Lewis Collens Honored with Order of Lincoln

  • By Kayla Molander

Lewis Collens, professor emeritus at Chicago-Kent College of Law and president emeritus of Illinois Institute of Technology, is one of the 2024 recipients of the Order of Lincoln, Illinois’ highest civilian honor for professional achievement and public service.

The Order of Lincoln was established in 1964 and honors Illinois residents whose work uplifts every community in the state.

In a news release announcing the honorees, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker recognized Collens as “a highly respected and recognized leader in higher education.”

Collens joined the faculty at Chicago-Kent in 1970, and became dean four years later in 1974. Under his leadership, Chicago-Kent flourished into a highly regarded law school with renowned faculty.

During Collens’s 16-year tenure leading Chicago-Kent, the school pioneered many programs that still define it to this day. In 1978 the school created its revolutionary three-year legal writing and research program, the first in the country. It also established the only fee-generating law school clinic in the country. Moreover, in 1984 Chicago-Kent became the first law school to make the computer an integral part of its legal studies.

“The contributions that Lew Collens made to this fine institution cannot be overstated,” says Chicago-Kent Dean Anita K. Krug. “He established the law school as a world-class, future-focused institution.”

In 1990 Collens left his role as dean to become president of Illinois Institute of Technology, where he served until he stepped down in 2007. During his tenure, he brought Illinois Tech into financial solvency and established a team-based, multidisciplinary curriculum. His project-based learning approach still forms the foundation for Illinois Tech’s academic programs.

Collens, along with fellow Chicago-Kent professor Richard J. Conviser, also co-founded BARBRI, a bar review company that helps prepare law students to pass the bar, especially those who lack financial resources.

Collens received his law degree in 1966 from the University of Chicago, where he served on the University of Chicago Law Review and was elected to the Order of the Coif. He also holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois.

Now, Collens serves as a director of AMSTED Industries Incorporated, Dean Foods Company, Alion Science & Technology, the Colson Group, All Cell Technologies, the Chicago Council of Science & Technology, and the Civic Consulting Alliance. He also serves on the Advisory Committee of the Partnership for New Communities.

Photo: Lewis Collens speaks at Conviser Law Center dedication ceremony in September 2022

Related News