New donor-funded professorship in public interest created at UIC Law

The Lucy Sprague Public Service Award on the UIC Law Donor Wall.
The Lucy Sprague Public Service Award on the UIC Law Donor Wall.

The University of Illinois Chicago School of Law announces the creation of the first fully endowed professorship at the law school.

Lucy Sprague was a second-year law student studying public interest in 1996 when she was murdered in her apartment. To continue Lucy’s legacy, her mother, Lee Sprague, her siblings, Zander and Cynthia, and their children created the Lucy Sprague Professorship in Public Interest, a three-year termed opportunity set to begin during the 2024-25 academic year through 2027.

The Spragues are the first donors to fully endow a professorship at UIC Law. The goal of the professorship is to continue advancements in public service and to ensure that education and research around public interest are readily available.

“My hope is that the professorship also becomes an example for other law schools to recognize the importance of teaching and doing public service, whether it is helping with policy or helping people who might not have access to legal representation,” Zander said.

“Public service has been a cornerstone of UIC Law’s tradition since its inception,” said Nicky Boothe, dean of the law school. “During her time as a student, Lucy Sprague evidenced a deep commitment to public service and planned to use her law degree in a manner reflective of that commitment. Although her life was tragically cut short before she could realize her dreams of public service, the Lucy Sprague Professorship will firmly establish her legacy while supporting the public interest work of the law school.”

The Sprague’s philanthropic efforts with the law school span decades. The first Lucy Sprague Public Service Scholarship was awarded in 1997. Each year, the Sprague family travels to Chicago to attend the law school’s spring commencement ceremony and awards a $25,000 scholarship to a third-year law student interested in pursuing public interest law. The family also hosts a local dinner for all current and past Sprague scholarship winners. More than 23 students have received the award since its inception.

“One of the things I’ve learned from our ‘Lucy Scholars’ is that public interest and public service have different applications and can be implemented in a lot of different ways,” Cythnia said. “It’s not just being a public defender or prosecutor. It’s having a law firm that has a sliding scale to help people. It’s donating time in an underserved neighborhood or providing access to those who feel they cannot afford legal representation.

“The purpose of this professorship is to create awareness and expand everybody’s understanding of what public service is. We want recent graduates to ask, ‘How can I use my law degree to serve the community?’”

Lee Sprague is thrilled to honor Lucy’s commitment to helping underserved populations by supporting law students and creating opportunities for research to advance public service.

“I always wonder what she would be like now and where she would have been in her career. It was important to my family to keep the things she found important in her life going forward and her spirit alive,” Lee Sprague said.

With the creation of the Lucy Sprague Professorship in Public Service, Lucy’s legacy will continue.

“The entire UIC Law community will benefit from this endowed professorship through research, teaching and innovative programming that will advance the vital work of public interest law,” Boothe said. “We are truly grateful for this support of our law school.”

— Written by Sherrie Green

Print Friendly, PDF & Email