Nancy Rodkin Rotering, ’90: A Career of Leadership, Service, and Advocacy

Since 2011, Nancy Rodkin Rotering, ’90, has been the mayor of Highland Park, Illinois. The position is the current culmination of decades of leadership, service, and advocacy—with more certainly to come.

At the Law School, where she was honored with the Ann Watson Barber Outstanding Service Award, she joined with Professor Richard Epstein to create a healthcare law course, and she founded and led the Health Law Society. Even before coming to the Law School, she had been drawn to healthcare issues, exploring them as an undergraduate at Stanford and making them the focus of the MBA she earned at Northwestern. She worked at the Mayo Clinic and then as a health benefits analyst at General Motors after earning her MBA.

Following law school, she worked for eight years in the healthcare practice of McDermott, Will & Emery. During that time, her advocacy took on an additional, more personal dimension when her young son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. When he entered school, she was concerned by the lack of school-based medical care for children with chronic diseases, and she fought for better services, including helping to draft state legislation allowing non-nursing school staff to provide day-to-day care. She joined the family advisory board of what is now Lurie Children’s Hospital, served on the board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and worked alongside other families seeking better care for their children.

“I was applying so many things I had learned at the Law School,” she recalled. “Giving a voice to those who didn’t have one, finding ways to make things better, and standing up for what I knew was the right thing to do. Those things might not be explicitly in the curriculum, but they are at the core of the Law School’s special culture—expecting all of us to contribute as much as we can in the best ways we can find.”

In 2005, she was appointed to Highland Park’s environmental commission, where among other things she founded and led an education program that taught environmental awareness and advocacy skills to more than 5,000 young students. In 2006, she joined the city’s plan commission. Her effective lobbying of state officials regarding healthcare and other issues so impressed her local state representative, Karen May, that May asked Rotering to join her staff, where Rotering served for more than two and a half years as a legislative aide.

She entered elective politics in 2009, defeating three incumbents to win a seat on the Highland Park city council. “I felt that a new voice was needed, and the voters agreed with me,” she said. When she ran for mayor two years later, her campaign slogan promised that she would be “your voice at City Hall.”

In addition to her mayoral duties, she led the creation in 2015 of the Highland Park–Highwood Legal Aid Clinic. She’s now a board member of that clinic, where more than 80 volunteer attorneys have helped more than 200 clients with issues related to housing, immigration, and domestic abuse. Sustaining her focus on healthcare, she’s now a board member at the Lurie Children’s Hospital Foundation, Planned Parenthood of Illinois, and the Highland Park Healthcare Foundation.

She has four children with her husband, Robert Rotering, whom she married while she was in law school. “I did everything I could think of at the Law School, from moot court to organizing a talent show to serving on the LSA. And everything I did came back to me threefold in learning, friendships, confidence, and an even stronger commitment to making positive change,” she said. “One of the highlights of my life was when Abner Mikva—who graduated from the Law School, taught at the Law School, and was one of the greatest public servants this country has ever known—endorsed me last year for US Congress. The photo I have of him wearing my campaign pin at his 90th birthday party will always sit on my desk, as a reminder of what the Law School means and as an inspiration to the highest level of public service I can provide.”