About 175 friends, family and colleagues gathered at the law offices of Winston and Strawn, 35 W. Wacker Dr., to help AIDS Legal Council of Chicago Executive Director Ann Hilton Fisher celebrate her retirement April 3.
Kimball R. Anderson, ALCC's founding board president, said that when Fisher came to ALCC in 1997, she brought "renewed confidence to the organization. She was frankly very smart, with her academic credentials, and she had a prestigious clerkship in the Seventh Circuit … She has been a tireless advocate of those less fortunate and those who needed access to justice."
ALCC Board Member Stuart Graff noted that Fisher "gave clients confidence that they could face their challenges … and resume their lives and face the future knowing that not only did they have justice on their side, but a team that would help them achieve justice in their lives."
In her remarks, Fisher lamented that, with thousands of baby boomers retiring every day, few people end their professional lives with celebrations so vast. She praised and thanked all the legal professionals who worked with ALCC as well as the individuals she called the "infrastructure" of ALCC: the support staff, development team, donors and board members who kept the various cogs of the organization going.
"Infrastructure sustains organizations and allows them to build and grow," Fisher said. "One of the things I've been proudest of at ALCC has been our ability to meet the changing epidemic, our changing client populations and the changing legal environment. We've learned immigration law, mental health law and probably know as much about the Affordable Care Act as anyone in the state … Now we're getting in calls that would have been unimaginable 17 years agogay couples wanting to know what would happen to the benefits of the HIV-positive partner if they'd gotten married."
She appealed on behalf of people who work for community organizations everywhere: "They're often not only not acknowledged, but they're sometimes shuffled aside before they're given a chance to retire on their own terms."
Fisher told audience members to acknowledge those person's contributions and "make a donation in their honordon't always make donations in honor of the people on top of the stationary. It's such a little thing but, assuming that their agency has a decent fundraising infrastructure, they'll hear about it, and they'll be pleased."
Tom Yates, ALCC's incoming executive director, told Fisher that she "sets a standard for advocacy and a standard for being an effective executive director. I treasure following you and I treasure being able to fill the position that you held so long and did so well."