Glenbrook South student wins Cook County flag contest

  • Glenbrook South junior Drew Duffy displays his "I Will Banner" posted at the Cook County Building, 118 N. Clark St., Chicago.

    Glenbrook South junior Drew Duffy displays his "I Will Banner" posted at the Cook County Building, 118 N. Clark St., Chicago. Courtesy of Drew Duffy

Updated 6/16/2022 9:49 AM

Next time mom comes up with an idea for a rainy day, or for a pandemic, give her a listen.

It worked for Drew Duffy.


Like many people early in 2020, midway through his freshman year at Glenbrook South Duffy didn't have much to do.

Visiting a website for Glenbrook South parents, his mother, Ellen, saw a notice about a contest for high school students to create a new Cook County flag. She told her son about it.

"'You like history, you like flags, so why don't you give this a shot?'" Duffy recalled his mother saying.

"Here we are."

Now entering his senior year, on June 14 -- the 106th Flag Day -- the Cook County Board of Commissioners' Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee voted Duffy's "I Will Banner" as the winning entry.

That vote, completed by the committee on Zoom, followed a private vote by the 11-member Flag Advisory Panel, of which 14th District Commissioner Scott Britton is a co-chair. Britton is a member of the North American Vexillological Association, which deals in the scientific study of flags.

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The selection will be confirmed by the vote of the full Board of Commissioners on June 16. It's essentially a done deal.

On Aug. 30 the I Will Banner will be raised in a ceremony at Daley Plaza in Chicago.

"I think it's a huge honor," Duffy said.

"It's something that's going to be flying in Cook County likely past my lifetime, so that's really an amazing thing to have. I am just incredibly surprised and, again, honored to be selected for the final design," he said.

A contest announced in December 2019 but temporarily delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Duffy's entry was among 297 submissions, 23 semifinalists, and six finalists -- including recent Maine East graduate Alex Tomy -- vying to replace the current Cook County flag.

First flown in 1961, that one is a rather plain design of the county seal and the words, "Cook County," on a white field. It's been described as "a seal on a bedsheet."


Starting with colored pencils at his kitchen table, Duffy's "I Will" theme emerged after researching Chicago sculptures by Ellsworth Kelly, and by Jacob Henrik Gerhard Fjelde from a Charles Holloway design for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, he told the Herald in March.

Incorporating the "Y" common in Chicago signage and representing the "merging of north, south and main branches of the Chicago River at Wolf Point," Duffy said, his use of symbols, colors and design encompassed facets such as Cook County Forest Preserves, social and political change, and Chicago's importance to economic development.

Britton said Duffy's explanation of the historical and geographical design elements proved compelling, convincing Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and even a commissioner who didn't want to replace the old flag.

"I thought Drew's design and his passion for describing it to the commissioners certainly made me very comfortable with the choice. And I'm just real happy that we have somebody from the 14th District win the contest, but I can't take any credit for that. This is all Drew's work," said Britton, joined in the kudos by Cook County Historian and Flag Advisory Panel Co-Chair Matthew DeLeon.

"It is visually arresting and a testimony to all the stuff that we do in the county."

Duffy said he was "extremely grateful" to Glenbrook South teachers Kaitlin Budny, Dan Rhoades and Nick Morley for their assistance on helping incorporate Cook County history into his design; and to the mentor assigned to him for the contest, Martin Burciaga, a Cook County graphic design specialist.

The county will present Duffy a copy of the "I Will Banner."

"The satisfaction is plenty, though," he said.

Britton can agree with that point.

"I can proudly go to the next Vexillological Association meeting and say, this is what we did in Cook County. Sometimes the people in Chicago get it right," he said.

Duffy, who helped lead a rally against firearms on June 4 and previously planned another rally that helped retain Glenview's Fire Station 13, was elected as Glenbrook South's 2022-23 student body president on March 17.

He's also an all-conference honoree in both wrestling and football. The 285-pound lineman will be pulling right into Thursday's final vote of the Cook County Board.

"They've told me to Zoom in around 11:45, and I'll be showing up on Zoom very sweaty after football practice," Duffy said.

"I hope they'll excuse my appearance, I'll have to throw on a baseball cap or something."

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