The late Judy Baar Topinka, the pioneering Riverside politician who served in both houses of the Illinois General Assembly before winning election as Illinois comptroller and Illinois treasurer before her death in 2014 will be inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame later this year.

The Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, according to its website, “was founded in 1991 to honor people and entities, nominated by the community, who have made significant contributions to the quality of life or well-being of the LGBT community in Chicago.”

Topinka is being inducted as a “Friend of the Community” for her support of LGBT causes when it was risky for politician, Democrat or Republican, to be associated with the movement.

She supported Illinois’ Marriage Equality Bill and was the only Republican speaker at the Nov. 20, 2013 ceremony at the University of Illinois at Chicago where the bill was signed into law.

Topinka was “a consistent and firm supporter of gay rights. Even when attacked by members of her own party for her gay rights support, she never wavered,” her induction bio states.

This year’s induction ceremony will be held virtually, due to COVID-19 restrictions, on Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in recognition of National LGBT History Month.


Zoo doc finalist for ‘Hero’ award

Dr. Mike Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, is one of five veterinarian finalists for the American Humane’s annual Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards. 

Now in its seventh year, the awards honor those who dedicate their lives to making a difference in animals’ lives with outstanding veterinary care. A panel of veterinary professionals and animal care experts from around the country selected Adkesson and the other finalists from more than 250 nominees.

The winners will be honored at the 10th annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards, which is scheduled to air nationwide as a two-hour special on Hallmark Channel this fall.

“Dr. Adkesson works tirelessly to ensure that the more than 2,500 animals under his care at Brookfield Zoo are healthy and thriving,” said Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of animal program for CZS. “He leads a team of caring professionals, and advocates for pushing the boundaries of what is considered possible in zoological medicine by continually elevating the standards of care.”

Adkesson is past-president of the American Association of the Zoo Veterinarians and an adjunct assistant professor with the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.


Avina is Junior of the Year

Julie Avina, of Riverside was named Junior of the Year for 2019-20 by the Riverside Junior Woman’s Charity.

Avina volunteered nearly 150 hours over nine months of service to the community, helping maintain the community garden, leading the club’s inaugural Health and Wellness Fair and “acting as the epitome of grace and determination,” according to Juniors Secretary Sarah Magner, “as we made the pivot to an online auction after two fundraisers were cancelled.”


On campus

Several local students were among those receiving undergraduate and advanced degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May, including Brookfield residents Kristyn J. Colon (M.S. in library and information science), Hannah M. Dziura (B.A. with honors in dance), Marie C. Johnson (J.D. cum laude in law) and Paris Monaghan (B.S. in earth, society and environmental sustainability); Riverside residents Jordan M. Bravo (M.S. in library and information science), Benjamin Chmura (B.A. in political science and East Asian languages and culture), Kathryn A. Collins (B.S. with honors in journalism), Nerija Cuplinskas (B.S. in integrative biology), Olivia E. Gyssler (B.S. in molecular and cellular biology), Bridget A. Hannon (Ph.D. in nutritional sciences) and Lukas R. Kulbis (B.S. in computer science); and North Riverside resident Sarah M. Schoenheider (B.A. in sociology).

Among those receiving degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison during an online ceremony in May due to the coronavirus pandemic were Riverside residents Andrew Hanley, who earned a master’s degree in engineering, and Nick Pavlakovic, who received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Several local students received bachelor’s degrees from Marquette University in Milwaukee this spring, including Brookfield residents Mariela Hernandez (biological sciences) and Shannon O’Connor (criminology and law studies); North Riverside resident Enrique Trujillo (economics); and Riverside residents Guillermo Arroyo (mechanical engineering), Brendan Jones (economics), Riley Mullen (criminology and law studies), Jonathan Ricchio (civil engineering) and Kathleen Suess (nursing).

Brookfield resident Kevin Fitzgerald will be among the 209 spring graduates of Quincy University who will receive a degree during a special outdoor ceremony on Sept. 5. Fitzgerald earned a bachelor’s degree in biology.

Killian Elwart, of Brookfield, received his bachelor’s degree in political science from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh during a virtual commencement ceremony in May.

Riverside resident Nicole LaBelle was among those awarded bachelor’s degrees during a virtual commencement ceremony at Miami (Ohio) University in May.

Erin Engstrom and Camryn Hamilton, both of Brookfield, were named to the dean’s list for the 2020 spring semester at Ripon (Wisconsin) College for achieving a semester grade-point average of at least 3.4 on a 4-point scale.

Brookfield residents Maddie Hanrahan (vocal performance) and Ryan Swift (accounting) and North Riverside resident Francis Urbanski (finance) were named to the 2020 spring semester dean’s list at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington for earning a semester GPA of at least 3.5.

Dana Dombrowski, of Brookfield, was named to the 2020 spring semester dean’s list at Knox College in Galesburg for attaining a GPA of least 3.6.

Brookfield resident Matthew Nicolai was named to the 2020 spring semester dean’s list at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Isabella Nardi, of Brookfield, and Stef Manchin, of Riverside, were among those named to the 2020 spring semester honor roll at the University of Kansas.

Brookfield resident Charlise Domabyl and Riverside resident Michelle Jacobs were named to the 2020 spring semester dean’s list at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for attaining a semester GPA of at least 3.66.

Riverside-Brookfield High School graduates Leah Rettke and Melissa Donnelly were among the 38 student-athletes at Triton College named NJCAA All-Academic members during the 2019-20 school year.

Rettke (volleyball), who posted a GPA of 4.0, was named to the NJCAA All-Academic First Team, while Donnelly (softball) was named to the All-Academic Third Team for attaining a GPA of 3.7.