Skip to main content

The Caritas Veritas Award is presented to an alumna/us whose life reflects Dominican University’s motto, Caritas Veritas, a search for truth through charity or service. The award is presented at Reunion.

2019 Caritas Veritas Award Recipient: Eileen Willenborg ’69

Eileen has always tried to speak truth to power. She wrote an editorial in her high school newspaper, praising Dr. Martin Luther King’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The high school administration tried to restrain her column because of its political nature, but as editor, she published it anyway. She arrived at Rosary in 1965 a Young Republican, but thanks to hours of conversations with friends, to guidance from the Sisters, lay-faculty and chaplains, and to volunteer work, she left Rosary as a nascent feminist and an anti-war activist who wanted to spend her career working for social and economic justice.

After dropping out of graduate school in 1971, Eileen worked as an Employment Manager at a hospital on Chicago’s south side. There, she witnessed the crushing poverty of people seeking unskilled work and the power of unions to help them. This experience shaped her thinking about labor, class, and race.  During this period of her life, Eileen came out as a lesbian, became a leader of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, co-founded a gay and lesbian political action group, and fell in love with her life partner of the last 40 years. It took her ten years to discover her life’s work, but in 1981, she started law school at Rutgers University. After graduating with honors in 1984, Eileen spent the next 30 years as a union attorney fighting for worker’s rights: fair treatment on the job, living wages, and a safe work environment.

During her career, Eileen organized and represented garment workers, butchers and fishmongers, flight attendants, broadcasters, actors, and singers. Employed as a staff attorney at the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) from 1988-1995, she enforced contractual rights of cabin crews through grievances and arbitrations at airlines across the country.  She negotiated the first flight attendant contract in the emerging regional airlines sector that set the standards for smaller carriers that AFA organized after that. She also was part of the fight to end sexist practices at all airlines, such as weight programs that often led to the termination of flight attendants that did not meet weight standards.

Eileen was Executive Director of the Chicago Local of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists from 1995-2013. She negotiated or oversaw negotiations and enforcement of 33 contracts at all the major Chicago television stations and most of its radio stations. Under her watch, the Union organized the first Spanish television station in the country. She developed and lobbied the Illinois legislature to pass a ground-breaking bill to prohibit onerous non-compete clauses in broadcasters’ personal services contracts that was copied in other states. 

The most important contract for Chicago actors was the television and radio commercials contracts, and Eileen served on the Union’s national commercials negotiating committee throughout her tenure with SAG-AFTRA.  In 2000, the advertising industry sought to eliminate a major pay provision and refused to negotiate over the Union’s proposal for jurisdiction over ads on the internet. The actors waged a six-month national strike to preserve their pay and gain coverage for their work on the internet. Chicago demonstrated to the rest of the country how to shut down entire buildings with a picket line. Buildings that housed advertisers, such as AT&T and Pepsi, and ad agencies, such as J. Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett and Foote, shut down for a day throughout the summer of 2000. When the Chicago Local shut down the Ford Plant on the Southside for five days, the strike ended a week later. Neither side wins a strike, but the actors’ courage preserved their pay provision and won jurisdiction over the internet. 

Eileen was a driving force in the creation of the Illinois Production Alliance in 2003, which was comprised of entertainment industry unions and employers. The IPA’s mission was to pass tax incentives that would encourage Hollywood to bring motion picture and television production to Chicago.  Finally passed in 2008, the 30% tax incentive increased local entertainment production exponentially and provided SAG-AFTRA members with stable incomes and benefits. The IPA model and the Illinois statute were the basis for similar laws passed in other states, including New York and Massachusetts. 

The Chicago Federation of Labor recognized Eileen’s contributions to SAG-AFTRA members in 2006 and named her “Woman Labor Leader of the Year”. In 2009, the Union awarded Eileen its highest honor, the George Heller Memorial Award, for her contributions to performers and broadcasters in Chicago and beyond. 

Previous Recipients of the Caritas Veritas Award

2018: Dianne Mathiowetz ’68, Susan Bakel Cohn ’68
2017: Jane E. Duggan ’67
2016: Judy Purvin Scully ’66
2015: Gera-Lind Kolarik ’75, Barbara Keaton Spaniak ’80, MD
2014: Sr. Kaye Ashe, OP ’52, Sr. Joan O’Shea, OP ’52
2013: Marie Roach Cowhey ’53
2012: Mary V. Whalen ’57 
2011: M. Catherine Crowley Ryan ’61
2010: Maria Kuhn ’75 
2009: Mary Boyle Callow ’67, Sr. Melissa Waters, OP ’59
2008: Josephine Ann Kane ’73 
2007: Catherine E. Klein ’57, Margaret M. Stapleton ’67 
2006: Norman E. Carroll MSA ’83, Sr. Rita Keegan, MM ’56, Barbara Parsons ’56 
2005: Sr. Ann Willits, OP ’55, Mary Lidia Klodnycky-Procyk ’65, MD 
2004: Marilyn McNamara Schaub ’49 
2003: Patricia Somers Cronin ’48, Linda Bieniek ’73
2002: Carolyn J. Noonan Parmer ’52, Sr. Mary Paynter, OP ’52, Richard J. Brennan
2001: Sr. Jeanne Crapo, OP ’46, Mary-Alice Wallach Martines ’51
2000: Sr. Clemente Davlin, OP ’50, Kathleen Anglese Giamalva ’60 
1999: Claire Cusack Cronin ’49, Anna Marie Garippo Sciaraffa ’49 
1998: Mary Thecla “Tekki” Lomnicki ’78 
1997: Jean Burke Foran ’47, Ann Bauer O’Leary Kerley ’47, Sherry S. Treston ’72
1996: Rita Leahy Zorn ’46, Nancy Sidote Salyers ’71 
1995: Mary Spalding Picchi ’45, Hilary Ward Schnadt ’79 
1994: Sr. Jean Murray, OP ’49, Jean Dougherty Quigley ’50, Katharine Williams LeVeque ’54
1993: Doris Boughton Hullihan ’43, Jeanne Pietrus Schmid ’53, Suzanne Cosimano Awalt ’68 
1992: Mary Schotthoefer Shekleton ’42, Carol Kenealy ’67
1991: Katherine Fitzgerald LaBelle ’26, Sr. Mary Woods, OP ’45, Angelika Kuehn ’70
1990: Reycita Cruz Jiron ’40
1989: Grace Victor Cross ’39, Patricia Connery Koko ’64
1988: Sr. Miriam Young, OP ’63, Therese F. Hogan ’78
1987: Sr. Candida Lund, OP ’42, Winifred Kuhn Downing ’47, Theresa M. Schultz ’77
1986: Sr. Lucille Z. Coulihan, IHM ’36
1985: Ruth McGrath O’Keefe ’35
1984: Mary Yu ’79
1983: Mimi Power ’58
1982: Jeanne Morrissy Darley ’50