Our History

With thousands of veterans having recently returned from World War II and O’Hare Airport soon to open, the Chicago area in 1948 was about to embark on an era of unprecedented growth. It was then that a small but prominent group of lawyer members of the Chicago Bar Association (CBA) came together united in the belief that by pooling their charitable efforts, the members of the Association collectively could make substantial improvements for both their profession and their community. Their vision soon became The Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF), which over the past 70+ years has evolved into a major charitable force in the community focused on improving access to justice for people in need.

Past Presidents

2023- Gregory Boyle

2022- Cynthia Photos Abbott

2021 – Veronica Gomez

2020 – Steven A. Weiss

2019 – Carrie J. Di Santo

2018 – Terrence J. Dee

2017 – Charles F. Smith

2016 – Allegra R. Nethery

2015 – Jesse H. Ruiz

2014 – William F. Conlon

2013 – Natalie J. Spears

2012 – Kaarina Salovaara

2011 – Stephen R. Patton

2010 – Sally McDonald

2009 – Christina Tchen

2008 – Thomas Z. Hayward, Jr.

2006-2007 – Kimball Anderson

2004-2005 – Jeffrey Colman

2002-2003 – Eileen M. Letts

2000-2001 – Leonard Schrager

1998-1999 – Bruce D. Becker

1996-1997 – Thomas H. Morsch

1994-1995 – Howard M. McCue, II

1992-1993 – R. Thomas Howell, Jr.

1990-1991 – J. William Elwin, Jr.

1988-1989 – Jack M. Greenberg

1986-1987 – Esther R. Rothstein

1984-1985 – Kenneth C. Prince

1983-1984 – Richard William Austin

1981-1982 – George Kelm

1979-1980 – C. Harker Rhodes, Jr.

1976-1978 – George W. Overton

1974-1975 – John L. Malone

1972-1973 – Russell Bundesen

1969-1971 – Thomas J. Boodell, Sr.

1967-1968 – E. Douglas Schwantes

1966-1967 – Len Young Smith

1965-1966 – Willis D. Nance

1960-1964 – Richard Bentley

1959-1960 – Edward H. McDermott

1948-1958 – Lawrence C. Mills

Life Fellows

Established in 1963, the CBF Life Fellows program was designed to give lawyers and other dedicated individuals a philanthropic way to advance the CBF mission. More than 700 CBF Life Fellows answered that call over the next 50+ years and played a critical role in the CBF’s history, providing leadership and foundational support for initiatives that continue to make improvements in access to justice in our community today.

The CBF Life Fellows program was retired in 2016 as part of the launch of the CBF Justice Society and many Life Fellows continue as members of the Justice Society today. The CBF will always honor our Life Fellows for their significant and lasting contributions to the CBF and the many thousands of people in our community who have been helped through the CBF’s work.

Abraham Lincoln Circle of Justice

When the CBF Justice Society was created in 2016, the existing CBF Lincoln Circle became part of the new program going forward. The upper tiers of the Justice Society now represent the Lincoln Circle and the high level of commitment that these donors have made to drive systemic improvements in access to justice.

Currently, only donors with active pledge commitments are recognized on the Justice Society donor list. All Lincoln Circle donors who made gifts before the creation of the Justice Society are considered founding members. Current active or sustaining members of the Lincoln Circle are recognized on the Justice Society donor list. The CBF is grateful for the crucial financial investment of all Lincoln Circle members in launching the program and appreciates their instrumental leadership in making the justice system fairer and better for all.