Announcing our 2017 Scholarship Winner – Pablo Romo

August 2017

Pablo Romo will begin his studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, this fall. He has been awarded the 2017 PBKACA Scholarship. We are thrilled to provide assistance to this young man who we know has a bright future studying mechanical engineering.

Pablo provided PBKACA with the following letter. Meet Pablo Romo, in his own words…

I have grown up in Chicago as the son of two undocumented immigrants. My childhood might have not been the easiest, given the situation, which profoundly affected me and my family financially; however, we have been able to overcome our difficulties and move on as a family raising their children. My parents are my biggest source of influence and motivation for my goal of having a career through college. I have seen firsthand what a life of brutal physical work can do to someone, how it can basically deteriorate someone’s health over time. Seeing this, I have been motivated to go to school to pursue a career for myself where I am paid for what I know, not what I can do physically, while at the same time having a passion for my work and a choice of where I do it.

I myself am no stranger to how terrible physical labor can be. Having worked in landscaping since I was about fourteen, my experience of harsh conditions has further fueled my desire to pursue a career through a college education. At the same time, I value the hard work I have done. I would do it again if I could because I have been able to help my family financially and learn very valuable lessons, especially through working with machines. Being exposed to machines, I have built a passion for them, which has made me pursue a career in mechanical engineering. It will be no easy feat, but I know with my skills, I can meet the challenge.

Congratulations to Board Members!

July 2017

PBKACA would like to congratulate Daniel Egel-Weiss for his acceptance into Harvard Law School. Daniel will be leaving the Chicago area for Boston this fall to pursue his JD. We wish him the best!

PBKACA would also like to congratulate Danielle Voloshin on completing her MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and taking a position in Los Angeles. We wish her the best on the west coast!

Miguel de Baca receives 2017–18 Terra Foundation Visiting Professorship at the University of Oxford

July 2017

Miguel de Baca, PBKACA Executive Board member and Lake Forest College Liaison, received the Terra Foundation Visiting Professorship at the University of Oxford. For more information, please visit the Terra Foundation’s website.

Christie Hefner Interviewed by Brad Keywell

February 2017

Christie Hefner, PBKACA member, received her key from Brandeis University. She is the former CEO of Playboy, political activist, and 2017 Newseum Free Expression Award winner. She he was recently interviewed by Brad Keywell, a Chicago-based entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experience building data-driven B2B enterprises, on his podcast The Upside. Last November, PBKACA honored Brad with the Distinguished Service Award. To listen to Christie’s episode on the podcast you can find it here, and then just click to open it in iTunes.

Tour Peru with PBKACA

November 2016

Welcome to Phi Beta Kappa Travel, an exclusive group that takes you to the most interesting and exotic places in the world! We are born out of the excitement of the Phi Beta Kappa Association of the Chicago Area (PBKACA) and are planning a trip to Peru this summer where we will visit the Amazon region as well as the amazing site of Machu Picchu. The tour is being organized by PBKACA’s Ronald and Julianne Gorny, travel specialists from Travel Adventures and Tours, and in association with A&S Signature Journeys. Participants will visit the Amazon Rainforest, the Sacred Valley, take part in cooking and chocolate workshops, experience the Vista Dome train and two days exploring Machu Picchu, tour Lima and the famous Larco Musuem (Gold Museum) with lunch with the Curator, join in on the famous Inca festival of the Sun and enjoy many other incredible experiences. Please see the flyer for all the details!

The Festival of the Sun is an important and popular Incan rite and hotel accommodations in the city of Cusco are very limited. We have reserved 20 rooms for the event but will need to receive acommitment by January 15th  in order to hold those rooms. Even more exciting is that we have arranged for an extension of the trip to the Galapagos Islands after the tour for those who wish to visit this amazing place. If you would like to join us for an incredible journey, please contact us as soon as possible to secure a place on the tour roster and to reserve one of the rooms for the Festival of the Sun. Please address any questions to or fill out the attached contact form and return to the same address.

Announcing our 2016 Scholarship Recipient – Trenati Baker

June 2016

Trenati Baker will begin her studies at Amherst College this fall. She has been awarded the 2016 PBKACA Scholarship. We are thrilled to provide assistance to this young woman who we know has a bright future.

Trenati provided PBKACA with the following letter:

To Phi Beta Kappa Scholarship Committee,

It is with humility and profound gratitude that I accept the 2016 Phi Beta Kappa Association of Chicago Area scholarship. I am deeply honored to be this year’s recipient of the scholarship.

Currently, I am a senior at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School where, among many things, I am a part of the work study program with an internship at Salesforce, the Chicago Students Union, Freshman Mentors, Zumba Dance Club, On The Money magazine, and Fit4You, a nonprofit organization that I co-founded four years ago. In the coming weeks, I will graduate high school with high honors as a result of my favorable standardized test scores and grades. The fall marks my transition into college. I will attend Amherst College with an intended double major of African American Studies and Political Science. My interests lie deeply in law and policy-making and come from my desire to resolve the issues in America.

This scholarship will ease some of the financial burdens of pursuing my post-secondary education. It will allow me to focus on my collegiate learning experience rather than worrying about how I’ll pay for it. Additionally, it will allow me to continue fight for and encourage food justice, financial literacy, and educational equity. Simultaneously, this scholarship will allow me to immerse myself into new organizations at my college campus, like the Black Students Union, Amherst College Outing Club, and WAMH (Amherst Radio).

All in all, the Phi Beta Kappa Association of Chicago Area scholarship will remove financial stress and worry which will allow me to have more energy and time to be a more multi-dimensional student. This alone will allow me to be more successful in reaching my dream of becoming a lawyer, and, one day, a Supreme Court justice.

Positive change can be made by anyone. I plan to make positive change in the future, and this scholarship will greatly help me along that path.  Thanks again for this generous and meaningful scholarship and honor.

Best Wishes,

Trenati Baker

Congratulations Miguel!

February 2016

Miguel de Baca, PBKACA member and Lake Forest College liaison, had his book Memory Work published. Congratulations Miguel!


Keys to Action Press Release

From Phi Beta Kappa Association of the Chicago Area

For Immediate Release:
December 1, 2015


For More Information:
President Judi Strauss-Lipkin


Phi Beta Kappa Association of the Chicago Area Tells State Lawmakers: “Fund Liberal Arts Higher Education”

Chicago, IL — In the spirit of Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Keys to Action Week, the Phi Beta Kappa Association of the Chicago Area (PBKACA) calls on Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner (Phi Beta Kappa, Cornell ‘78) to fund liberal arts higher education. 

“It is critical that we preserve funding for liberal arts higher education in the state of Illinois,” said Judi Strauss-Lipkin, President of PBKACA. “State lawmakers should be aware that many of our nation’s top employers seek to hire liberal arts and sciences students. This is an economic imperative.”

PBKACA is the Chicago chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society alumni association, representing over 15,000 key holders in the Chicagoland Area. Phi Beta Kappa was founded on December 5, 1776, and is the oldest honors society for the liberal arts and sciences.

“A liberal arts degree allows our citizens the ability to write clearly, speak well, and speak their mind,” added Judi. “These are the highest ideals for members of a democratic society, and we should not inhibit any person’s ability to learn, think, or express themselves. We should fully fund liberal arts higher education.”

Currently, the state of Illinois has discontinued MAP Grants and funding for institutions of higher education. Some universities and liberal arts colleges in Illinois receive as much as 44% of their funding from the state.

PBKACA aims to promote and advocate for excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. For more information about Phi Beta Kappa’s efforts to save the liberal arts, or PBKACA, contact Judi Strauss-Lipkin at or 630-842-4911.

Update from our 2015 Scholarship Recipient—Anthony Zhao

November 2015


I am writing from the midst of my freshman fall semester, and yet, there is so much I can talk about. I was nervous coming into this school year. I am far from my friends and family and the thought worried me; I had never truly been alone. Luckily there were others like me who I met through icebreakers scheduled by the dorm. These connections helped me get through each week. We spent most of our time together, and my new friends made me feel comfortable here. Because of them, the university has grown on me, and I consider this my home.

There is more free time here in college. My courses however, take a majority of my time. I have needed to hone my time management skills in order to involve myself outside of academics. I allocate some of the remaining time to a fraternity I pledged to. I am also hoping to pick up another extracurricular, but I am not entirely sure which to choose from. I checked out a couple of the clubs and those I do not see myself wanting to stick with. I am hoping I find something, though now might be a difficult time to do so. Most clubs are highly invested already. If I cannot find something soon, I am targeting the spring semester. I have high hopes that it will work out; out of the absurd amount of extracurricular activities offered, I believe I will find a gem.

I am ecstatic here at Urbana-Champaign. Yes, there may be rough patches here and there but ultimately I love it here. I must give thanks to PBKACA too since their generosity is a big factor in why I can enjoy myself here. Their belief in me has enabled me to focus solely on college. I hope to be able to live up to their expectations as I look to make the right choices for my future.

Thank you,
Anthony Zhao
Freshman, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Announcing our 2015 Scholarship Recipient – Anthony Zhao

June 2015

Anthony Zhao will begin his studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this fall. He has been awarded the 2015 PBKACA Scholarship. We are thrilled to provide assistance to this young man who we know has a bright future.

Anthony provided PBKACA with the following letter:


I was able to meet the other finalists for this same scholarship and we discussed simple matters-where we would be attending college and activities we participated in throughout high school. When I left after my interview session, I was uncertain if I would be the recipient of the award based on the credentials of the other finalists. The organization however saw something in me that I hope I can live up to, if not exceed their expectations. I am grateful for being chosen for the Phi Beta Kappa Award and my thanks cannot truly be expressed.

I had been a very naïve child. In elementary school, the smaller student body made friendships easier to come by. I went into high school thinking that the atmosphere would be the same. It soon became quite apparent that I was wrong; I found myself alone quite soon. I had to ask myself, what is it that I want? I concluded that I had to gain friends in order to eliminate this loneliness. One day I heard school announcements about the track team and figured it was worth a shot and it was one of the best decisions of my life since it brought me friends. I see the value of extracurricular activities and I will dip my feet into many more in college.

I will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for business for the 2015-16 school year. I hope to be selected into their accounting program when I am able to apply. As a student at UIUC I have high hopes for the future because my past has taught me who I wish to become and that someone is proactive.  Proactive me intends on being involved more throughout the school and community. I am looking to devote more of myself to the community. This world is shared but the circumstances differ per person. Some are born more fortunate than others so any aid goes a long way to those who are in need. Furthermore there are problems with our planet’s health and the environment can use all the help it can get. I am uncertain what exactly I may end up doing in regards to service but I am going to make sure I help in some way. By being a recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa award, it helps me facilitate my interest in helping the community more while receiving a great education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
Anthony Zhao
PBKACA 2015 Scholarship Recipient