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From A Baseball Hall of Famer to Grammy Winning Artists, Here are the 2024 Order of Lincoln Recipients

Illinois State Capitol in Springfield
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Since 1964, the Order of Lincoln has been the state’s highest civilian honor for professional achievement and public service. 350 Illinois residents have been honored as Lincoln Laureates, and on Monday, Governor JB Pritzker announced the Order’s 2024 recipients.

“I couldn’t be prouder to announce this year’s Order of Lincoln recipients-Illinois’ highest honor for those undertaking irreplaceable work that uplifts their communities,” said Governor Pritzker. “This year’s impressive honorees include a former Illinois Supreme Court Justice, a Baseball Hall of Famer, Policy and Business Leaders, and one of the nations finest musicians. These talented individuals embody the spirit of our state, and I am honored to recognize them for their service and dedication to Illinois.”

The seven recipients of this year’s Order of Lincoln are as follows:

Evelyn Brandt Thomas: An active philanthropist, businesswoman, and mentor, Brandt Thomas has been an Illinois resident for over a century. After working on a farm near Pleasant Plains in her youth, her and her brother, Glenn, started Brandt Consolidated (Brandt.co) in the 1950s. 70 years later, Brandt.co is a global powerhouse, providing innovative solutions through more than 250 products to farmers throughout the world, with Brandt Thomas working as a member of the Board of Directors.

Lewis Collens: A highly respected and recognized leader in higher education, Collens is credited with transforming and revitalizing the Illinois Institute of Technology and its Chicago-Kent College of Law. The life-long resident of Illinois also co-founded BARBRI, a bar review company aimed at helping the next generation of lawyers, especially those who lack financial resources.

Hon. Rita B. Garman: For nearly five decades, Aurora native Rita B. Garman worked for the people of Illinois. After passing the Illinois Bar exam, Garman was appointed associate judge in Vermilion County in 1974, before being elected to circuit judgeship in 1986. In 1995, Garman was appointed to the Fourth District Appellate Court. Nearly 40 years after passing the Bar, Garman was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2001 and became the second woman in the state’s history to serve as Chief Justice from 2013-2016. She retired in 2022.

Alison Krauss: With 12 million records to date, 14 albums and a lengthy list of awards, Alison Krauss is one of the most decorated artists in history. Her 27 Grammy wins from 42 nominations is second behind Beyonce for the most Grammys won by a female in history, and puts her tied at fourth all-time by an artist. The Decatur born singer has collaborated with artists including Dolly Parton, Sting, and Taylor Swift.

Lester H. McKeever, Jr: Born and raised in Chicago, Lester H. McKeever became the 60th Black Certified Public Accountant in the United States in 1960. Throughout his career, McKeever has worked at Washington and Pittman (now called Washington, Pittman, and McKeever) as the Managing Principal, started a partnership with the first Black female CPA, and became the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago board. In his honor, the Illinois CPA Society created the “Lester H. McKeever Jr. Advancing Diversity Award” in 2016.

Raul I. Raymundo: Co-founder of The Resurrection Project (TRP), Chicago native Raul I. Raymundo has helped nearly a quarter of a million people throughout the western suburbs and the city’s southwest side. Thanks to Raymundo, 800 affordable, early childhood centers, senior centers, community centers, and a charter school have been developed, serving thousands of families.

James H. Thome: Out of all Illinois athletes who have played Major League Baseball, Jim Thome stands head and shoulders above them all. A Peoria native, Thome played in the league for 22 seasons (1991-2012) for several teams including the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Baltimore Orioles. A five-time All-Star, Thome’s career included winning the Silver Slugger Award in 1996 and Comeback Player of the Year in 2006. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 2018, and is the president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.

“These seven extraordinary people have truly proven themselves, and we are thrilled to give them the highest esteem that Illinois has to offer,” said The Honorary Ronald Spear, Chancellor of the Academy.

The Lincoln Laureates will be honored at the 60th annual Convocation and Investiture at 5:30 p.m. on April 13, 2024, at the Chicago History Museum.

Jared Harris is a student news contributor for WSIU Public Broadcasting located at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Contact WSIU Radio at 618-453-6101 or email wsiunews@wsiu.org
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