Announcing our 2022 Scholarship Winner – Ricardo Barajas-Lopez

This year’s winner is Ricardo Barajas-Lopez, a senior at Back of the Yards High School. An excellent student, he is also active in both the gaming and poetry clubs. He will be attending University of Southern California in the fall.

Ricardo Barajas-Lopez, 2022 PBKACA Scholarship Winner

Ricardo Barajas-Lopez, 2022 PBKACA Scholarship Winner

Here is Ricardo’s letter to our scholarship committee:

Ever since I was three years old, I’ve had an unfathomable passion for video games and I knew that I wanted to become a video game developer. My ultimate goal has been to work for Nintendo, whose video games are the reason behind my interest in computer science and programming. Video games are becoming more and more integrated into our daily lives, and I would love to work with the gaming giant to inspire others to pursue the field. However, to work in such a prestigious company I knew I would need to stand out.
Once I was in high school, I began searching for colleges that offered programs that would make my dream a reality. The University of Southern California was everything I wanted. The computer science games program USC offers is like none other. From game design to 3D modeling, it covers many of the aspects that go into development and combines two of my interests seamlessly – computers, gaming and art. 3D modeling is essential because it is the framework for the visuals, and can be one of the first impressions an audience has of a game. I believe the courses offered there will be rigorous enough to fully prepare me to become a successful game developer. I am most especially excited about the semester long gaming projects, which will truly put my knowledge and creativity to the test.
I have always treated school as a gateway to opportunities far beyond my wildest dreams. All throughout high school and middle school, I have given my academics my full attention and earned outstanding grades on every report card. The fruits of my labor came in the form of an acceptance letter from USC. This university offers one of the best programs in the country, but has a very expensive tuition. Financial aid from USC and FAFSA were not enough to cover full tuition and that’s where Phi Beta Kappa swooped in to save the day.
With all of the gratitude in my being, I accept the Phi Beta Kappa Association of Chicago Area scholarship. I had always known that paying for college was a challenge my family would face. I feared the financial burden tuition would have on us, yet the PBKACA has made attending the University of Southern California a reality.
With gratitude,
Ricardo Lopez Barajas

Announcing our 2021 Scholarship Winner – Karely Ramirez

This year’s winner is Karely Ramirez of Senn High School. She will be attending DePaul University in the fall. She plans to pursue a career in medical sciences.

Karely Ramirez

Karely Ramirez, 2021 PBKACA Scholarship Winner

Here is Karely’s letter to our scholarship committee:

Dear PBKACA Scholarship Committee:
I want to begin by saying thank you very much for this opportunity. As a younger kid growing up in a low-income household with immigrant parents, the thought of pursuing higher education after high school was terrifying. I knew I would be the first one to attend college as well, which only added to the uncertainty. Questions ranging from, “How am I ever going to pay for college?” to “What if I am not as informed as I should be?” surfaced constantly.
Nevertheless, I have always been one to challenge not only myself, but also my circumstances. With the COVID-19 pandemic striking toward the end of my junior year and lasting into the entirety of my senior year, I knew I had to adapt to this new situation. My father unfortunately lost both of his jobs as a cook, leaving my mother as the only one providing a stable income. Knowing the financial burden this would put on my family I began working as a cashier not only to aid in costs but to alleviate any stress my parents may have felt about paying for college in such difficult times. Being granted this scholarship is a tremendous help.
During my elementary and high school years, my parents have always supported me in becoming involved with my personal interests, which allowed me to discover my passion for science, the community and the arts. It means a lot to me that I had the space to nurture my creativity. I hope to continue to make my parents proud by pursuing a career in medical sciences. I am forever grateful for the opportunities this scholarship has brought me. I will utilize it to enhance my knowledge at DePaul University and to become more conscious of the ways to better the world around me through my future career.
Thank you,
Karely Ramirez

PBKACA Annual Meeting Goes Virtual

Please join us for our virtual Annual Meeting and Election on Thursday, November 19, at 6:15 p.m. The meeting will include a panel discussion on “Learning During Lockdown,” featuring four of our members:

We will also hear from Jose Muniz, our 2020-21 scholarship recipient, who is now a freshman at Northwestern University.

Please register at Make sure that your email address is correct when you register so that we can send you a link to the Zoom meeting and program for the event. If you intend to invite guests, please kindly forward them the link when you receive it.

Announcing our 2020 Scholarship Winner – Jose Muñiz

This year’s winner of the Phi Beta Kappa Area of Chicago Association is Jose Muñiz of Back of the Yards High School. He will be attending Northwestern University in the fall and plans to major in mechanical engineering.

Here is Jose’s letter to our scholarship committee:

Jose MunizMy name is Jose Muñiz and, apart from going to Northwestern next year to study mechanical engineering, I am also this year’s PBKACA Scholarship recipient. Receiving this award is such a great honor both to me and my parents. This scholarship not only means that my hard work throughout the past four years of high school have paid off, but also represents a sign of hope.

In the midst of the current global issues, receiving that call of congratulations was a relief and lifted a great weight off my family’s shoulders. My parents both came from Mexico during the 1990’s and, having little schooling in their homeland, they pushed education on both my sister and me. They have also supported every one of my wildest dreams. From wanting to be a train conductor to an astronaut to a scientist to a mechanical engineer, they always told me I can do it and encouraged me to do my best, not just in my academics but also in my community. Receiving this wonderful scholarship means that their hard work raising me also paid off and that they will not have to stress over how they are going to pay for my studies after high school. This is my way of thanking them for their countless sacrifices. My goal is to make my parents proud to see their first child go off to college in the U.S. This scholarship has made their smiles wider and made them even more proud.

The scholarship means hope. The world is experiencing some tough times right now, but receiving this money means that I am now able to work hard and focus on my studies to become an engineer and make this world a better place. Innovation is critical during these times and I feel that being active not just in our studies but also in community is absolutely necessary if we want to continue to make human life easier and more enjoyable. I will not have to worry about the struggle to find money to continue studying. Focusing on my goal to help the world out is now my only priority thanks to this generous association.

Once again, I would like to thank everyone who forms part of this amazing association and those who sponsor it. I will not take this opportunity for granted and will continue to work hard to make a difference.

Thank you,

Jose M. Muñiz

Hon. Rebecca Pallmeyer is the recipient of our 2019 Distinguished Service Award

PBKACA is proud to present this year’s Distinguished Service Award to Rebecca Pallmeyer, Chief Judge of the
United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Rebecca R. Pallmeyer graduated from Valparaiso University and earned her law degree from the University
of Chicago Law School. Following a one-year clerkship with Justice Rosalie Wahl of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Judge Pallmeyer practiced commercial litigation with a Chicago law firm.
From 1985 until 1991, Ms. Pallmeyer was an Administrative Law Judge with the Illinois Human Rights Commission, a quasi-judicial agency responsible for enforcement of the state’s anti-discrimination laws. On October 1, 1991, Ms.
Pallmeyer was appointed a United States Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of Illinois. She served as Presiding Magistrate Judge from 1996 until 1998. In 1997, President Clinton nominated her for a seat in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, where she has served since October 1998.
Judge Pallmeyer served from 2013 to 2019 as a member on the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management and since 2018 has served on the United States Judicial Conference. She is an honorary fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and a member of the ALI-CLE Employment and Labor Law Advisory Panel. Since 2006, Judge Pallmeyer has served on the faculty for the annual ALI-CLE program, Current Developments in Employment Law, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Judge Pallmeyer is past President of the Lawyers Club of Chicago, past President of the Richard Linn American Inn of Courts, and an active member of the Chicago Bar Association, the Chicago Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, and the American Bar Association. She is the immediate past Secretary to the ABA Labor and Employment Law Section.
Judge Pallmeyer was sworn in as Chief Judge for the Northern District of Illinois on July 1, 2019.

Book Club Selections for 2020

PBKACA Book Club

For more than two decades the PBKACA Book Group has gathered on Sunday afternoons to engage in stimulating, thought-provoking discussions of good fiction and non-fiction books. Book group members come from an array of educational and professional backgrounds.

The atmosphere at book discussions is so relaxed and free-wheeling that it allows for an unfettered exchange of ideas and feelings. Several book group members agree that the PBKACA Book Group is their favorite of all book groups to which they belong.

The book group meets on designated Sundays from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Nix Restaurant in the Knickerbocker Hotel, 163 E. Pearson. Join us for one or all of the following dates. For more information and to RSVP, contact Gerry Piorkowski at

2020 Selections

February 2: My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
March 1: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
April 5: Permanent Record by Edward Snowden
May 3: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
June 7: Young Radicals: In the War for American Ideals by Jeremy McCarter
July 12: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
August 2: The Fall of Language in the Age of English by Minae Mizumura
September 13: A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz
October 4: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
November 1: The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Pioneers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCullough
December 6: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Rockford University Spring 2020 Forum Series

The Rockford University Forum Series presents speakers in a variety of disciplines who have achieved success both nationally and locally, and performers of stature in the arts. The Forum Series’ central programming focus is geared toward students. Lectures and performances are concerned with intellectual, social, and cultural matters of general interest to deepen and broaden students’ education at Rockford University.

See this link for topics and dates:

UIC Phi Beta Kappa Chapter 2019-2020 Lectures

Given the PBK tradition of promoting knowledgeable and collegial discussion of topics in the liberal arts and sciences, the UIC chapter of Phi Beta Kappa recently initiated a series lectures for the academic year 2019-2020 to which the community is invited. Each of the lectures will be presented by one of our chapter members.  Suitable for a general audience, each lecture will highlight some aspect of that member’s scholarly interests.

Our first lecture—“The Legacy of Columbus’ Travels”—was delivered by David Diego Rodriguez from the UIC Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies.

Our second lecture—“Listening for What Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors in Healthcare”—was delivered by Alan Schwartz from the UIC College of Medicine

Our remaining lectures are as follow:

February 12, 2020
“The Bilingual Cognitive Advantage: Does it Really Exist?”
Gary Raney, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Lecture Hall, Humanities Institute, 3:00-4:30

March 18, 2020
“Out of Africa: Human origin and migration from DNA analysis of current and ancient sources”
Simon Silver, Emeritus Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, College of Medicine
Room 1-470, Daley Library, 3:00-4:30

Please join us.

Announcing our 2019 Scholarship Winner – Yailin Benitez

This year’s winner is Yailin Benitez of Prosser High School. She will be attending the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign in the fall. She plans to major in education and then go on to become an elementary school teacher.

Yailin Benitez

Yailin Benitez, 2019 PBKACA Scholarship Winner

Here is Yailin’s letter to our scholarship committee:

Thank you for giving me the honor and privilege for being this year’s scholarship recipient. I guarantee that the money I have been gifted will be put towards financing many educational opportunities that will make you proud. The revelation of being this year’s scholarship recipient has come as a great surprise, a miracle truly.

PBKACA has changed my life for the better in two ways, by offering financial support as well as empowering me as a young female. Like many students in Chicago, I come from a low-income minority family. One of the biggest challenges I face due to my situation is that my future has always been uncertain. Not because of my potential or academic capabilities, but rather the ability to financially support my endeavors. I have always been eager to learn, and I knew from a young age that I wanted to go to university. While I studied vigorously to succeed academically, I dealt with self-doubt and anxiety. In the back of my mind, I persistently feared my efforts would be fruitless. I always knew that my family would never be able to afford university tuition fees. My mind is now better at ease with the financial support PBKACA has given me. I am extremely grateful that my dream to further my education has become a reality.

In regards to PBKACA empowering me as a young female, the Scholarship Committee highlighted the power and impact a woman can have in the modern world. One of the first things I noticed during my interview is that the organization itself is lead by strongly independent, compassionate, intelligent, and hard-working women. In a male-dominated society, it is truly inspiring to see women having important and prestigious positions in the workforce. It has made my ambitions to one day achieve great things to become more realistic in my mindset. I am more motivated and hopeful that I too can one day inspire young people to pursue furthering education to make their dreams a reality. With the $5,000 scholarship, I will be able to pursue my dream of becoming an elementary school teacher, a job in which I can cultivate and nurture the goals and ambitions of generations of young students.

I am excited to attend the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign this fall and to see how the next four years will unfold. The money I have been given will go towards purchasing books, school supplies, housing expenses, studying abroad, etc. Thank you again Phi Beta Kappa Association of the Chicago Area Scholarship Committee for the honor of receiving this year’s scholarship.

With best regards,

Yailin Benitez

Valparaiso University 2019 Phi Beta Kappa Initiates

In May, Valparaiso University inducted new initiates into Phi Beta Kappa. They are pictured here, after the initiation ceremony.

Photo credit to Valparaiso University.