University Park, IL,
12:00 PM

Creating a Legacy of Education

It seems Governors State University (GSU) alumnus Nicholas Zeyadeh is doing it all.

A retired U.S. military intelligence officer, Zeyadeh has been a Cook County Sheriff’s lieutenant for two decades. For twice as long, he and his wife have been a community staple on Chicago’s South Side, investing in the area and selling real estate. And, in 2014, Zeyadeh took training to become certified as a concealed carry trainer.

Though a love for the community seems to drive the Jordanian native, he says an insatiable thirst for knowledge is the common denominator at the root of all his pursuits.

“You can never have enough education. From the day you are born until the time you die, you keep learning,” said Zeyadeh, part of an extended family of physicians, educators, and judges in the Kingdom of Jordan. Zeyadeh himself held degrees in business and civil engineering before he earned his Master of Arts in Political and Justice Studies at GSU in 2004.

Though Zeyadeh was well-educated when he arrived at GSU, his time here was most impactful, he said. In fact, his older son, Nasser, followed Zeyadeh to GSU and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration in May. Nasser studied business, but his passion is writing horror fiction and he has already published two books on Amazon. 

Next year, Zeyadeh’s youngest son plans to attend continuing a legacy Zeyadeh says he’s proud he created.

“I love Governors State,’’ he said. “The campus is small; the location is convenient. All the classrooms are close by. At other schools, kids are on buses to go from this building to that building. Everything here is centralized.”

Zeyadeh crossed the globe when he was 19 years old, seeking a better life in the U.S. He immediately enlisted in the army followed by an 18-year stint in the Reserve Forces. Zeyadeh’s fluency in multiple languages, including Arabic, made him a valuable asset and earned him a high security clearance during overseas deployment.

In 1999, Zeyadeh joined the Cook County Sheriff's Department. Just two years later, he'd grown restless and decided to pursue the top job —the Cook County Sheriff. He enrolled at GSU to learn how the American democratic process works. He said supportive professors such as College of Business Professor Anthony Andrews  helped him to appreciate the appeal of a highly engaging faculty on a small campus.

And, though he lost the election, the campaign and classes deepened Zeyadeh’s love for learning. Soon after Nasser’s graduation, Dad declared his next pursuit.

“I want that Ph.D. behind my name so I can teach. I want to develop these young kids,” said Zeyadeh, whose work with the External Operations Department of the Cook County Sheriff’s Offices allows him frequent interaction with troubled youth.

His area oversees prisoner transportation, the Canine Unit and Cook County jail outposts such as the Cook County Hospital where suspects receive medical treatment.

As a law enforcement officer, Zeyadeh has seen first-hand the pathway to prison and has an idea of how to disrupt it.

“I used to talk with a lot of kids who were locked up, and I found that 99 percent of them lack education. That’s a way to keep all these guys out of our system. The more education you have the better society you have.”