A Brief History

In 1964, the State of Illinois provided one of the most spectacular and successful exhibits at the New York World's Fair. As part of Illinois' participation, on Illinois Day, August 26, 1964, the State gave a party for some of its most celebrated sons and daughters. Gathering in Flushing Meadows were Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, the great-grandson of our Sixteenth President, United Nations Ambassador Adlai E. Stevenson, Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, Mercedes McCambridge, James T. Farrell, Allan Nevins, and many others who joined the host, Governor Otto Kerner.

The gathering made a deep impression on Michael Butler, the head of the Organization for Economic Development. A suggestion for an organization to honor distinguished Illinoisans had already been made by Robert E. Clarke, who was active in public relations work for the Butler Company. The Illinois Chief Executive, Otto Kerner, wrote to Butler on August 4, 1964, formally putting the plan in motion, but with one important qualification:

In giving this program considerable thought...I feel the Governor's office can take limited organizational action to set it in motion. It would be unfair to the premise of such an undertaking should any political connotation surround the program. It should be a non-political and continuing annual series of awards made to individuals in Illinois...

Butler set out at once to investigate other organizations which performed functions such as those the Governor envisioned, particularly the French Academy and the Nobel laureate organization. He consulted with others and a more detailed proposal was submitted to the Governor. After Kerner's re-election, one of the first things he did was tell Michael Butler to go ahead with the plan. Butler and others went further into research of how other organizations operated and he started to set up the structure, which became The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. On December 2, 1964, Governor Kerner asked Michael Butler to accept the appointment as the first chancellor of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois.

Chancellor Butler enlisted the services of several individuals who were to become members of the first Board of Regents of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. One of their first tasks was to write the by-laws for the honor society. The by-laws provided for five classes of members: Regents, Academic Trustees, General Trustees, Rectors, and Laureates. The affairs of the Academy were to be managed by the Regents who were to be elected by the General Trustees. The Academic Trustees were to be the chief executive officers of each Illinois university or college. The Rectors duty would be to submit to the Regents and Trustees the names of individuals nominated for consideration as Laureates of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. The Laureates were to be honorees of the Academy and would receive the Order of Lincoln from the Governor at the annual convocation.

Chancellor Butler was mainly responsible for the medal of the Academy, the Order of Lincoln. The design was based on that of the French Legion of Honor. The colors came from the State symbols: red for the State bird, the cardinal; violet for the State flower; and green for the State tree, the oak. The motto,

Palmam Qui Meruit, Ferat - Let Him Who Merits Bear the Palm

Palmam Qui Meruit, Ferat - Let Him Who Merits Bear the Palm

is based on that of Horatio Viscount Nelson and was selected by one of the Regents.

At a special meeting of the Board of Regents, held on January 26, 1965, the by-laws drafted by the organizing Board of Directors were officially adopted.

The first convocation and installation of members of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois was held on February 12, 1965, at The Chicago Historical Society. The Governor's Reception and The Lincoln Ball took place in The Casino Club immediately following the Convocation. Formal dress (white tie or dress military uniform for gentlemen) was suggested.

The first Laureates to receive the Order of Lincoln were:

* John Bardeen, scientist and one of the developers of the transistor;
* Joseph Leopold Block, leader in commerce and industry;
* John Stephen Boyle, Chief Judge of the Cook County Court
* Richard Gibbs Browne, Executive Director, Illinois Board of Higher Education
* Avery Brundage, guiding spirit of the Olympic games
* James E. Day, President, Midwest Stock Exchange
* Rudolph Ganz, composer, conductor, pianist, and music teacher
* William Henry Mauldin, artist, Pulitzer Prize cartoonist, creator of undying World War II characters
* His Eminence Albert Cardinal Meyer, Catholic Archbishop of Chicago
* Nathan Mortimer Newmark, technical genius, pioneer in the world of computers
* William Allan Patterson, President, United Air Lines
* Ward Louis Quaal, President, WGN Continental Broadcasting Company
* Adlai Ewing Stevenson, former Governor of Illinois and the United States Ambassador to the United Nations

After presenting the medals to the Laureates, the Governor made these concluding remarks:

I hope that this evening is merely a forerunner of something that will be accepted beyond the borders of the State of Illinois as a means of recognizing quality, excellence, and service to people; recognition that, in some instances, might have been overlooked or not adequately expressed. Too frequently we are given to the sending of floral pieces instead of letting people know in their lifetimes how appreciative we are of their works...We have a great State. We have wonderful people...

In the over forty-six years of its existence almost three hundred individuals have been elected Laureates of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and have received the Order of Lincoln. Included among the distinguished sons and daughters of Illinois have been a president of the United States, several cabinet members, retired governors of Illinois, retired members of both Houses of Congress, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, leaders in all branches of the arts, scientists, physicians, lawyers, jurists, government officials, financiers, industrialists, and masters in the many fields of communication and technology.

The Lincoln Academy of Illinois has performed its important role under the guidance of nine incumbent governors: Otto Kerner, Samuel H. Shapiro, Richard B. Ogilvie, Daniel Walker, James R. Thompson, Jim Edgar, George H. Ryan, Rod R. Blagojevich and Pat Quinn; and seven chancellors: Michael Butler, Robert G. Bone, William K. Alderfer, Thomas R. Mulroy, Marshall L. Burman, John T. Trutter and John B. Simon. Each governor and chancellor has made an imprint on the Academy's history by his personality and dedication to the position. Former Governor William G. Stratton, who served in office prior to the inception of the Academy, was highly supportive of the organization. Through their leadership, the Academy and the organization have adhered to its original principles as a non-partisan and not-for-profit entity.

Convocations of the Academy have been held in every area of the State, with locations rotating every three years between Springfield, Chicago and a major academic community. The Academy has assembled in Carbondale, Urbana, Edwardsville, Normal, Decatur, Evanston, Rockford, Lincoln, Moline and Peoria. Where it has been possible, the local institution of higher education has been active in the planning and the presentation of the ceremony. The Academy has thus been able to benefit by the generous services and gracious hospitality of Lincoln College, Northwestern University, Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois - Springfield), Southern Illinois University at both Carbondale and Edwardsville, Bradley University, Illinois State University and the University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign.

In 1975, at the suggestion of Geraldine (Mrs. J. Dennis) Freund, the Lincoln Academy began its Student Laureate Award Program. Each year an outstanding senior from each of the four-year, degree-granting college and university in Illinois and a student representing the community colleges in Illinois is awarded the Lincoln Medal, a Certificate of Merit, and a monetary grant -- thereby becoming a Student Laureate of the Academy. Student Laureates are chosen by the chief executive officers of their respective institutions, who also serve as Academic Trustees of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Student Laureates are honored for their overall excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities. The ceremony is held in the Hall of Representatives, Old State Capitol, and is followed by a luncheon with the Governor at the Executive Mansion.

The first forty-six years of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois have occurred in a period of great world achievement and change. Men and women have sought and achieved excellence in the arts and the performing arts, sciences, technology, education, sports, religion, agriculture, social services, business, industry and communication. Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, and other honors, have been awarded to Illinoisans. The sons and daughters of the Twenty-first State have made their imprint on history, and in the main, have helped to make this a better world for their own and future generations.

We are proud of Illinois and those whose lives and achievements are associated with it. We are privileged to be able to recognize their accomplishments and hope the words of our great namesake express their own feelings when they are awarded the Order of Lincoln:

Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow-men by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.

So said Abraham Lincoln and so states The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. *

* The above was taken, in part, from a history of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois written in 1990 by Ralph G. Newman*, a Regent of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois, and the 30th Anniversary booklet written by John T. Trutter*, Chancellor Emeritus of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois.