From the Courtroom to the Classroom: Professor Tom LaFountain
“Sometimes you want something and you get it, and it really isn’t what you wanted, but I’m really doing something that I love,” says Tom LaFountain, J.D.
LaFountain serves as assistant professor of criminal justice at Bethel College, but his path here includes a wide array of experiences. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at University of Michigan, always intending to pursue a career in education.
“I originally planned to get my teaching certificate, teach high school, and coach sports,” he says. “And that was going to be my life.”
During his junior year of college, LaFountain chose instead to apply to law school. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the Valparaiso School of Law and practiced law for 17 years as a public defender, in his own law practice and as a deputy prosecutor before he began teaching at Bethel.
“Sometimes you don’t know what path God’s laid out for you until you look back,” he says. “But now it makes sense.”
After 17 years of practicing law, LaFountain was considering making a change. Over several months, God led him to Bethel.
“It’s a fulfillment of what I really wanted to do way back when I was an undergrad,” he says. “And now it’s finally come around.”
LaFountain especially enjoys teaching Bethel’s Criminal Law course.
“I can give them all sorts of wild examples,” he says. “I can just make up these situations off the top of my head, and that’s really one of the fun parts about that class.”
LaFountain says that one such example he presented was the “flammable cat” and whether a person could be held responsible if his or her cat catches fire and then lights a house on fire.
In addition to his involvement here at Bethel, LaFountain was elected in 2007 to serve on the South Bend city council.
“I thought it was a good way to serve the community,” he says, “so I got involved.”
During his four-year term, LaFountain also chaired the Personnel and Finance Committee, guiding the council through difficult decisions during the economic recession in 2009. Though he did not seek reelection in 2011, he was commended by the council for his credible leadership and service to the community.
“I really have been blessed as far as what I’ve been able to do with my life,” says LaFountain.
Currently, LaFountain teaches all classes in the criminal justice program.
“Right now, I’m doing what I love to do,” LaFountain says. “I’m energized when I teach. I love talking to students, I love answering questions, and I can’t imagine having any more fun doing anything else.”