On October 10, 2013 the Diversity Scholarship Foundation presented the Unity Award Dinner and 11th Annual Swearing-in of Bar Presidents Ceremony. Co-Chairs of the dinner were Deanna Blair, Jennifer Irmen, Judge Jessica O’Brien, Chloe Pederson and Kate Conway. Advertisement Chairs were Dina Ninfo, Mark Karno and Melanie VanOverloop. Honorary Co-Chairmen were Dan Webb, William Von Hoene and Floyd Perkins. This celebration of diversity brings together leaders and
members of multiple bar organizations to promote and support the mission to increase diversity and inclusion within the legal community. Over 50 Bar Presidents participated in the swearing-in ceremony that was administered by Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride. Chief Justice Kilbride was awarded a 2013 Unity Award for his efforts in furthering diversity while serving as Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. The theme for the dinner was “Embracing Diversity: Leading by Example.” The 2013 Advocate for Diversity and Unity Award Honorees were the Honorable Lisa M. Madigan, the Honorable Ruben Castillo, the Honorable James F. Holderman and Larry R. Rogers, Senior, who were recognized for their efforts in advancing diversity throughout their careers.
Led by the efforts of President, Honorable Jessica O’Brien, the Diversity Scholarship Foundation was privileged to make numerous contributions to individuals and organizations to further the goal of diversity. The $5,000 Jerold S. Solovy Diversity Scholarship was bestowed upon nine law students through the Women’s Bar Foundation and one aspiring law student seeking financial assistance to take the LSAT. Furthermore, $1,000 was contributed to the Puerto Rican Bar Foundation to be distributed among three law students. Additional amounts were contributed to the following ISBA organizations to aid in their efforts to expand diversity; $1,000 to the ISBA Leadership and Law Program and $1,000 to the ISBA’s Committee on Law-Related Education for the Public High School Mock Trial Competition. Another $1,000 was awarded to the Just the Beginning Foundation, an organization that has a mission to diversify the legal community akin to that of the Diversity Scholarship Foundation. Finally, $1,000 was awarded to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Scholarship Fund for students from Morgan Park High School, a Chicago Public School that is predominantly comprised of African American students. Students and teachers from Morgan Park High School attended the dinner and had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with attorneys and judges. At the end of the night, many of them were inspired and expressed an interest of attending law school in the future.
In 2013, the Diversity Scholarship Foundation made significant strides to assist attorneys with disabilities by forming two standing committees. The Diversity Scholarship Foundation Disability Law Student Scholarship Fund Committee which was established to assist in the marketing for and selection of scholarships for individuals with disabilities. The Disability Programming Committee was established to design programs to address issues that students and legal professionals with disabilities face. For the first time, the Diversity Scholarship Foundation was honored to award a $1,000 diversity scholarship to Michael Pudlow, a disabled student from De Paul Law School.
This momentous and influential celebration of diversity could not be possible without the many generous sponsors who offer their financial support. The top sponsors included Platinum sponsors Exelon and Winston & Strawn, LLP and Gold sponsor Power Rogers & Smith, PC. There were many other important sponsors including a Bronze Sponsorship from the ISBA. Lastly, this event was co-hosted by The John Marshall Law School, which has supported the collective swearing-in of bar presidents since 2002 when the event was merely a reception at the law school. This is a testament of The John Marshall Law School’s commitment to diversity and unifying the legal community.
Once again this Unity Award Dinner was a huge success due to all those involved who believe in the importance of integrating diversity throughout all aspects of the legal profession. Each year, significant strides are made to expand these efforts. Through the participation of others, the Diversity Scholarship Foundation is able to grow and cast a larger net in their efforts to promote diversity. ■