Diversity Dinner guest speaker Ruby Bridges, center, meets the firm's 2013 scholars; from left: Kara Ingelhart, Bide Akande, Kara Trowell and Mikael Rojas.
On this day in 2001, federal District Court Judge George Leighton, the first African-American judge to sit on the Illinois Appellate Court, keynoted the firm’s first Diversity Dinner. Attended by summer associates and attorneys from all offices, the annual dinner celebrates diversity and honors the firm’s diversity scholars. Other luminaries who have addressed the event through the years have included Michele Coleman Mayes, one of America’s top black lawyers and most influential general counsel; Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s national marriage director; civil rights icon Ruby Bridges; U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo, the first Hispanic federal judge in Illinois and a firm alumnus; and, in 2003, a little-known Illinois state senator, civil rights lawyer and community organizer named Barack Obama. The 2014 speaker was Desiree Rogers, CEO of Johnson Publishing Company, publisher of EBONY and JET magazines. A summer associate noted that the hallmark event “exemplifies what makes Jenner & Block such a special firm.”