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Major Gift Helps Establish PILI’s Pro Bono Program Endowment Fund

Earlier this year, PILI received a significant donation from a former member of its Board of Directors. In making the gift, the donor wished to remain anonymous but made the gift in honor of one of PILI’s original guiding lights, Thomas Nicholson and to establish an endowment fund to sustain and grow PILI’s Pro Bono Program.

Tom Nicholson was a man of many parts. He was erudite, a wartime Navy Officer, an accomplished lawyer and a 100-mile cyclist. He was also a PILI leader during its formative years and, with foresight in 1988 as its President, effectively broadened PILI’s mission by changing its name from “Public Interest Law Internship” to “Public Interest Law Initiative.” It was a turning point for the organization.

After graduating from Princeton, Tom spent three years in Algeria as an Information Officer for the US State Department. Tom eventually attended the University of Chicago Law School. He began practicing law at the firm of Isham Lincoln & Beale before ultimately joining Mayer Brown until his retirement in 1988. Tom passed away in 2002, just as PILI celebrated its 25th Anniversary. His wife, Eleanor, who remains connected to PILI to this day had this to say, “From his final years in the practice of law until his death, I believe that Tom’s faith in the work of PILI inspired and sustained him.”

This generous donation in honor of Tom has helped to establish an endowment fund to sustain and grow PILI’s Pro Bono Program. Through this Program, PILI works to increase the availability of pro bono legal help for those who cannot afford an attorney in Illinois by developing innovative pro bono opportunities, offering pro bono programming and resources, cultivating best practices, and celebrating the life-changing pro bono performed throughout the state.

“PILI is extremely grateful to this generous donor and we are thrilled to be able to establish this new endowment fund to ensure the long-term stability of our work through our Pro Bono Program” said Michael G. Bergmann, PILI’s Executive Director. “As PILI readies to celebrate its 45th Anniversary, this gift is also a wonderful memorial to the leadership and vision of one of our founders, Tom Nicholson, who helped chart our path as a leader in the public interest law community in Illinois.”

Over the last decade, the Pro Bono Program has grown significantly from consulting services, to statewide expansion to direct representation through volunteers across Illinois. PILI is now helping over 3,000 clients a year through our Pro Bono Program and engaging with hundreds of volunteers statewide. This endowment fund will help to ensure that work continues and the ongoing need for free legal services is met.

PILI has had an endowment fund for its Law Student Internship Program for many years now thanks to both the Francis Beidler Foundation and the Estate of Florence Miller. These funds have provided for stability and growth in PILI’s Law Student Internship Program, ensuring that fluctuations in funding do not severely impact the number of Interns we can fund each year. We look forward to how this new endowment can similarly shore up our Pro Bono Program.

If you are interested in exploring making a major gift towards either of these endowments or leaving your legacy to support the work of PILI, please contact PILI’s Executive Director, Michael G. Bergmann, by e-mail or at 312-832-5129.

Posted in News, Pro Bono.