San Antonio student tells legendary mother’s story in new book

Photo of Joseph Barr Topinka
Joseph Barr Topinka, J.D., M.B.A., M.H.A.

HOUSTON – Joseph Baar Topinka, a doctoral student at UTHealth School of Public Health in San Antonio, has published a biography on his mother, Judy Baar Topinka, a legendary figure in Illinois politics, beloved for her no-nonsense ways and commitment to public service.

Topinka wrote the book as a resource for Illinois middle school students, including more than 100 interactive classroom activities, critical thinking and self-reflection essay questions, and research prompts. The book covers principles that were central in Judy Baar Topinka’s life – heritage, leadership, public service, civic duty, tolerance, life-long learning, family values, honesty, respect, courage and wisdom.

In “Just Judy: A Citizen and Leader for Illinois,” Topinka follows his mother as she grows from a child, to a young adult, to a wife and mother, newspaper reporter, and finally to a state public servant, making her way from the Illinois House of Representatives all the way to the office of Illinois Comptroller.

Topinka believes children in his home state need good political models, and to learn the importance of civic duty.

“I wanted to tell a story about a woman who took on the establishment and succeeded as no other woman has done in Illinois,” he says. “Her life has solid lessons for people now and for those in the coming generations who will ultimately be running our government and businesses.” 

Just Judy 3D Cover__rev
Just Judy: A Citizen and Leader for Illinois

Topinka gave out signed copies of the book to guests at the inaugural fundraiser for the Judy Baar Topinka Charitable Foundation, held April 12 in Chicago, and presented the first “Judy Award” to retired State Senator Christine Radogno. The award acknowledges a person who embodies good government, ethics, civility, and love of heritage in his or her professional and personal life.

Topinka is earning his doctorate in community health practice, while teaching employment law and public health for health administrators at Texas State University in San Marcos. He is a retired U.S. Army attorney.

— Written by Anissa Anderson Orr