2015 – Mary Bird
Professor Mary Bird has shaped new generations of public interest advocates throughout her career. As Director of Public Service programs at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, she fosters the belief that the law is a profession with the potential to significantly change society for the better.
Mary has dedicated her career to educating and protecting children, including time as a high-school teacher prior to law school. Before returning to her alma mater full-time, she held a variety of positions, including at the Office of the Public Guardian and the Office of the Inspector General for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
At Loyola, Mary’s classes, public interest initiatives, and outreach programs have helped develop and launch the careers of hundreds of public interest advocates who serve our community in many capacities today. Among her many accomplishments, Mary shaped and expanded Loyola’s Street Law program and developed the Loyola Law Academy. Street Law sends second- and third-year law students to Chicago area elementary and high schools to teach students about the law and our legal system, and often reaches more than 1,000 high school students per year. The Loyola Law Academy is a program that provides high school students from underprivileged areas the opportunity to meet and converse with law students and practitioners as well as learn more about careers in the legal profession. Mary’s passion for public interest is exemplified in her creation of a public interest law certificate program, a seminar course, annual newsletter, and an annual public interest recognition luncheon. She also initiated Days of Service for the law school community.
Mary’s innovative ideas and leadership played an integral role in the National Jurist magazine ranking Loyola University Chicago as one of the best public interest law schools in the country. She is an advocate for the students at Loyola Law, for her colleagues in the field of public interest law, and most importantly, for the greater Chicago community.