Legally blind, Purdue Calumet Whiting student looks forward to career in family law

Allen Pennington understands what it takes to persevere and overcome difficulties.

Despite being legally blind his entire life, the 39-year-old Whiting resident is within two classes of earning a Purdue baccalaureate degree in sociology at Purdue University Calumet. He expects to complete that coursework early this summer—and just in time, too!

Having relied on transportation to and from campus via the Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority (RBA), he faces the prospect of being unable to ride the bus after June 30, when RBA funding expires.

Beyond that, he looks forward to enrolling in law school this fall. He will attend at virtually no cost, thanks to a full ride fellowship he has been offered as a result of good grades at Purdue Calumet and a strong LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) score.

Allen Pennington

His plan is to specialize in family law and public interest issues, because, as he puts it, “There’s so much inequality in society. I want to be able to help families who can’t help themselves.”

Successfully, Pennington, a single father of three children, has been able to fight the good fight of helping himself, but it’s come at a price.

“I’ve spent over $50,000 fighting the legal system for dad’s rights,” he said. “There are so many dads who don’t get represented the right way. That’s why I want to go into family law.”

Practicing family law is a far cry from the production manager job he formerly held with a Chicago company that sold steel wing nuts. But when the company closed, Pennington decided to build on the associate degree he previously earned elsewhere and enroll at Purdue Calumet in 2010.

During his two years at the Hammond campus, Purdue Calumet’s Office of Disability Resources has provided him alternative format textbooks. He also has appreciated the academic instruction he has received, which, he said, has enabled him to build a solid academic foundation for a career in law.

“My professors have been so diverse in providing me different perspectives,” Pennington said. “That and the diversity of curriculum really helped prepare me for the LSAT.”

Assistant Professor of Sociology Kathryn Sweeney calls Pennington “one of the top five students I have taught at Purdue Calumet because of his dedication, competence and investment in his education and goals, the level of which I have rarely encountered.”

His commitment to success and helping others extends beyond the classroom, as he has served as a lifelong advocate of the Salvation Army. “When I was a kid, my family was extremely involved,” he said. “I guess you could say I grew up in the Salvation Army.”

He also finds time to be involved in the activities of his children—ages, 16, 14 and 10. Last summer, he managed his middle child’s Hammond 13-year-old Babe Ruth League baseball all-star team to fifth place in the state tournament.

“I really want to get involved with society,” he said. “I just want to make a difference, and the best way to do that in the legal profession is through legislation.”