ICCTA Distinguished Alumnus Award

2005 Recipient
The Hon. Gerald C. Bender
Judge, Domestic relations division
Circuit Court of Cook County
Wilbur Wright College (1958)

Young Jerry Bender was greatly influenced by his father, who put his teenage son to work one summer painting and stripping the inside of closets.

"When I graduated from high school, my father gave me a choice, either go to college or be a painter. I chose college," says Gerald Bender.

After that infamous summer of painting and stripping closets, Bender chose to enter the less stuffy classrooms of Wilbur Wright College.

"I liked college, enjoyed learning and felt success," he says of his Wright College experience.

The Hon. Gerald C. Bender accepts his 2005 Distinguished Alumnus Award.
The Hon. Gerald C. Bender accepts
ICCTA's 2005 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

"This realization changed my life by presenting me with an appetite to learn."

After serving in the military during the Berlin crisis, he concluded his education at John Marshall Law School and spent 25 years in private practice.

In 1977 he met Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter. For the next 20 years, Bender served as Wiesenthal's pro bono attorney, tracking down suspected Nazis and obtaining justice and closure for many survivors of the Holocaust.

In 1996, Bender was elected to a judgeship in Cook County.

By choice, he was assigned to the domestic relations division, where he has issued precedent-setting decisions in such areas as child custody involving transgender parents, and the proper disposition of frozen embryos.

"I recommend community college to many parents and adults who visit my court room," says Judge Bender, who has been honored by the Holocaust Foundation of Illinois, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and John Marshall Law School.

"Community colleges can instill the desire to continue one’s education and be economical."