NIU Law alumnus Vincent Cornelius (’89), the incoming president of the Illinois State Bar Association, will deliver the commencement address during the Northern Illinois University College of Law Commencement Exercises, beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 28, at the Carl Sandburg Auditorium of the Holmes Student Center.
During the ceremony, NIU Law will confer 88 Juris Doctorate degrees.
Cornelius will make history on June 17 as he takes the helm of the ISBA, the state’s largest bar organization, and becomes the first African-American president in its 140-year history.
“I would like to impart to these young lawyers the importance of defining yourself and not letting others define you,” Cornelius said. “I challenge these new graduates to find their own path and make a difference in the profession, much like NIU Law has defined itself by producing outstanding leaders in the judiciary, legal practice, in politics and public service. As I take the reins of the ISBA, I follow in the footsteps of two NIU Law graduates before me and one who will take over the presidency after me.”
Cornelius, the principal of the Law Offices of Vincent F. Cornelius – with offices in Wheaton and Joliet – concentrates his practice in civil and criminal litigation. He has been a member of the ISBA for his entire legal career and was first elected to the ISBA Board of Governors in 1999 as a downstate Under Age 37 member.
He has also served as a member of the Governor’s Commission on Criminal Law Reform and as the chancellor of the ISBA’s Academy of Illinois Lawyers. He also made history in 2008 when he became the first African-American president of the Illinois Bar Foundation. In 2011, he was appointed as an at-large member of the ISBA Board of Governors to provide leadership opportunities for underrepresented segments of the association and its governance.
“Vince is an integral member of our NIU Law community and serves as a valuable resource on issues of importance to the law school, especially on diversity in his role as the founder of the NIU Law Minority Reception,” said NIU Law Interim Dean Mark Cordes. “His ongoing commitment to public service inspires both our students and alumni.”
He further contributes as a mentor to law students and young alumni and as a frequent speaker on alumni panels. His most visible contribution to the NIU Law is the hosting of the school’s Minority Reception, which he began in 2004. Since then, the event has become an annual tradition and important networking opportunity, bringing together scores of NIU Law alumni, faculty and law students.
Cornelius was honored in 2010 with the NIU Law Outstanding Alumni Award, and in 2005, he received the Outstanding Service Award from the NIU Law Alumni Council.
Prior to opening his own law firm, Cornelius was an associate with the law firm of James D. Montgomery and Associates, the predecessor firm of Cochran and Montgomery in Chicago. He is also a former DuPage County Assistant State’s Attorney.
Cornelius received his law degree in 1989 from NIU Law and his B.B.A in 1986 from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, where he was an Academic All-American.