The Lincoln Academy of Illinois

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The Lincoln Academy of Illinois
FormationDecember 2, 1964; 58 years ago (1964-12-02)
FoundersMichael Butler and Governor Otto Kerner, Jr.
TypeNon-profit corporation
PurposeRecognize contributions made by living Illinoisans
HeadquartersSpringfield, Illinois
Region served
Governor of Illinois
Frank Clark
The Honorable Ronald Dean Spears
Executive Director
Julie A. Kellner

The Lincoln Academy of Illinois is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to recognizing contributions made by living Illinoisans. Named for Abraham Lincoln, the Academy administers the Order of Lincoln, the highest award given by the State of Illinois. Each year several persons are selected as Lincoln Laureates at a ceremony presided over by its president, the Governor of Illinois. The organization gives an annual Student Laureate award to one student from each four-year degree-granting institution of higher learning in Illinois, plus one student from the state's community colleges.[1] Many prominent Illinoisans have received the Order of Lincoln.[2]


After visiting the Illinois exhibit at the 1964 World's Fair, theater producer Michael Butler was inspired to start an organization to honor distinguished Illinoisans. Butler, who was then head of the state's Organization for Economic Development, submitted a proposal to this effect to Governor Otto Kerner, Jr. The Governor accepted the proposal and named Butler the first Chancellor of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois on December 2, 1964. The first convocation to honor Lincoln Laureates was held on February 12, 1965, at the Chicago Historical Society. As of 2013 over 300 Illinoisans have received the award.[1]

The Academy began awarding Student Laureate awards to outstanding college students in 1975.[1]


The Academy is overseen by the President, who is the incumbent governor. Five other officers are elected for four-year terms by 18 Regents, who act as the board of directors. The chief executive officer is deemed the Chancellor. The Vice-Chancellor performs the duties of the Chancellor in his/her absence. Administrative duties are carried out by the Executive Director, finances are handled by the Treasurer, and meeting minutes are taken by the Secretary.[3]

The 18 Regents are elected from among the Trustees. There are three types of trustees: General Trustees, Academic Trustees, and Rectors. There are 60 General Trustees, appointed for six-year terms by the Academy President or Trustees. The Academic Trustees are the chief executives of degree-granting institutions in the state, plus the presidents of multi-campus four-year institutions and a representative of the Illinois Community College Board. There are ten Rectors, who represent each category of the award.[3]

Order of Lincoln Award[edit]

The Lincoln Academy elects several Laureates annually to the Order of Lincoln, the highest award given by the State of Illinois. The award is presented at a ceremony presided over by the President of the Academy (the Governor of Illinois). The ceremony rotates every three years between Springfield, Chicago, and other areas of the state. Honorees are presented with the Badge of the Academy and a citation of reasons for their selection.[4]

Nominees are usually Illinoisans by birth or residence. Nominations are solicited from the Academy's Officers, Regents, and Rectors. Past Laureates and certain academics may also submit nominations. Candidates are nominated for their contributions to ten fields: agriculture; the arts and performing arts; business, industry and communications; education; government and law; labor; medicine and science; religion; social services; and sports.[5] Laureates are selected at a meeting of the Regents and Trustees.[4]

Seleced honorees[edit]

Student Laureate Award[edit]

The Lincoln Academy also presents the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement award to one graduating senior from each four-year college or university in the state, as well as one student from a community college. Each student, nominated by his/her respective institution, is named a Student Laureate and receives the Lincoln Medal, a certificate of merit, and a civic engagement monetary award. 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 Old State Capitol, and is followed by a luncheon with the Governor at the Executive Mansion.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "A Brief History". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "The Honor Roll of Laureates". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Organization". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. 2013. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  5. ^ "Categories of Election".
  6. ^ Mason, Derrick. "State’s top awards ceremony headed to northern Illinois",, April 12, 2018
  7. ^ Dickinson, Meg (February 11, 2012). "Driscoll named Lincoln Laureate". The News-Gazette. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  8. ^ "Sortable Laureates". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. 2018. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  9. ^ "Shahid Khan". Jacksonville Jaguars, LLC. Archived from the original on March 25, 2014. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  10. ^ "Gov. Pritzker Announces 2021 Recipients of the Order of Lincoln: State's Highest Honor Recognizes Excellence in Professional Work, Public Service". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. November 6, 2021. Retrieved December 3, 2021.