The Northern Illinois University College of Law held its 17th Annual Minority Alumni Reception, hosted by Interim Dean Laurel Rigertas and The Honorable Vincent Cornelius (’89) on February 12, 2020 at the Illinois State Bar Association’s (ISBA) office in Chicago.
Current and prospective students, alumni, faculty, judges, and political leaders from the Chicago area attended the reception, which featured special presentations honoring alumni including former Illinois State Senator Toi W. Hutchinson (’14), The Honorable Rouhy Shalabi (’81) and The Honorable Sheree Henry (’94).
Judge Cornelius, a former ISBA President, has co-hosted the Minority Reception since its inception seventeen years ago and has watched it continue to grow each year.
“The support for this reception has been tremendous over all of these years,” said Judge Cornelius. “The NIU College of Law is a wonderful community full of people who are committed to the legal profession and to the law school itself. Tonight we get a chance to acknowledge their accomplishments, their contributions to the profession and contributions to the NIU College of Law.”
Former Illinois Senator Toi Hutchinson (’14) and Judge Rouhy Shalabi (’81) were presented with the Excellence in Service and Leadership Award for their outstanding career achievements and devotion to the public good.
Hutchinson spent the last ten years as the Illinois Senator for the 40th District where she championed a number of causes including passing laws that protected women, children, seniors and people with disabilities as well as working to modernize Illinois’ antiquated tax structure and transportation development. Most recently Hutchinson was the driving force in crafting and passing the state’s new cannabis law. The 610-page legalization measure prioritized criminal and social justice and aims to make the state’s marijuana industry more inclusive. In September 2019, she was tapped for a role as Senior Advisor to the Governor on Cannabis Control.
Judge Shalabi’s distinguished career includes 35 years as a sole practitioner and being an active member of the community for decades. In 2002, he was appointed by Mayor Daley as the first Arab-American Commissioner to the City of Chicago Park District. He was also the first Arab-American appointed to the Board of Commissioners, Chicago Commission on Human Relations. He served as the first President of the City of Chicago Advisory Council on Arab Affairs, and is a founding member and former President of the Arab-American Bar Association. On January 6, 2020, he was sworn in as an Associate Judge of Cook County and is the first Palestinian judge to serve on the bench.
In addition, Judge Sheree Henry (’94) was recognized for her recent appointment to the Circuit Court of Cook County in August 2019. Prior to her appointment to the bench, she served as an Assistant Public Guardian representing abused and neglected children. She joined the Cook County Public Defender’s Office a few years later where she represented those charged with criminal offenses. Her role as an assistant public defender allowed her to represent all the individuals in the Drug Court, Mental Health Court, and Veterans Court Programs in the Markham Courthouse. These programs provided sobriety, health education, and life coping skills to prevent individuals from returning into the criminal justice system.