Civic Federation to Honor IDHS Secretary Grace Hou with 30th Annual Excellence in Public Service Award

November 24, 2021

On Thursday, December 9, the Civic Federation will honor Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Grace B. Hou with the 30th Annual Motorola Solutions Foundation Excellence in Public Service Award.

The award, presented and administered by the Federation, annually honors a non-elected government official who has had an extraordinary impact on the quality of state and local government services in Illinois. The award seeks to honor individuals who show dedication to a vision of quality management, leadership and innovation that leads to lasting achievements and more effective government in Illinois.

The 2021 hybrid celebration will be held in-person at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago, with a concurrent live-streaming component. The in-person event will kick off at 8 a.m. with a coffee and networking reception, followed by the award program and breakfast at 8:30 a.m.

Following a widely publicized call for nominations earlier this year, an Advisory Committee comprising business and civic leaders and past honorees came together to unanimously choose Secretary Hou from this year’s slate of most impressive nominees of state and local government leaders.

Secretary Hou has a distinguished, decades-long career in public service. She has served in her current role as head of IDHS since March 2019, following appointment by Governor JB Pritzker. There she oversees execution of the Department’s mission to strengthen the State of Illinois by building up lives and communities through an integrated network of mental health, substance use prevention and recovery, rehabilitation, developmental disabilities and family and community services. IDHS operates seven psychiatric hospitals, seven developmental centers, one treatment and detention facility for sexually violent persons, 76 local offices and four schools.

Secretary Hou previously served as the Assistant Secretary at IDHS from 2003 to 2012, and, during that time, was an architect of Illinois’ nationally recognized Immigrant Integration New Americans Gubernatorial Executive Order.

The Secretary has dedicated her career to advancing social justice by working in the non-profit and public sector systems for change through public policy development and implementation, social services provision, community organizing and engagement and philanthropy. She served from February 2012 to March 2019 as the President of Woods Fund Chicago, a grantmaking foundation that finds–and funds–projects that draw on the power of communities to fight the brutality of poverty and structural racism.

Early in Secretary Hou’s career, she served as Executive Director of the Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA) and has been a vocal advocate for immigrants’ rights. She is a child of immigrants from Taiwan and has lived and worked in Illinois since she was eight years old. Secretary Hou studied at the University of Illinois and has two teenage sons. She is Board Chair of the Healthy Communities Foundation, a 2001 Leadership Greater Chicago fellow, a member of The Chicago Network and The Commercial Club, and a German Marshall fellow.

The Excellence in Public Service Award was originally established in 1990, when executives at Motorola recognized the need to identify and promote the exemplary work of public servants across the State of Illinois, whose hard work is so often under-acknowledged. The award, now in its 30th year, has been entirely overseen, presented and administered by the Civic Federation, with the generous support of the Motorola Solutions Foundation, since 2008.

For more information on this year’s program or to register to participate, please visit