In 2019 Lori Lightfoot made history when she became the first openly gay black woman to be elected mayor of Chicago. As the leader of the nation's third-most populous city, Lightfoot has taken on issues such as affordable housing, police brutality, immigration, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, her commitment to public service and social justice work has been forefront throughout her career. Before becoming mayor, Lightfoot was a federal prosecutor and served in a number of leadership roles in Chicago city government. In 2015, she was appointed president of the Chicago Police Board and Police Accountability Task Force by then-mayor Rahm Emanuel. In this position, she and her colleagues issued a frank and powerful report revealing systemic problems within the Chicago Police Department; and calling for a significant overhaul of Chicago's police accountability infrastructure and reinvestment in training and other areas. Lightfoot began her legal career as a senior equity partner in Mayer Brown’s Litigation and Conflict Resolution Group.
Like many top U.S. politicians, Lightfoot boasts an impressive educational pedigree. In 1986 she matriculated at the University of Chicago Law School, where she was awarded a full scholarship. For Lightfoot, going to law school started off as a "practical and pragmatic decision." But this didn't stop her from becoming an integral part of campus life. In addition to serving in student government, Lightfoot served as quarterback of the law school’s intramural women's football team. Her time on the team not only fueled her love of the sport, but it got her through the difficulty of her first year. The team was undefeated and unscored upon for the three years she was there.
Lightfoot also wrote for the now-defunct student newspaper, The Phoenix. Her byline appears at the top of stories about a visit by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as on stories about the student government and intramural sports teams. Before graduating, she also served as a clerk for Justice Charles Levin of the Michigan Supreme Court. In 1989, she received her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Chicago, leaving an indelible mark.
"I got to know Lori when I was dean and she was the president of the Law Student Association," said Professor Geoffrey R. Stone, who served as dean between 1987 and 1993. "She was an extraordinary leader—thoughtful, determined, and principled."
As the first graduate of the Law School to serve as mayor of Chicago, Lightfoot has become a tremendous mentor and advocate for the students at her alma mater. Over the years she has been vocal about the support she received there. She has frequently returned to participate in on-campus events such as lectures and conferences. On top of that, Lightfoot previously served on the Law School's Visiting Committee, an advisory group now called the Law School Council. To date, her distinguished record of public service and leadership continues to be a source of inspiration for other members of the University of Chicago community.