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Northwestern memorial to pay tribute to Dawn Clark Netsch

Dawn Clark Netsch

Dawn Clark Netsch

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Updated: April 11, 2013 12:30PM

EVANSTON — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and former U.S. Sen. Adlai Stevenson will speak Saturday on a star-studded program paying tribute to Dawn Clark Netsch at Northwestern University.

The memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. in Thorne Auditorium at the Law School, 375 E. Chicago Ave.

Netsch, 86, who died from complications of ALS disease last month, was the first female faculty member in the Law School, first woman elected to executive office in Illinois and first woman to run for governor on a major party ticket.

“Over the course of a long and outstanding career, she was an influential public servant, an esteemed teacher, a beloved colleague and a friend and mentor to a generation of students,” Daniel Rodriguez, dean of the Law School, said after Netsch’s death. “She was a trailblazer whose legacy includes numerous firsts.”

Netsch received her law degree from Northwestern in 1952 and joined the law faculty in 1965. She was elected Illinois comptroller in 1990 and ran unsuccessfully for governor against Jim Edgar in 1994.

Speakers at the memorial service include Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon; Sun-Times journalist Carol Marin; Northwestern Law Professor Len Rubinowitz; and Netsch’s former chief of staff, Wendy Cohen.

Netsch served on the Illinois Senate for 18 years and was a member of the Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1970.

She was recognized as an expert on constitutional law and co-authored “State and Local Government in a Federal System,” which Northwestern called the “definitive text on state and local government” in a statement announcing Saturday’s memorial service.

“At Northwestern law, (Netsch) brought her unique skills to the focused study of state and local government law,” Rodriguez said. “Dawn always reminded us that ‘all politics is local’ and that our legal and social community can only be understood by exposure to the real world of political officials and lawyers working constructively on behalf of the common good.”

In a video interview three years before her death, Netsch told Northwestern that she did not regard herself as a trailblazer while she was breaking barriers.

“My feeling always was if you do something, you should be able to do it, whatever your gender,” she said in the video. “I didn’t really think of myself as opening doors or whatever. I was just doing what I wanted to do, and I thought that was what all people, including women, should be allowed to do.”

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