NIU College of Law Interim Dean Mark Cordes and the NIU Law Alumni Council celebrated alumni and friends who embody what is best about the College of Law during their 2017 Awards Reception on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the Union League Club of Chicago. The seven honorees were recognized for their career accomplishments, devotion to the public good, continued service to the law school, and professional integrity in their work in the public and private sectors.
Richard C. Irvin, Class of 1998
Alumnus of the Year
Richard Irvin was elected the 59th Mayor of Aurora, IL, on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, serving as the first African-American mayor of Illinois’ second largest city. A proud veteran of the U.S. Army, Mayor Irvin served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Mayor Irvin is a former prosecutor for Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office and the program founder for Aurora’s community-based Prosecutor Weed and Seed Program. He also worked as an assistant state’s attorney for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. He is the founder of the Law Offices of Richard C. Irvin based in Aurora. Mayor Irvin has served as a community leader by participating in the 708 Mental Health Inc. Executive Board, the Illinois Coalition for Community Services Executive Board, the Institute for Public Safety Partnerships as a Police Trainer, and as Big Brothers and Big Sisters Volunteer. He also previously served as Alderman-At-Large for the City of Aurora from 2007-2017.
Khristian Parker, Class of 2010
Young Alumna of the Year
Khristian Parker is general counsel for Teamsters Local Union No. 705, one of the largest Teamsters’ locals in the nation, representing approximately 16,000 members across the Chicagoland area. Parker is the first African-American and the second woman to serve as general counsel in Local 705’s 100-plus year history. Her role is to create and execute the union’s legal strategies, advise the Local’s Executive Board regarding the day-to-day administration of the Local, represent the membership in grievance arbitrations and serve as lead negotiator in collective bargaining negotiations. Prior to her current position, Parker was a staff specialist attorney for the Illinois Nurses Association (INA). Additionally, she worked as a judicial extern for the Hon. Mark J. Lopez (‘83), Circuit Court of Cook County, the INA, and the Cook County Public Defenders’ Office. Parker is a member of the American Bar Association, the Lawyer’s Coordinating Committee of the AFL-CIO and the Cook County Bar Association. Additionally, she sits on the Associate Board for Providence St. Mel School in Chicago and is a mentor alum of the Minority Legal Education Resource, Inc.
Robin Belleau, Class of 1995
Distinguished Service Award
Robin Belleau is the executive director of the Illinois Lawyers’ Assistance Program (LAP) which provides confidential and no-cost substance use and mental health services to Illinois judges, lawyers and law students. Under her tenure, LAP has seen a 43 percent increase in funding provided by the Illinois Supreme Court, a 33 percent increase in clients served and a 300 percent increase in fundraising. Prior to her role as executive director, Belleau was LAP’s clinical director. As clinical director, she supervised the clinical services provided to members of the Illinois legal community. Prior to earning a Masters degree in counseling from Northern Illinois University, Robin practiced law for eight years. During her tenure in the law, Belleau was a DuPage County senior assistant public defender, Kane County state’s attorney, and an associate in a general practice firm with a focus on juvenile, criminal and family law. Belleau is a founding member of the Elmhurst chapter of Action for a Better Tomorrow and a volunteer for the Elmhurst-Yorkfield Food Pantry.
Lonny Ogus, Class of 1978
Outstanding Service Award
Lonny Ogus has been in private practice since 1978. His practice specializes in civil rights, wrongful terminations, false arrest and constitutional law. Ogus’ extensive list of professional experiences includes being the former president of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, member of the Task Force on Judicial Elections and member of the Joint Chicago Bar Association/John Marshall Law School Library Committee. He has also served as chairman or vice-chairman of Chicago Bar Association Committees including Criminal Law, Defense of Prisoners, Civil Rights, Mass Arrest; co-chairman of the Alliance of Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation Committee and member of Executive Council on behalf of Decalogue Society of Lawyers. He has numerous reported decisions, authored articles and instructed several professional seminars. Ogus has also served on the NIU Law Board of Visitors since 2009 and serves as a proud mentor of many young attorneys who were his law clerks and he has participated in NIU Law’s 1L Mentoring Program since its inception.
Public Service Award
Richard Schmack is the former DeKalb County State’s Attorney, where he served from 2012-2016. In that capacity, he served as the county’s chief prosecutor and legal advisor and served personally as the prosecutor in Drug and DUI Court. He was heavily involved in the establishment of Mental Health Court in DeKalb County, and the local certification process to meet the new statewide standardization of treatment courts. While in office, Schmack was a member of numerous organizations and boards including the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Association and its Best Practices Committee, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and the Illinois Association of Problem Solving Courts. His legal career has included time as a general practitioner, and over the years, he has worked across the full spectrum of legal services. Schmack is a current member of the American Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, the DeKalb County Bar Association, the ISBA’s Criminal Law and Local Government Sections and the Board of the Friends of DeKalb County Drug Court. He was recently selected by the Department of Justice and the National Drug Court Institute to serve on the faculty of the National Association of Drug Court Professional Adult Technical Assistance Program. In addition, Schmack was recently chosen as the recipient of the 15th annual Norm Maleng Minister of Justice Award, presented yearly to public prosecutors who exemplify the prosecutor’s “duty to seek justice, not merely to convict”. The award was presented at the ABA Criminal Justice Section Conference on Friday, Nov. 3, in Washington, D.C.
Professor Emeritus Daniel S. Reynolds
Honorary Alumnus Award – Posthumously
Professor Emeritus Dan Reynolds joined the College of Law faculty in 1982 until his retirement in November 2015. During that time he taught contracts, professional responsibility, corporations and legal history, among other subjects. Reynolds also served a stint as interim dean in the 1990s. Considered an expert in the area of legal ethics, Reynolds was the assistant reporter to the American Bar Association’s “Kutak Commission,” which drafted the new code of ethics for American lawyers The Model Rules of Professional Conduct. In addition, he, along with Professor Emeritus David Gaebler, led the school’s very successful study abroad program in Agen, France, for almost 20 years. Professor Reynolds was loved and greatly admired especially by the students. He was voted “Professor of the Year” an unprecedented six times by the classes of 1989, 1991, 1997, 2003, 2008 and 2013. Professor Reynolds lost his battle with cancer on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, and received this award posthumously.
Gabriel A. Zunino, Class of 2010
Mentor of the Year
Gabriel Zunino founded Zunino Law, L.L.C., in Chicago, IL. His practice specializes in immigration and personal injury matters. Throughout his undergraduate and law school years, he worked as a law clerk at Mitchell, Hoffman & Wolf, L.L.C., where he got first-hand experience working on cases from client intake to settlement or verdict. Following law school, Gabriel became an associate attorney at the same law firm. His concentration in that practice was plaintiff’s personal injury matters including medical malpractice, automobile accidents and injuries, wrongful death and construction accidents. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Chicago Bar Association.