When Dawn came home to Northwestern Law School two decades ago, I had the great privilege and pleasure of being her neighbor. Our offices are down the hall and around the bend from each other—two floors above this auditorium.
While some people have a cup of coffee when they arrive at their office to get them going in the morning, I had my daily dose of Dawn—a far better alternative. Around 9 o’clock each day, the elevator door outside my office opened and Dawn stuck her head in my open door to say good morning. That greeting lasted anywhere from two minutes to a half hour, with the topics ranging from politics, to Law School gossip, to her beloved White Sox, of course. I was careful never to mention the Cubs. That would have been a sure conversation stopper.
By the time she left my office, I was ready to face the day. No caffeine, just Dawn!
Then there were the frequent shared cab rides to fundraising luncheons and dinners for the many non-profit organizations with which she was involved. During one of those rides I screwed up my courage and raised a subject that had been on my mind for quite a while. I suggested that there ought to be a biography of her. Almost before I got the words out of my mouth, Dawn responded in her characteristically blunt manner: “That’s the dumbest idea I have ever heard.”
At first, I was a bit offended; but then I thought to myself that Dawn had spent the previous decades hanging out with politicians. If I had really come up with the dumbest idea she had ever heard, that was quite an accomplishment!
Two things stood out for me about going with Dawn to those fundraising events. Both speak volumes about her.
First, at each hotel where an event took place, the doorman, the servers, and other staff all knew Dawn and greeted her enthusiastically. It was absolutely predictable. I think that she connected with them so well because they understood that as different as she was from them, she cared about them.
The other thing that was completely predictable was that it took Dawn at least 20 minutes to a half hour to leave the dining room after the proceedings had concluded. Dawn did not work the room. The room worked her. One after another, attendees came over to have a conversation with her. They were paying homage to an extraordinary person.
The first couple of times it happened, I was caught by surprise. After that, I realized that I better not make any appointments for quite awhile after any of these events if I wanted to share a cab with Dawn back to school.
The last time I saw Dawn—a short visit at her house—I told her how much I missed our conversations in my office and our cab rides back and forth to those fundraisers. The last thing she said to me was that she and I had to keep in touch. I could not have been more honored than to have her say that.
Dawn, I miss you every day.
— Len Rubinowitz