William Godwin, ’10, has made his home in Gary, Indiana, since his second year at the Law School. He now has a thriving real estate brokerage based there, serving residential and commercial clients in Chicago, northwest Indiana, and southwest Michigan. Last year he began a four-year term as a member of Gary’s legislative body, its Common Council. This year he was elected as the Council’s president.
“I first visited Gary because a Law School classmate invited friends there to campaign for Obama back in 2008, and then in the hallways between classes the following week everyone was raving about how beautiful the area was,” Godwin recalled. “I went out to see it for myself, and loved it so much that I moved there that summer. Gary has all the ingredients of a great place to live, with a diverse population, energized entrepreneurs, a pivotal geographic location, affordable property, and a spectacular Lake Michigan beachfront. I’m hoping my energy and experience will be helpful for leading the city forward.”
His energy seems boundless. In the year after he graduated from the Law School, for example, while working full time at a prestigious Chicago law firm, he also participated in a yearlong program for emerging leaders; started studies at a seminary where he would later earn a master’s degree; wrote and published a book, Blue America’s God: Reflections on Faith and the Future of Progressive Politics; and sold some homes with the Illinois realtor’s license that he had earned during the summer after his second year at the Law School. “I’m just not a person who can do only one thing at a time,” he observed.
Having quickly recognized that a law firm job was not for him, he began 2012 as an associate vice chancellor at the City Colleges of Chicago, responsible for workforce and economic development. “That was like three jobs in one,” he said. “There was a political side, since we were under Mayor Emmanuel and he was very interested in seeing results from what we were doing. There was the educational component, and then in my position there was ongoing interaction with businesses, trying to be sure that our graduates would meet their needs and expectations immediately and in the future. It was a great practical learning experience for me about working with multiple stakeholders to get things done.”
From 2015 to 2019, he took on new challenges supporting education-focused organizations—while he also expanded his real estate practice, assisted some legal clients, served for two years as board chairman of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce and for two years as a commissioner of the Gary Port Authority, and earned that master’s degree in religious studies, with a thesis examining the intersections of religion, law, and politics. He helped a new private school get started, worked in Springfield toward the successful passage of legislation providing tax credits for donations to scholarship programs, and served as the external affairs officer of Communities in Schools of Chicago, which partners with Chicago public schools to provide programs that enrich students’ lives and help keep them in school. He led the development and implementation of a multiyear stakeholder engagement plan to gain more recognition of Communities in Schools among high-profile “influencers” in civic, education, and governmental sectors.
“It’s very motivating to me to identify common interests among diverse groups and work together with them toward an important goal,” he said. “Gary’s potential is great if we can just pull together from our diverse perspectives and skills, and I’m excited to be part of a team of doers, innovators, and passionate neighbors to help that happen. The Law School offered great grounding in the fundamental skills needed for this kind of collaboration. Starting with Elements and right on through to the end, we learned how to examine legal and public policy issues—any issue, really—from multiple perspectives, and of course the overall culture of the Law School encouraged us to emphatically express our own views and ask tough questions while respecting where others were coming from. My Law School experience is continually valuable for me, in my public role, in my business, and as I relate to events in the broader world.”