Retiring legal director found work ‘fulfilling’

By Rachel Scaman

Don Henderson, Students’ Legal Assistance director, will be retiring after 36 years of work at NIU.

The Students’ Legal Assistance staff consists of two licensed attorneys and students from the College of Law who serve as law clerks. Joseph Lovelace will take over as director effective July 1.

“The role of the office is to fill administrative responsibilities, act as advocates to legal problems and develop programs to help students avoid legal issues and make good choices,” Henderson said.

Henderson is a graduate of Harvard Law School and has done legal work at Prairie State College. After retirement, Henderson said he wants to find ways to serve.

“I also have an intellectual interest in writing,” Henderson said.

Henderson said he came to NIU on the GI Bill to study history. He said he provided whatever assistance he could when it came to Students’ Legal Assistance.

“A job opened up for a staff attorney,” Henderson said. “I took it and found it very fulfilling.”

Henderson said he has a great fondness for NIU after living in the community all this time.

“I’ve tried hard to represent the students well,” Henderson said. “Our first objective is trying to achieve the objective of the client.”

Henderson said the first thing he does in court is ask the student’s age and major.

“I do this to remind everyone in the court room [that] this isn’t just a 19- or 20-year-old who got in trouble. They contribute to society,” Henderson said.

Lynn Richards, Students’ Legal Assistance assistant director, said her experience working with Henderson has been a good one.

“He’s very passionate about what he does,” Richards said. “I was very fortunate to work with him for 20 years.”

Richards said Henderson took on challenges every day.

“He has had so much dedication for over 30 years, and that is a gift,” Richards said.

Senior economics major Cithlaly Dudic said her experience with the department was helpful.

“They provided me with all the possible options I had, giving me different scenarios of outcomes and how it could affect my academic career,” Dudic said.