Personal Giving Stories

Criminalist Honors Mentor with Bequest

Photo of Dr. John DeHaanDr. John DeHaan has tested theories his whole life. A self-defined science fair nerd, he was a “Mr. Wizard” fan as a kid who tried to split atoms in his parents’ basement. He’s since become a renowned criminalist and fire investigator whose proven theories have pivoted police cases and changed the courses of many lives. But it’s Joseph D. Nicol, DeHaan’s mentor and namesake of his bequest to UIC, who changed the course of his life.

“Joe was a forward thinker who led by example,” says DeHaan, who studied under Nicol while attending UIC. “He was blunt and cynical but improved fire investigation by relying on testing to challenge a number of theories on which the practice was based.”

Nicol supported and guided DeHaan while at UIC and through his early career. DeHaan has since authored the industry’s benchmark textbook on fire and arson investigation, started his own company through which he offers expertise and, most recently, given back to UIC in honor of his mentor.

DeHaan’s contribution will create the Joseph D. Nicol Professorship in Forensic Science. He hopes this will solidify a world-class educational program for aspiring criminalists, in turn strengthening the criminal justice system. He believes well-trained criminalists can accurately analyze physical evidence to balance out human error in determining who is responsible for crimes.

“This professorship boosts our already-competitive program’s visibility in the profession, supports our recruitment of outstanding faculty and students and helps us place alumni,” says Dr. Robert Gaensslen, head of the forensic science program in the College of Pharmacy. “We are thrilled by Dr. DeHaan’s bequest.”

Criminalistics attracted not only the scientist in DeHaan, but also the part of him that wanted to have a positive impact on his world. His bequest to UIC is one example, among the many throughout his impressive career, of doing just that.

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