Northern Illinois University College of Law has named Ryan Dowd as its 2013 Outstanding Alumni of the Year. Dowd, who was honored during the NIU Alumni Association Awards program on April 19, was recognized for his commitment to public service.
"Ryan exemplifies both the devotion to excellence and the commitment to public service that defines NIU Law and its graduates," said NIU Law Dean Jennifer Rosato, who nominated Dowd for this award. "His professional achievements are an inspiring example of how a lawyer can use his or her gifts to serve a purpose higher than themselves."
"I am just really honored. NIU law school was incredibly important in my professional and personal development. It really nurtures individuals with a public interest law focus, which allowed me to take a non-traditional route with my law degree," said Ryan Dowd, who now serves as Executive Director of Hesed House in Aurora, the second largest homeless shelter in Illinois.
NIU College of Law and Hesed house recently announced a partnership to open a free legal clinic this fall at Hesed House, focusing on legal issues that may contribute to health problems in the area's indigent population. "It is really exciting to partner with NIU Law faculty and students to address some of the underlying causes of homelessness," said Dowd.
Upon graduation from the NIU College of Law in 2003 with a dual JD and MPA degree, Dowd accepted a position as associate director of Hesed House. He was named Executive Director in 2004, becoming only its second executive director. Dowd's longtime association with Hesed House began as a volunteer when he was 13 years old; he joined the staff during his undergraduate years at North Central College in Naperville.
Hesed House is the second largest shelter in the State of Illinois, and the largest shelter outside of the City of Chicago, serving more than 1.000 homeless individuals annually, and offering a full array of services. Under Dowd's leadership, Hesed House has focused on services that help end the cycle of homelessness, becoming one of only five organizations in Kane County to offer a comprehensive service center integrated into a shelter. Hesed House is assisted by nearly 6,000 volunteers, including NIU law students and alumni.
Dowd has also devoted his time to addressing human rights issues on an international level, working with churches -- primarily in Africa -- that are confronting governments that commit brutal human rights abuses.
The Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award caps off a distinguished roster of honors for Dowd from the NIU College of Law, including:
• Alumni Distinguished Service Award, 2008
• Clover Family Award (2003 graduate with the most volunteer hours)
• Diedrich Award (2003 graduate with greatest commitment to civil rights)
• Dickerson Award (2003 graduate with strongest commitment to public interest law)
Dowd's other honors include The American Society for Public Administration Outstanding Practitioner Award from NIU's MPA program in 2013, and the Alumni Recognition Award in 2001 from his alma mater North Central College, for excelling in his field in a leadership capacity.
As the only public law school in Northern Illinois, NIU College of Law has been named a top law school nationally for diversity, value, and careers in public interest/government service. NIU Law provides unique opportunities for its students, beginning with its highly accomplished faculty who are personally invested in the success of every student throughout their professional lives. Although many alumni serve as public interest attorneys, prosecutors, defenders, elected officials, and judges, they are equally prepared for careers as solo practitioners or lawyers in multinational firms.
For more information on NIU College of Law, view the website at www.niu.edu/law. To learn more about Ryan Dowd and Hesed House, visit http://www.hesedhouse.org/.