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The Gala celebrates outstanding civic leaders with the Human First Award and Community Spirit Award for their contributions to the advancement of Chicago’s LGBTQ movement. Their out-and-proud nature of taking up space, embracing intersectionality, and lifting our community give us plenty of reasons to honor their work and support.

Human First Award Recipients

Julio Rodriguez

Julio Rodriguez has been involved for over thirty years in community projects and organizations. He is a co-founder and current board president of the one of the oldest Latinx LGBTQ non-profits in Chicago and the Midwest, The Association of Latinas\os\x Motivating Action (ALMA). Since 1989, ALMA has been at the forefront of issues impacting the Latinx LGBTQ community. Julio has served on a number of other local, state, and national boards such as the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the Mayor’s Advisory Council on LGBTQ Issues, Anti-Violence Authority, the National AIDS Prevention Coalition, and the National Latino Lesbian and Gay Organization, and the Chicago Color Triangle. He also served as one of the founding board members of the Center on Halsted. In 2004, he was inducted into the Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Hall of Fame. And in 2018, Julio was honored with the Lifetime Leadership award by the Cook County State Attorney’s Office for his work in the LGBTQ community. He currently works for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity as the deputy director of the Office of Employment and Training. Julio and his husband, David Sinski, have been volunteers and supporters of Center on Halsted since its very beginning.

Mary Morten

Mary Morten is the President of Morten Group (MG), a national consulting firm established in November 2001 and to focuses on clients in the nonprofit, for profit, governmental and foundation fields. Mary is widely recognized as a bridge builder and connector guiding disparate voices together toward common goals and mutual accountability. Morten Group was built with an intentional focus on the inclusion of a multiracial, cross-generational group of professionals that remains at the heart of the firm’s focus on social justice while centering diversity, racial equity and inclusion, executive placements, and research. Mary’s podcast “Gathering Ground” covering topics on nonprofit management, foundations, and equity and inclusion can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you listen to podcasts. Previous positions include Associate Director, Interim Executive Director and Board President of Chicago Foundation for Women, the region’s largest women’s fund; as well as the past Director of the Office of Violence Prevention for the Chicago Department of Public Health. Prior to this position, Mary was an appointee for Mayor Richard M. Daley and served as the LGBTQ liaison in the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. Mary is a co-founder of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, a past inductee into the LGBT Hall of Fame as well as the board co-chair for four years and served on the founding Board of Directors for the Center on Halsted. She was the designer and lead convener for The Color Triangle: A Different Look at Racism in our Community, a multi-year initiative that addressed racism in the LGBTQ community. She has provided countless pro bono hours of support to community groups including Affinity Community Services, Amigas Latinas, and 2nd Story. Mary has been recognized by many organizations ranging from Women in Film to Equality Illinois, the YWCA of Evanston/Northshore to About Face Theatre. In 2020, the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago established the Mary F. Morten Justice Award in recognition of Mary’s long term work as an activist, advocate and champion of social justice.Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with an emphasis in radio and television from Loyola University Chicago. She is currently in production on a film featuring her older brother, a drag performer who died from AIDS, titled Miss Gay Black America.

Bob Sullivan Susan Sullivan

Bob and Susan Sullivan are dedicated volunteers at Center on Halsted and founders of the Sloane Sullivan Backpack Project, honoring the memory of their trans daughter Sloane Renee Sullivan by providing backpacks and supplies to unstably housed LGBTQ youth participating in the Center’s Youth Program. Because of their efforts on behalf of this critically vulnerable population, Bob and Susan were recipients of WMAQ-TV NBC 5’s “Making a Difference Award” in 2020. Additionally, during the warner months, the Sullivans can be found tending the Center’s third floor rooftop garden as co-leaders of the Center’s “Green Team.” They often are spotted caring for the Center’s landscaping, its flower gardens, and the rooftop vegetable garden which they created in recent years to support the Culinary Arts program.

Community Spirit Award Recipient

William Blair

William Blair has shown a strong and promising commitment to the LGBTQ community both internally and externally, including earning a 100% on 2021’s Corporate Equality Index. Past William Blair Executive Committee member and leader of multiple businesses, Dick Kiphart, was a generous supporter of Center on Halsted, a legacy continued by William Blair’s CEO, Brent Gledhill. Additionally, William Blair’s Pride Alliance Business Resource Group has been a valued partner for the work of Center on Halsted through philanthropy, volunteerism, and advocacy. We celebrate William Blair and their commitment to advancing the LGBTQ community.


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