First Citizens (through 2023)

The First Citizen program was created in 1963 as the Copley First Citizen program by Springfield’s Copley-owned newspapers, the Illinois State Journal and Illinois State Register. The name was changed after Copley sold the merged State Journal-Register in 2007.

The award is intended to honor service that contributes to the betterment of the Springfield area. A citizen board selects a winner annually from among nominations submitted by the public. Those honored have been:

1963: Harriet Knudson; developed Lincoln Memorial Garden

1964: Rev. H.M. Hildebrandt; pastor of Third Presbyterian Church for 56 years, ministered to jail inmates and troubled youths

1965: Charles E. Becker; built Franklin Life Insurance, donor to Springfield College in Illinois/Benedictine University

1966: Otto Kerner; governor from 1961 to 1968, oversaw rehabilitation of Old Capitol, Lincoln Home area

1967: Elizabeth Graham; preserved Vachel Lindsay Home

1968: Dr. James Graham; United Way activist

1969: George Hoffmann; led effort to create Sangamon State University/University of Illinois Springfield

1970: Silver Suarez; as chief, expanded and modernized Springfield Police Department

1971: Dan Bannister; led local charitable and economic development efforts

1972: Dr. Edwin Lee; raised awareness of problems on Springfield’s east side, led efforts to expand St. John’s Hospital, purchase land for SSU/UIS and Lincoln Land Community College

1973: Albert Myers; supporter of youth, charity and business development organizations

1974: Mary Kreider; friend of handicapped, disadvantaged and elderly

1975: Francis Budinger; fundraiser for St. John’s Hospital, Griffin High School, SCI/Benedictine, headed convention center board

1976: Jessie Mae Finley; community and church volunteer, founder of Voices of Love, Joy and Peace

1977: Adele Karlson; advocate for people with mental disabilities

1978: Mitch Shadid; supporter, organizer of youth baseball

1979: Peter Mascari; priest, humanitarian and community activist

1980: Leon Stewart; religious, humanitarian and fraternal volunteer

1981: Clascenna Harvey; official city greeter, musician

1982: Sally Schanbacher; advocate for historic preservation and restoration of Old Capitol and Lincoln Home area

1983: Frances Braun; volunteer with church, Senior Citizens Center, Lincoln Library and more

1984: Mary Loken; educator, counselor, social worker

1985: Cornelia Hodges; volunteer with Mary Bryant Home and Rail Charity Classic, president of Zonta International

1986: Gary and Beverly Reynolds; adopted nine disadvantaged children

1987: Carrol Hall; founder of Horace Mann Insurance, community philanthropist

1988: Marjorie Marr; foster parent, founder of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, advocate for young people

1989: William Schnirring; leader with United Way, Chamber of Commerce, Memorial Medical Center board

1990: Dr. Robert Nachtwey; helped found St. John’s Hospice, volunteer and fundraiser for many groups

1991: Willard “Bunch” Bunn Jr.; supporter of Springfield Art Association, Urban League, many other organizations

1992: Dr. Emmet Pearson; restored Clayville historic site, supported founding of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, created medical museum at SIU

1993: Marty Sumner; leader of Helping Hands and Contact Ministries, among many social service, arts and other groups

1994: Gladys “Granny” Hubbard; foster parent for more than 50 years, community activist

1995: Dr. Ann Pearson; pediatrician who took special interest in caring for poor children

1996: Sister Anne Carlino; developed Clinics for Kids, Holy Family Food Pantry, led other social service efforts

1997: Ann Dondanville; volunteer with St. Monica’s Maternity Center, St. Joseph’s Home

1998: Carolyn Oxtoby; downtown Springfield preservationist

1999: Bernard Quigley; worked on more than 20 Habitat for Humanity homes, volunteer at St. John’s Breadline, Senior Services and more

2000: Guerry Suggs; supporter of Illinois State Museum, Urban League, Chamber of Commerce, YMCA and others

2001: Rudy Davenport; helped found Habitat for Humanity, president of NAACP, plaintiff in lawsuit that changed Springfield city government

2002: Gene Humphreville; in retirement, managed St. Martin de Porres Center, civic volunteer for more than two decades

2003: Ethel Gingold; championed civil rights, women’s issues, education efforts

2004: Dr. John Holland; worked with Catholic Charities, St. John’s Hospice, Kumler Neighborhood Ministries, many more

2005: Shelby Harbison; leadership roles with Springfield School Board, YMCA, Gateway Foundation, American Business Club

2006: Barbara Dickerman; activist with League of Women Voters, YWCA, NAACP and other organizations supporting civil rights and equality

2007: Wes Barr; organizer of Marine Corps League Toys for Tots program and its successors, other community involvement

2008: J. Garth “Butch” Elzea; philanthropist, led effort to create Edwin Watts Southwind Park

2009: Bob Gray; co-founder of Citizens Club of Springfield

2010: Dr. James Dove; founded Prairie Cardiovascular Consultants, led initiatives in heart care

2011: Rabbi Barry Marks; founded Greater Springfield Interfaith Association, much other community involvement

2012: Paul O’Shea; active with Springfield planning, development and sports groups

2013: Wally Henderson; designed Old Capitol renovation, other architectural and historic observance efforts

2014: Dan Cadigan; 50 years of volunteer efforts with youth, education, business and governmental organizations

2015: Julie Cellini; prime mover in creation of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum

2016: James Forstall;  higher education official, leader with NAACP, Frontiers International, Citizens Club, Memorial Medical Center

2017: Lisa Stone; community volunteer and activist with Springfield Jewish Federation, Sojourn House, Habitat for Humanity, among others

2018: John Eck Sr.; for volunteer efforts that included providing financial guidance to many nonprofit organizations

2019: Teresa Haley; state and local NAACP leader

2020: Kathryn Harris; for decades of involvement in a variety of civil rights and historic preservation initiatives

2021: Richard Hart; lawyer, local historian/researcher/author and historic preservationist.  Among many other activities related to Springfield history, Hart was among the group who originally conceived of SangamonLink and contributed to its growth and development.

2022: Evelyn Brandt Thomas: for a range of philanthropic work over decades and her championing of education, particularly women in the field of agriculture.

2023: Patricia Benanti: for volunteer efforts on behalf of the St. Martin de Porres Center.

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