Gene Schoon (1977) came to ISU in 1975 after graduating from Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI) with a history major. His major thesis at Calvin was about Idlewild, a northern Michigan African American resort town that was founded in 1975. While at ISU, he worked closely with Professor Edward Spann, a noted scholar in the field of American urban history, and others in the department, including Professor William Giffin who is still on the faculty. Gene earned his ISU master’s degree in 1977 and along the way began studying nineteenth century American legal history. Learning about the development of American legal thought took him on what he thought was a detour in his academic career—law school. In the fall of 1977, Gene began law school at Valparaiso University School of Law, close to his hometown of Merrillville, Indiana. Upon earning his law degree (graduating first in his class), he worked for Judge Ruggero J. Aldisert, a nationally known author in the field of the judicial process and a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, a court that hears federal court appeals from courts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the U.S. Virgin Islands. No trips to the Caribbean followed, however, and instead he worked with the judge in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. With his eyes still on eventually getting back into academics, Gene joined the law firm of Sidley & Austin in Chicago in 1982 and 6 years later became a partner. Sidley is an international firm and now has over 2,000 lawyers worldwide. Thirty-six years after starting at Sidley, he is still thinking of getting back on track with his history degree. But for now, Gene is engaged in representing corporate clients and individuals in complex lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country and representing various clients on a pro bono basis. His history training was, he believes, an essential step in learning to be a lawyer. His ISU graduate work taught him the discipline of gathering the evidence, determining the theory, presenting the story with meticulous documentation, and then putting it into a persuasive written form. Just as important, he learned to cast a critical eye on the work of the opposition (and that of his colleagues), exposing the foundational and evidentiary flaws. He’s never lost a jury trial.
Gene lives in Oak Park, Illinois with his wife Faith, two Labrador retrievers and two cats. In his spare time he grows organic vegetables on his 80 acres in Berrien County Michigan while Faith reads books on the beach.