After dropping out of Ohio State, Ed Rensi, president and CEO of the McDonald’s Corp. and new member of Delta Upsilon Fraternity, made less than $100 a week at his first McDonald’s job.
Rensi told The Lantern he started school at Ohio State in 1966 and began working two full-time jobs on top of his schoolwork after receiving news that his wife was pregnant with their daughter, Marcy. His grades were slipping, and his counselor suggested that he drop out of school before he was kicked out.
“I was the first person to go to college on my dad’s side of the family, so the news of me dropping out was crushing to my parents,” Rensi said.
Rensi recalled how he walked across the street and saw a sign in the window of McDonald’s that said they were hiring. He got the job and worked 100 hours a week to earn the $85 that his family needed to get by. Over the next 18 years of his life, he would hold every operational position within the company.
The McDonald’s Corp. promoted Rensi to president and CEO in 1982. He then developed the chicken McNugget and the McChicken, and doubled total annual sales and number of stores on his way to the top, according to a press release from the Delta Upsilon Fraternity.
The OSU chapter of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity will initiate Rensi on Saturday as a member of alumni status.
Joshua Pennings, a third-year in accounting, is vice president-elect of finances for the fraternity and Rensi’s grandson.
“We are really excited and humbled to have Ed accept the bid from our fraternity,” Pennings said. “He is someone we all strive to be like both personally and professionally.”
Rensi said he feels honored and excited about the initiation, and he is extremely proud of his grandson for everything he has accomplished. Rensi said he was never able to join a fraternity because he worked too much and did not have the money.
He described his time at OSU as “a lot of work and not much fun.” The Vietnam War brought about a time of turmoil on campuses across the country and students focused solely on getting their education and moving into the workforce.
Pennings said it was Rensi’s impressive resume and close relationship with several of the DU members that made him a perfect candidate for a bid into the fraternity. The brothers were looking for a speaker for their initiation when Rensi’s name came up in the discussion. The brothers all expressed their admiration for him and decided they really wanted him to join.
His willingness to help out and his personality made the DU members want him as a brother and a mentor, Pennings said.
“The fraternity is concerned with family values, hard work and community service, as is Ed,” Pennings said. “There is an open and good environment surrounding our events which makes for a strong family atmosphere, which I think is appealing to him as well.”
He also said Delta Upsilon is proudly a no-hazing fraternity.
Rensi attributes much of his success to great mentors he had along the way, both within the McDonald’s Corporation and at OSU. Jim Buffer from the College of Education helped him go back to school in 1988, and he graduated with a degree in non-teaching Business Education on March 16, 1990, Rensi said.
The College of Education nominated Rensi to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in May. He will also be receiving the Award of Distinction for Distinguished Alumni.
From a career standpoint, Rensi said he does not have a single regret. Within the last 10 years, however, he has thought about one thing that he wishes he had accomplished: serve in the U.S. military.
“The fraternity system is about a group of like-minded people keeping track of each other,” Rensi said. “The Marines are the ultimate sorority/fraternity.”
He said he thinks the military is one of the most educated work forces in America. He said he has a deep sense of respect for the Marines, and wishes he had been a part of this brotherhood.
“It is within the relationships you have where the richness of life really is,” Rensi said.