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Published: Friday, 4/22/2005

Dean of law school later elected Hardin County judge

ADA, Ohio - Eugene N. Hanson, former dean of the law school at Ohio Northern University and a former Hardin County judge, died Monday in the home of his daughter in Oakmont, Pa., of what the family believes was a respiratory disease. He was 87.

Mr. Hanson was named dean of the law school in 1958, serving until 1973. He remained on the faculty until 1984.

Mr. Hanson was elected judge in 1982 of what was then called Hardin County Court. He served six years.

During his tenure as dean, Mr. Hanson saw enrollment at the law school double, leading university trustees to construct a new facility in 1973 to house the program.

The law school's annex was named in his honor.

Mr. Hanson also instituted a student exchange program with law students from Iceland, an arrangement that continues today.

"He was an inspiration to everybody," said Albert Baillis, a retired member of the law school faculty. "In the case of Gene Hanson, he would be what you would call the beloved faculty member."

Mr. Hanson joined the faculty in 1947 as a professor after completing his law degree at the University of Wisconsin, and for years taught ethics and tort law.

"He just immensely enjoyed seeing the students learn, and learn to love the law as he did to open up this new avenue for them," his daughter Jennifer Wilhelm said.

Mr. Hanson occasionally handled estate matters for faculty members and townspeople at no charge, and encouraged others at the law school to do the same, Mr. Baillis said.

Born in Iola, Wis., he contracted polio at the age of 8, which caused some paralysis and lung damage. During recuperation and bed rest, he read voraciously.

"One summer he read an entire set of encyclopedias," his daughter said. "He had such a mind for learning."

After graduation, he completed undergraduate degree studies in Iowa and taught mathematics for about a year before deciding to go to law school.

Shortly after joining the faculty of Ohio Northern, he met his future wife, Katie Lou, who was taking education courses.

It was a disaster that forged their relationship. She was a house mother at a university residence destroyed by fire.

"She got all the women out, but all her clothes and her dissertation were destroyed," Ms. Wilhelm said. "He offered to take her to Lima to buy clothes, and that's how they met."

Her mother later completed her dissertation.

They were married in 1950. She died in 1991.

Surviving are his daughters, Louise Gossard and Jennifer Wilhelm; sister, Phyllis Knutson; two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

There will be no visitation. Memorial services will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday in St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Ada. Arrangements by the Burket-Truby Funeral Home Inc., Oakmont, Pa.

The family suggests tributes to the Dean Eugene N. Hanson Scholarship Fund at Ohio Northern University.



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