Mihai Lehene

President and Founding Member of RUF
Mihai is a Founding Member and the President of RUF. Passionate and caring, Mihai’s goal is to inspire all around him to be better and help each other, especially his fellow Romanian Americans.
 

President and Founding Member of RUF

 


Say "I'm In!" for RoCo Chicago, the Romanian Community Center

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Ambassador of the Romanian Community Center of Chicago

"I have a dream! Chiar am :) In fiecare dimineata ma trezesc si ma gandesc cum o sa facem un Community Center la Chicago. Ce sa fac, fiecare cu visul lui. Numai ca io stiu ca nu ma las pana nu rezolvam anul asta. Si voi ma stiti, cand am promis ceva, nu mai e cale de intors."

Vin-o alaturi de noi! Say "I'm in!"


Teacher

Mihai started teaching Mathematics and Programming as a volunteer in 2014. He's been teaching young kids ever since, mostly as a way to keep his own kids engaged, but also because he naturally enjoys teaching. He believes the best gift you can give someone is to open their eyes to the joy of learning and he doesn't think he will ever stop teaching.


Community Leader and Philanthropist

Mihai is the Main Sponsor of the Romanian United Fund. In each of 2019 and 2020, Mihai made a $50,000 donation to finance the operating account of RUF and he will match dollar-for-dollar any amount raised by Romanian United Fund up to $50,000. This allows RUF to be a 100% pass-through organization. For a clear picture of RUF finances, please see our Transparency section.

Mihai’s involvement in organizing and representing the Romanian community started as soon as he moved to America, in 2001.

First as a founder of one of the first Chicago Romanian Community online groups, with 3,000 members, started in 2002.

Next, as a Founding Member and a Director of Round Table Society NFP, a Chicago-based nonprofit that promoted Romanian culture and upheld Romanian traditions, and provided community services, a film festival, and organized cultural and traditional events in Chicago between 2003 and 2012. When RTS closed, its remaining funds of roughly $13,000 were donated to a Romanian orphanage.

Third, as a founder of romanilachicago.org, a free “Craig’s list”-like directory website, that lists thousands of small businesses and initiatives as well as job listings in the Romanian community. At its peak, before the advent of Facebook, the “Romani La …” network included romanilanewyork, romanilahouston, romanilalosangeles and others, and served over 30,000 users in the United States. Today, only the Chicago server is active and boasts over 15,000 active users and over 15,000,000 views.

Mihai is also the initiator and supporter of the “Zilele Zalaului la Chicago” annual festival, with 17 annual editions, which, at its peak, brought together over 2,000 Romanians from the Chicago land to celebrate the annual “days of” Zalau, a small town in Transylvania where Mihai grew up and went to school.

In 2018, Mihai started volunteering as a member of Ro100, a civic engagement platform, which later formed the foundation for creating Romanian United Fund. RUF is a fundraising organization that focuses on providing financing to nonprofits and grassroots initiatives in Romanian communities in the United States and Romania, while building the largest diaspora network of philanthropists, business people, community leaders, experts, professionals, and other do-gooders in the global Romanian diaspora.

In 2019, Mihai became the single largest financial supporter of Romanian United Fund, and its first Founding Angel, with a minimal financial commitment for 5 years of $250,000. He is the running Executive Director and President of the Board of Directors of RUF.

In 2020, Mihai started pitching the idea of creating a national federation of Romanian American organizations to a group of community leaders from all over the United States, and today he is a proud Founding Member of FORA, the Federation of Romanian American organizations, and a member of the FORA Founding Team Workgroup that made FORA a reality.

In 2021, Mihai promoted, pushed, and turned into reality the idea of ROCO, the first entirely broad-base community-supported Community Center of Chicago, with no religious and no political affiliations. He also donated the ROCO building for 5 years to make the entire project possible. ROCO is currently being built and will be launched on March 31st.

In 2021, Mihai was recognized by Repatriot for his role as a Community Leader and Serial Investor and for his efforts to connect the Romanian Diaspora and Romania by being invited as a guest speaker at the Annual Repatriot Summit where he was awarded the Top 100 Romanians award. He is also the recipient of the "10 Romani de 10" award.

In 2022 he became a Founding Member of the Romanian Community Foundation of Chicago, a broad support coalition of the Chicago community, including the support of the local businesses, artists, churches, and local community leaders.

Mihai is a former Mathematics and Computer Science Olympiad participant in Romania with 3 national awards under his belt. He is a former trader, senior strategist, and former Partner at Allston Trading, a Chicago-based high-frequency trading outfit.

Piggybacking on his expertise and experience, since 2014, Mihai has been teaching multiple Mathematics, Computer Science, Computer Animation, Computer Game Design and Financial Education to children between 7 and 18 years old, at local public libraries and schools, and currently as part of RUF’s learning center.

Mihai is also the Founder of RUF’s Learning Center, an online and offline teaching platform that provides technology and financial resources, a teaching methodology, and free curriculums to teachers from all four corners of the United States and Canada, with weekly courses from Monday to Saturday. He is a natural teacher and continues to teach weekly today, finding constant inspiration and happiness in connecting and providing mentorship to bright young minds.

 


 

President of Romanian United Fund

"I strongly believe the Romanian American community, and the Romanian Diaspora in general is quite capable of achieving great things. In order to achieve this, we need to create a decades-long development plan, well-thought and ambitious, and then we need to set out on the course of executing it. We need leaders, business people, and professionals to stand up together and support a common plan of development that takes into account our own future, our businesses, and our children before anything else.

I know Romanians are smart, intelligent, conscientious, creative, and highly dependable individuals. As teachers, doctors, construction workers, business people, or IT professionals, we touch the lives of so many, ab-so-lu-te-ly e-very day. We are our own ambassadors, as well as the ambassadors of our communities and of our country. We have a uniquely interesting heritage and we carry the flag of previous generations of illustrious Romanians that left their mark on history. But individualism will only take us so far. In order to achieve greatness, we need to learn to work better together and trust each other more.

There's a lot to be said about the break-neck speed of development of Romania and Romanians in the last 3 decades - as a nation, we had to come out of communism and transform ourselves into a capitalist, democratic society in a matter of decades. This has not been achieved without a significant human cost. Today, the Romanian diaspora is the fifth largest worldwide and a fifth of our workforce lives abroad. Moreover, as of 2020, more than half the children of Romanian descent worldwide live outside of Romania.

There is nothing more fascinating to me today, than the dream of showing that our generation, of young, determined, successful, intelligent Romanians can leave its own mark, during one of the most marvelous and interesting times in history: the century of technology and globalization. Are you with us?"

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