First-year Law Student Receives Prestigious Bohemian Lawyer’s Association Scholarship

The Bohemian Lawyers’ Association of Chicago has awarded a $4,000 scholarship for 2021-2022 to Charlotte Sonja Ivanovich Willoughby, a first-year student at Northern Illinois University College of Law. 

The Bohemian Lawyers Association of Chicago is the oldest ethnic bar association in Illinois.  The association is open to lawyers and law students who have an interest in the culture and heritage of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Moravia, Ruthenia, and Silesia.  With monthly meetings and presentations on the law and on Czech and Slovak culture, the association continues on the path established at its first meeting over 100 years ago.  Since 1998, the association has awarded $335,000 in grants to over 137 law school students of Czech, Slovak, Moravian, Ruthenian, or Silesian ancestry enrolled in an accredited law school in the greater Chicagoland area.  Scholarships from $2,500-$5,000 are awarded annually.  Scholarship information can be found at:

This year’s scholarship to Charlotte is named in honor of the late Judy Baar Topinka, a Czech and Slovak American trailblazer in Illinois government who also served on the Board of Visitors for the Northern Illinois University College of Law for several years while she was a state legislator; she was often a guest speaker at the college of law.  More information about Judy Baar Topinka’s life can be found at  Her son is from the Class of ’93.

Charlotte’s great-great-great grandparents, James Schwab and Mary Ercink, immigrated from what used to be called the Austro-Hungarian, then Czechoslovakia and now the Czech Republic, in 1887.  They settled in Coal City, Illinois.  Charlotte grew up being told stories by her grandmother, Marilyn Pat Ivanovich, about how her family worked in the coal fields in Grundy County, Illinois.  During the holidays, Grandma Marilyn Pat and Charlotte would make perníčky (traditional gingerbread cookies) from family recipe cards that were worn and tattered on the edges…reminders of the old country of Bohemia.   

Upon completing law school, Charlotte plans to join the law practice with her mother established in Northwest Indiana.  It is her professional goal “to assist future clients in a way that is meaningful, fair, equitable, and in the best interest of judicial economy.”  She also intends to further spread the joys of her Czech heritage through the Bohemian Lawyers Association of Chicago and other Czech and Slovak ethnic organizations around the Chicagoland area and beyond.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email