Harris W. Fawell, Class of 1952
Longtime member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Harris Fawell spent nearly three decades combined as an Illinois State Senator and member of the U.S. House of Representatives. First elected as an Illinois State Senator in 1962, he served for 14 years, during which time he served as the chairman of the Senate Education Committee. He also successfully sponsored legislation to provide new housing for severely mentally disabled children in Illinois state facilities and supported legislation that enabled Illinois park districts to levy a special tax to fund recreation facilities for special needs children and adults. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1985 to 1998, he served on the Education and Labor Committee and the Science Committee and chaired the House Employer-Employee Relations subcommittee during the 104th and 105th sessions of Congress. He also co-chaired a bipartisan Congressional committee called “porkbusters” to control flagrant “earmark spending.” He was also known as a strong supporter of balancing the federal budget.
Before his election to Congress, Fawell practiced law in Naperville with the firm of Fawell, James and Brooks. Now retired, he serves on the Board of Trustees of North Central College and on the Executive Council of the Chicago Metropolis 2020 of Chicago.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
As a child I intended to be a professional baseball player, but that quickly faded away as I entered college.
Describe your career path. What steps did you take to get to where you are currently?
After graduation from Chicago-Kent I was appointed as an Assistant States Attorney in DuPage County. Although I never planned to run for public office, my early experience with the political system gave me encouragement to seek a role in government.
What was the greatest challenge you have faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
In the U.S. Congress I spearheaded an effort to increase available and affordable health care by allowing small businesses to pool together nationwide, thus achieving the economies of scale enjoyed by large corporations, in order to offer better health care plans to their employees. Though promising this legislation was met with much special interest opposition which could not be overcome.
What has been your greatest professional achievement?
I sponsored successful legislation in the Illinois State Senate which created special recreation park districts for special needs children and adults throughout the state. I am also proud to have been one of two Republican state senators to support badly needed and ultimately successful Open Housing legislation.
How would you persuade a potential student to attend Chicago-Kent?
By stressing Kent’s high standards and excellent reputation. I am proud that both my son-in-law and my grandson are now Kent graduates, are in the practice of law and are active in Kent alumni activities.
What does your future hold?
Hopefully, gaining wisdom and watching my grandchildren working toward their personal and professional goals.