By Mariana Vaca
From high-school football to the U.S. Army, seventh-generation Lake Forester Nick Athenson has been a leader.
Athenson grew up in the West Park neighborhood of Lake Forest, where his family has been raised since the 1850s. He describes his gratitude for Lake Forest’s “commitment to its uniqueness” that allowed the place to always feel like home.
Lake Forest High School graduate Nick Athenson, here with his family, is a seventh-generation Lake Forester.
After attending Sheridan Elementary School and Deer Path Middle School, he served as varsity football team captain at Lake Forest High School. There, he learned “what a successful leader can do.” There were about 50 players on the team, and he says he was able to “build character” as well as understand “how to conduct [himself] and work with the players.” He recalled that accepting your errors and taking accountability is crucial for collaboration.
He noted a high school senior year football memory when his co-captain, Jack Traynor, and Athenson brought the defense together and told them in a pep talk to play with the “best of our abilities, relying on the technique and training Coach Spagnoli and the coaching staff instilled into us over the hundreds of hours practice throughout the season.” They were playing Glenbard South and ended up winning.
One of his greatest accomplishments was making the 2012 semifinals against Cary Grove High School. Although the Scouts lost that game, his accomplishments in high school football allowed him to prepare for college football at Washington University in St. Louis, where his passion for teamwork never wavered.
Ultimately, Athenson decided to attend Loyola Law School in Chicago, where he passed the bar exam in July. He says the bar exam was his most challenging experience in his 25 years because there are “some days you feel like you don’t know anything,” but emphasizes that “sticking with plans and leaning on people when you need” is crucial in these difficult moments.
Since January, Athenson has been in training to become a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army. He is finishing his training at The Judge Advocate Legal Center and School (TJAGLCS), which functions as the U.S. Army’s law school. TJAGLCS sits on the University of Virginia campus.
Similar to the companionship he prioritized in his educational years, Athenson asserted that the camaraderie culture is what drew him to the Army. He acknowledged that the Army is a large organization and reasons that he works for something bigger than himself. He also understands that there is a "sense of duty and trust people have in you” both serving in the Army and being a lawyer that operates as an advocate for the lives of people.
Athenson was cheerfully surprised when he was placed at his first-choice Army base in Germany, where he will serve for three years. Athenson looks forward to traveling with his wife, Riley, out of the country. He expects to be among other attorneys and “like-minded” people that work on a variety of legal issues such as advising commanders and working in operational law. Athenson says that in another country, they expect him to be an “ambassador of the U.S.” and has a duty to the American people, which is “not something to be taken lightly.”