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Because Hamiltonians Make Reparations: Don Shonn ’67


Don Shonn ’67
Don Shonn ’67

Retirement is a relative term for attorney Don Shonn ’67. He spent 25 years in private practice, including work in Surrogate’s Court with a focus on estate and elder law. He also served as village attorney and trustee for his hometown of Akron in western New York, and before that worked for 20 years at an environmental law firm.

Shonn now takes on pro bono work with a legal help desk dealing with property ownership and estate disputes in Surrogate’s Court and serves on a four-person panel for medical decision making such as end-of-life issues for those unable to speak for themselves.

“As I began the slow and winding road toward retirement, I came to understand that the work of lawyers in medical decisions for the disabled or providing assistance in Surrogate’s Court matters is a form of reparations,” Shonn says. “My volunteer work is a micro program to help those who have been marginalized often.”

After graduating from Hamilton, Shonn began law school at the University of Buffalo but switched to teaching and spent four years in the Air Force, including a tour in Vietnam.

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“I call our class year a diaspora,” he says. “Without deferments, our lives changed in different directions.” He eventually returned to law school, graduating in 1975.

Shonn also serves Hamilton as class president and on the Alumni Council.

“I have always participated in volunteer programs,” Shonn says of his current change of direction. “My work is a form of giving back to the community.”

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