In his remarks introducing the 2015 inductees into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that the institution exemplifies "25 years of making the city live up to its values and principles."
Emanuel remained present onstage greeting inductees for the entire ceremony, which was held Nov. 10 at the Chicago History Museum. He had just come from a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the shooting of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and admitted both occasions made him verklempt (emotional), adding, "Your courage, your convictions, your faith in the city of Chicago, make us and our city not only a better city but a better community, and we are eternally grateful. … You want to raise your children in a city where the values that you teach them at the kitchen table are the same values that publicly you hold up."
The year 2015 brought significant changes for the Hall of Fame, most notably a name change"LGBT" has now replaced "Gay and Lesbian" in its titlethat officials say better reflects the diverse makeup of its inductees. The Friends of the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, the 503(c)(3) that administers the Hall of Fame's business, recently completed a strategic plan that will ensure it remains relevant in the years ahead.
"Chicago is unique, as it is the only municipality that honors its LGBT citizens, the contributions they make to their communities, and to the city as a whole," said Hall of Fame Co-Chair Gary Chichester, who was joined onstage by Co-Chair Mary Morten. Chichester also spoke of inductees who passed away this past year, including Jean Hardisty, William Kelley, Andrew Patner and Dick Uyvari.
Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon also appeared onstage. The Hall of Fame recently unveiled an interactive exhibit at Harold Washington Library that shows off both the 2015 inductees and inductees from prior years.
Emanuel was introduced by Chicago Commission on Human Relations Commissioner Mona Noriega, who said that, "The legacy of the Hall of Fame is as important today as it was when it was first established. … Despite queer folks being able to serve openly in the military, despite marriage equality, despite the prohibition against discrimination, inequality is still an operating force in our lives. We know that from our everyday experience and I know that from the complaints of discrimination that we receive at the Commission on Human Relations. Today though, we create the reality that we want to live in."
Lambda Legal Midwest Regional Director James Bennett, Personal PAC CEO and President Terry Cosgrove and consultant Lisa Marie Pickensall previous Hall of Fame inducteespresented this year's inductees.
Among those honored were: Jean Albright, 64, retired Air Force Master Sergeant, for her work to increase awareness of LGBT veterans and military members and to overturn the military's ban on LGBT service; Fred Eychaner, 70, chairman of Topweb Corporation and President of Alphawood Foundation, for his philanthropy, his public service and his support of Chicago's LGBT communities; Emmanuel Garcia, 33, journalist, youth mentor and community leader, for his advocacy and role in organizing Chicago's Latina and Latino LGBT communities; Stanley Jenczyk, 71, for his dedication and perseverance in establishing a monument to LGBT veterans and servicemembers in the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery; Phoenix Matthews, Ph.D., 48, Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist ( UIC ), for more than 20 years of research on determinants of cancer-related health disparities, with a focus on African American and LGBT populations; Gail Morse, 57, attorney, for helping to secure civil rights for Chicago's LGBT communities through her professional, community, and political leadership; Michael O'Connor, 58, for his long-term contributions to the quality of life of Chicago's LGBT communities, specifically in public policy, communications, social services and healthcare; Barbara Smith (1946-2015), founding board member of Affinity Community Services, for her leadership, managing Affinity's finances for 12 of its 20 years, founding its Forty Plus and Trailblazers groups, and for her advocacy role in the mentorship and support of black lesbians throughout the broader community; and Lauren Verdich, 69, for her key efforts in the establishment of Open Hand Chicago and her leadership in Chicago's LGBT business community as well as progressive and women's politics.
The Lesbian and Gay Police Association Gay Officers Action League was honored in this year's "Organization" category, while U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Lambda Legal attorney Camilla B. Taylor were inducted in the "Friend of the Community" category.