Press Release

NIU Law Alumni Council Hosts Awards Reception

September 26, 2013

DeKalb, Ill. -- NIU Law Dean Jennifer Rosato and the Law Alumni Council held its Awards Reception on September 19, 2013 at the University Club of Chicago.  The Council celebrated alumni and friends who serve in the public and private sectors and are all dedicated to the communities they serve.  These honorees were recognized for their career accomplishments, devotion to the public good, and continued service to the law school. 

Rich Lenkov receives his award.Rich Lenkov (’95) was honored as Alumnus of the Year.  A partner with Bryce, Downey & Lenkov, Rich concentrates in workers’ compensation, general liability, products liability, and entertainment law.  He is an active member of the legal profession and his community, serving on the Board of Visitors for the NIU College of Law, as Local School Counsel Chairperson for Agassiz Elementary School, and on the Advisory Board of Legal Prep Charter Academy, Chicago’s only legal-themed charter school. In 2012, he helped form the Greater Chicago Chapter of the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance and currently serves as President.

Adam Vaught receives his award.Adam Vaught (’05) was honored as Young Alumnus of the Year.  Adam is Counselor to Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride.  As Counselor, Adam has assisted Chief Justice Kilbride in developing numerous initiatives, including the Supreme Court E-Business Standards and Principles for the Illinois Circuit Courts, e-filing and e-business rules for Supreme Court filings, pilot projects for the electronic transfer of appellate court records, the Supreme Court’s cameras-in-the-courtroom pilot policy, the Illinois Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, Supreme Court Rules protecting private personal information, and other administrative reforms.

The Honorable Joe McGrawThe Honorable Joseph G. McGraw (’85) was honored with the Distinguished Service Award.  Judge McGraw is Chief Judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit and Presiding Judge of the Felony Division.  His career includes serving as a prosecutor in the Warren County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office.  He then practiced in medical negligence and personal injury litigation at the firm of Turner & McGraw before he founded the Law Office of Joseph G. McGraw, Ltd. where his practice focused on personal injury, medical malpractice, product liability, civil rights and insurance litigation. Judge McGraw is a member of the Illinois State Bar, the Winnebago County Bar Association, and the Illinois Judges Association. He is regular instructor for the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor’s Trial Advocacy Program and is an active member of the Illinois Supreme Court Special Committees on Capital Litigation, Minimum Continuing Legal Education (M.C.L.E.) and Judicial Ethics.

Alice Johnson receives her award.Alice J. Johnson (’02) was also honored with the Distinguished Service Award.  Alice is the Executive Director of the Illinois Nurses Association (INA), the union for nurses in the State of Illinois. She has served as the chief negotiator in numerous contract negotiations for the INA, which is recognized for having some of the best Registered Nurse collective bargaining agreements nationwide. This year, the INA was the leader in advocating for the passage of HB 801 through the General Assembly. HB 801 makes it a felony to batter a nurse who is performing their duties in the State of Illinois.

The Honorable Mark Lopez receives his award.The Honorable Mark J. Lopez (’83) was honored with the Outstanding Service Award.  Judge Lopez was appointed Associate Judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County in 1999. He was assigned to the Juvenile Court-Child Protection Division hearing abuse and neglect cases until his transfer to the Domestic Relations Division in August of 2002 where he has served for ten years. Judge Lopez began his legal career as a prosecutor for the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and also served as an Assistant Illinois Attorney General.  He was also engaged in private practice in Chicago’s Pilsen community as a partner with the Law firm of Honoratus Lopez and Associates.  He is a member of the Illinois Family Law Study Committee, the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Domestic Relations Division’s Policy and Procedures Committee, the Illinois State Bar Association’s Family Law Section, the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, the West Suburban Bar Association and the Illinois Judges Association. 

Robert ManganMr. Robert G. Mangan was honored with the Public Service Award.  In February, 2002, Bob was appointed by the justices of the Second District to be the Appellate Court Clerk.  He is a friend of the law school and has provided outstanding service and support to the College of Law.

James Aflini receives his award.James J. Alfini was honored as an Honorary Alumnus.  Jim is Professor and Dean Emeritus at South Texas College of Law where he teaches constitutional law, mediation theory and practice, professional responsibility, and related courses. He also serves as Professor Emeritus at Northern Illinois University College of Law, where he was Dean from 1991–1997, and previously was a member of the law faculty at Florida State University.

Kate McCabe receives her award.Kate McCabe (’01) was honored with the Mentor of the Year Award. Kate serves as a judicial clerk for Justice Mary K. O’Brien in the Third District Appellate Court. She previously clerked for former Third District Justices Peg Breslin and Tobias Barry.  She has been part of NIU Law’s 1L Mentoring Program since its inception four years ago. Kate is a member of the NIU Law Board of Visitors and Alumni Council, where she served as president from 2008-2010.

The Award Recipients are pictured with (left) Stacey Mandell ('96), NIU Law Alumni Council member and Chair of the Awards Committee; and Kenya Jenkins-Wright ('03), President of the NIU Law Alumni Council.


For more information, contact:
Melody Mitchell
Alumni Events & Public Relations
(815) 753-9655 or