February 02, 2022

Remembering a Beloit public servant

Members of the class of 1968 reflect on the contributions of their friend Donald Devlin’68, who died in November.

Don Devlin?68, left, dedicated his life to public service. In this undated photo, he's joined by ... Don Devlin’68, left, dedicated his life to public service. In this undated photo, he's joined by his uncle, Professor Emeritus of Government Warner Mills, who influenced Don along with many other Beloiters.

Until recently there were eight of us ­­— eight graduates who met as members of the original Beloit Plan’s inaugural class and as new members of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. The bonds of friendship we formed then have remained strong and grown stronger over the succeeding 56 years. We always looked forward to reuniting when as many of us as possible would attend a milestone class reunion. Happily, all eight of us were able to gather for our 50th in 2018. Then, after the onset of Covid and the introduction of Zoom, we started meeting virtually about once a month.

But now we are seven; Donald Devlin’68 died in November. After learning of his death, we immediately recalled his genuine and caring friendship and his joyful demeanor, the latter most evident in his enthusiastic storytelling and gleeful laugh. We also came to realize that we did not fully know of Don’s distinguished legal career, his link to public service, and how Beloit College provided the base for his accomplishments.

Beginning his career as a prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Don prosecuted and argued cases at all levels in the Illinois Judicial System. He then moved to represent Cook County in a variety of civil actions and was appointed to leadership positions in the State’s Attorney’s Office. The appointments culminated in Don becoming chief counsel for all Cook County owned and operated health facilities, including Stroger Hospital (formerly Cook County Hospital). After a four-year stint as Associate General Counsel of Loyola University Chicago, Don was elected to a Judgeship in the Cook County Circuit Court, a position he held until his retirement. However, he was not really done. He continued to serve as a mediator and arbitrator and a court-appointed guardian for the rights of minors and disabled adults in the Cook County Circuit Court.

Why do we call special attention to Don’s life when there are many among the college’s 16,000-plus graduates with similarly distinguished résumés of public service? We do so because his life, as an example of countless others, reflects on what has made and continues to make Beloit College special. Don was attracted to Beloit by his uncle, Warner Mills, who served as professor of government for 31 years. Warner Mills instilled in Don and other government majors the importance of using their knowledge and skill for the good of society. Countless other Beloit faculty then and now have worked to instill the same sense of social and civic responsibility in all Beloit graduates regardless of their major or career direction.

In a world now seemingly focused more on individual rights and less on the public welfare, Don showed us that a life committed to the public good can be a life filled with meaning and accomplishment. Don’s career outlook was formed at Beloit College, and so it is gratifying that the college continues to mold the lives of graduates for the public good. It is a goal of which all Beloiters can be proud.

— Paul Bauman, John Black, Jack Gumbrecht, Jim Haedike, John Langknecht, Larry Thomas, and John Tibensky, class of 1968.


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