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CHICAGO (October 12, 2012) - The “Who’s Who” in Chicago will fill the room on Thursday, November 1, 2012, at the 2nd Annual Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) Chicago Awards of Excellence. This highly anticipated affair is chaired and hosted by Stanley Stallworth, partner, at the Law Offices of Sidley Austin, LLP, 1 South Dearborn, 37th Floor. The event will feature a strolling supper and reception that will begin at 6:00 p.m., followed by an awards program at 7:15 p.m. Aon Hewitt is the proud lead sponsor of the event.The program emcee will be LeeAnn Trotter, entertainment reporter for NBC5. 

This event is part of TMCF’s nationwide effort to inform the broader community about the mission of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and raise funds to support the nearly 300,000 students who attend TMCF member-schools. The honorees are exemplary local individuals chosen based on their proven leadership, community involvement, professional and civic excellence, as well as their contributions to education and diversity in the Chicago area.

2012 Honorees Include:

Cheryl Blackwell Bryson, Esq., Partner, Duane Morris LLP; - posthumously;
Dorothy Brown, Esq., Clerk of the Circuit Court, Cook County, Illinois
Marc S. Firestone, Esq., Senior Vice President & General Counsel, Philip Morris International, Inc. 

Chosen by a local committee, these honorees exemplify Thurgood Marshall’s passion for justice and civil rights by continuing his principles, promoting diversity initiatives, addressing education issues across different disciplines, and serving as significant role models to the next generation.

“These community leaders serve as role models for the nearly 300,000 young men and women who are matriculating on our 47 member-school campuses,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., TMCF’s President & CEO.  “They not only exemplify what Justice Marshall stood for, but they understand our mission and are each committed to cultivating future generations of leaders.”

The Chicago Awards of Excellence is the last regional event of 2012. Prior events included, the 12th Annual New Jersey Awards of Excellence, the 2nd Annual Distinguished Young Leaders Awards in Miami, and the 9th Annual Charlotte Awards of Excellence. To date, TMCF has invested more than $200 million in scholarships, programmatic and capacity support, and leadership development to the public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) it serves. 92% of the student population that attends public HBCUs rely heavily on financial support to pursue a degree. Events like the Chicago Awards of Excellence graciously salute our very deserving honorees, supporters and individuals, who continue to help TMCF fulfill its mission.

For sponsorship opportunities and ticket information, please email Mary V. Jones at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 201-227-8427. For media inquiries please email Janeen Blige at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 212-573-8548.

2012 Honorees

Dorothy Brown, Esq.
Clerk of the Circuit Court, Cook County, Illinois

On November 7, 2000, Dorothy Brown was elected as the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County by a 4 to 1 margin, making her the first African American to hold the position. As the official keeper of records for all judicial matters brought into one of the largest unified court systems in the world, Clerk Brown is responsible for managing an annual operating budget of over $120 million and a workforce of over 2,000 employees.

As a magna cum laude graduate of TMCF member-school Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Clerk Brown next earned a Master of Business Administration degree with honors from DePaul University.  She then earned her Juris Doctor degree from the Chicago-Kent School of Law, also with honors.  Additionally, she is a Certified Public Accountant.

In an atmosphere described as “Professionalism over Politics,” Clerk Brown’s incisive analysis, innovative thinking and creative approach have redefined the fundamental purpose of the Clerk’s Office.  She has leveraged her experience and leadership skills to transform the Clerk’s Office into a model of excellence in government service.

Marc S. Firestone Esq.
Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Philip Morris International

Marc Firestone is Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Philip Morris International, Inc.  Before joining Philip Morris in 2012, he was Executive Vice President, Corporate and Legal Affairs and General Counsel of Kraft Foods Inc., where he had served since 2003.  From 1988 to 2003, Mr. Firestone held numerous positions in the law departments of Philip Morris Companies Inc. and Philip Morris International Inc., lastly as Senior Vice President & General Counsel of PMI.  He began his legal career as an attorney with Arnold & Porter in Washington, DC.

Academic laurels include a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Romance Languages and Philosophy from Washington & Lee University and his Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from the Tulane University School of Law.

Cheryl Blackwell Bryson Esq. (posthumous award)
Partner, Duane Morris LLP

A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Ms. Bryson earned her undergraduate degree magna cum laude at Morgan State University, a TMCF member-school.  She completed Ohio State University Law School where she was the first African-American female editor of the Ohio State Law Journal. 

Ms. Bryson began working in Chicago in the late 1970s and built a substantial legal practice.  Her legal career included employment as deputy corporation counsel in Chicago Mayor Harold Washington’s administration. Ms. Bryson focused on labor and employment law, as she thoroughly enjoyed successful client relationships.  She made partner in 1986 at Katten Muchin, becoming the first African-American female in the Chicago area to rise through the ranks to make partner at a major firm. In 1989, she joined Bell, Boyd & Lloyd as a partner charged with bringing in new business to the firm.

Rivkin, Radler & Kremer hired Ms. Bryson and she became the first African-American female attorney in the Chicago area to head a practice group. A few years later, she joined Holleb & Coff to head and build its labor and employment practice.  In 1999, Ms. Bryson was part of the group that instituted the Chicago office of Duane Morris LLP,heading the office’s Employment Law and Management Labor Relations Practice, and serving on the Duane Morris Board of Managers,until her untimely death from cancer in 2011.  

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) is named for the U.S. Supreme Court's first African-American Justice. Established in 1987, TMCF supports and represents nearly 300,000 students attending its 47 member-schools that include public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), medical schools and law schools. TMCF helps students with a clear intention and the motivation to succeed and acquire a high-quality college education at an affordable cost. TMCF also efficiently connects high performing, world-ready students with top tier employment opportunities—access that students or employers might not have on their own. Through its scholarships and programs, TMCF plays a key role in preparing the leaders of tomorrow.  TMCF is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, charitable organization. Visit for more information about TMCF and its initiatives.