MSU Law Dean’s Fellows hear first-hand about life in public service

From MSU Law

MSU Law students participating in the 2023 Dean’s Fellows Program met long-time public servant, former Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, Sheila Simon. Former Lieutenant Governor Simon has spent a majority of her life in public service, starting on the campaign trial as the child of former U.S. Senator Paul Simon and Illinois State Representative Jeanne Hurley Simon.

This program, conducted via Zoom, was initiated by MSU Law Dean Linda Sheryl Greene who founded the MSU Law Dean’s Public Service Fellows program. Dean Greene introduced Lieutenant Governor Simon and shared the background of her relationship with the Simon family. While teaching at Georgetown University Law Center, Dean Greene was privileged to have law student Sheila Simon in two of her classes.

Dean Greene worked with  Senator Paul Simon, a member of the coveted Senate Judiciary Committee. She did not learn Sheila Simon was related to Senator Paul Simon until she invited Sheila to be her research assistant.

Dean Greene highlighted the Lieutenant Governor’s remarkable career in public service. Her career path began as a Legal Aid Staff Attorney, and continued in Jackson County, IL, as an Assistant State’s Attorney, and then as a Staff Attorney for a Domestic Violence Clinic.
Her foray into politics started as a Carbondale Illinois City Council member, then a gubernatorial appointee to the Illinois Reform Commission, after which tshe was elected the 46th Lieutenant Governor of Illinois.

She teaches at Southern Illinois University School of Law.,  serves on advocacy boards and actively encourages women to get involved in government and politics.

Dean’s Fellows, Jasmine Felder and Allison Opheim, questioned the Lieutenant Governor on a broad range of topics from parental influences on her career path to the public service role of which the former Lieutenant Governor is most proud, her work to provide domestic violence victims with protection and services. When asked by Ms. Opheim whether her experience at Legal Aid affected her future career choices, she said that the exposure to poor people fueled her determination to be of service to people in need. She encouraged the Fellows to serve their communities and volunteer with bar associations and community organizations that serve people with unmet needs. She said how important it is for attorneys to take an active role in their communities outside of their legal work.

Lieutenant Governor Simon, in closing, urged the Dean’s Fellows “to be the ones doing something, rather than being something.” She suggested the qualities that someone committed to public service should possess:

1. Be the change you want to see in the world; 2. Be involved; 3. Volunteer in campaigns; 4. Be involved in your community's grassroots initiatives; 5. Help people register to vote.

The latter suggestion, to work to improve democratic participation, was a value deeply held by her parents and one she hopes all will support.