was having trouble finding support for his vision of an arts center in the state’s largest city, Chambers came through with a crucial $5 million pledge. In time, he would provide an additional $7 million for NJPAC’s development, while also rallying the support of other benefactors. NJPAC opened in 1997 (with Chambers as its founding chairman) and has been a cornerstone in the downtown Newark revival. Chambers also played a key role in bringing the New Jersey Devils to Newark’s Prudential Center.

Along the way, Chambers developed a special interest in malaria and committed himself to helping eradicate the deadly disease in Africa. In 2008, the U.N. secretary general appointed Chambers special envoy for malaria. In this role, he helped raise global awareness of malaria’s threat and spearheaded the distribution of more than 1 billion insecticide-treated mosquito nets in sub-Saharan Africa. The U.N. credits the program with saving more than 6 million lives, mostly children.

In 2011, Chambers founded the U.N.’s Global Health Alliance. He also served as the U.N.’s special envoy for health in Agenda 2030, a long-term plan for improving the planet. Additionally, he has worked with the U.N. on funding for global health goals, and with the World Health Organization as Ambassador for Global Strategy.

Among other affiliations, Chambers is the founding chairman of the Points of Light Foundation (appointed by President George H.W. Bush), and co-founder with General Colin Powell of America’s Promise Alliance.

At his New Jersey Hall of Fame induction, Chambers described the philosophy behind his good works. “To give back,” he said, “brings greater happiness than anything else we can do in our lives.”

Intro/Acceptance Video