2015 Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters

Kirk W. Dillard

Western Illinois University graduate Kirk Dillard, the chair of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) in metropolitan Chicago and a former state senator, which is the nation's second largest mass transit system, will receive the Western Illinois University Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at Western's Fall 2015 Commencement exercises Saturday, Dec. 19.

The Honorary Doctorate is the highest award Western Illinois University can bestow upon an individual who has made significant contributions to his/her career and to Western Illinois University.

2015 Honorary Doctorate Speech

The video below features the 2015 recipient of the Honorary Doctorate of Human Letters, addressing the class of 2015 at Western Hall on Saturday, December 19.

Kirk DillardDillard received his bachelor's degree in political science from Western in 1977. In addition to serving as chair of the RTA, he is a partner in the Chicago office of one of the world's largest law firms, Locke Lord LLP. For nearly 20 years, Dillard was a state senator representing Chicagoland's west suburbs. He served as the Senate GOP Whip, and was the co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, chair of the Local Government Committee and chair of the High Technology Task Force. He also served on the Executive Appointments Committee, along with many other committees.

Dillard was also the sponsor of Illinois' first major campaign finance and ethics reform in 25 years, and sponsor of the law granting WIU its own governing board. During his career as senator, he was instrumental in the state's investment to make U.S. Route 67 a four-lane highway to Macomb and he spearheaded Western's efforts for a new Center for the Performing Arts. As former Gov. Jim Edgar's chief of staff, Dillard helped launch Western's Quad Cities campus. He began his career in 1977 as an intern for the state senate, followed by law school. Prior to becoming a member of the state legislature, he served as chief of staff for former Gov. Edgar and as director of legislative affairs for former Gov. James Thompson. Dillard is also a former judge for the Illinois Court of Claims.

While a student, Dillard served two terms as the student member of the Board of Governors of State Colleges and Universities and as president of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity. Dillard remains an active member of his alma mater. He has served as president of the WIU Alumni Council, and has assisted Department of Political Science Chair Keith Boeckelman in teaching an advanced Illinois government class, which includes students visiting the Illinois State Capitol. Dillard has been named to "Who's Who in Chicago Business" by Crain's Chicago Business and an "Illinois Super Lawyer," and he has been inducted into the Legislative Staff Hall of Fame and the Hinsdale Central High School Hall of Fame.

He is a member of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission, the Board of Directors for the Robert Crown Center for Health Education and the WIU President's National Advisory Board. He earned his Juris Doctorate from DePaul University College of Law.

"Kirk's contributions to, and leadership in, politics, law and philanthropy, and his outstanding support of Western Illinois University are greatly appreciated. We are proud to have Kirk as a member of our Leatherneck family," said WIU President Jack Thomas. "It is an honor that we bestow upon Kirk Dillard an honorary doctorate from his alma mater."

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