A Publication of WTVP

40 Leaders Under Forty


Stephen Anthony Kouri II, Age 35

Attorney, Commissioner, State of Illinois Human Rights Commission

Stephen Anthony Kouri II

Kouri “exemplifies persistence and perseverence in his daily life,” said his nominator. “Some leaders are defined by the outcome, some by the process but Steve exemplifies both the process and the outcome. He was born with cerebral palsy and struggles with activities of daily living but has earned a law degree through great grit and perseverance. He knows how to face challenges, generate solutions, execute Plan A, B, C and D until he achieves his goal.”

Outside work, Kouri has been involved with the March Madness basketball tournament in Peoria and was past chairman of the Peoria Liquor Commission, a member of the Peoria Zoning Board, and vice president of the Itoo Society.


‘Some leaders are defined by the outcome, some by the process but Steve exemplifies both the process and the outcome’
— Stephen Kouri nominator

Childhood ambition: “I wanted to be the next Michael Jordan or (Duke basketball coach) Mike Krzyzewski.”

Advice to 20-year-old self: “I would probably tell myself to enjoy life a little more than I did. I would tell myself to be career driven, but also save a piece of the pizza for fun activities.”

Unknown to colleagues: “My celebrity crush is Taylor Swift.”

Best advice: “My college wheelchair basketball coach, Michael Frogley, told me to take my personal experiences that I have from living my life with a disability and use them to teach others.”

Motivating social issues: “I get very passionate about public access with service animals, and airlines following policies that do not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act so people with disabilities can enjoy air travel.”

Book recommendation: Showtime by Jeff Pearlman.”

Leadership definition: “A great leader voices their opinion, isn’t afraid to step on other people’s toes, and stands up for what they believe even when they are in the minority.”

Local inspiration: “Peoria County Board member Phil Salzer. He has been a dedicated person to public service in Peoria for over 20 years.”

Peoria needs: “I would bring better roads, youth sports tournaments that would go on every weekend, and free Wi-Fi for every resident.”