NIU Alumni Association The Northern Illinois University Alumni Association helps build lifelong relationships with NIU alumni and friends. Fri, 30 Sep 2016 21:15:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Baker Report: Shaping Our Future Fri, 30 Sep 2016 21:15:32 +0000 NIU President Doug Baker discusses strategies NIU is using to get back on a growth trajectory.

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baker-dougAmong the topics I addressed at our university town hall meeting last week was enrollment; specifically, what we are doing to stem the reduction of our student population and put us back on a growth trajectory after a 5.5 percent decline this fall. I noted that while some of the issues facing us involve the uncertainty parents and students feel about the future of higher education in the State of Illinois, there are other things that are in our control.

One is ensuring that we are providing our students with unparalleled academic and engaged learning opportunities. Provost Lisa Freeman spoke directly to that, describing our NIU Plus approach to general education, a nationally recognized model that we believe will be very compelling to prospective traditional freshman recruits. We are already working aggressively to raise visibility of NIU Plus with current students, as well as integrating it into conversations our recruiters have at high schools across the state.

So, our Academic Affairs people have provided us with a great program to attract new freshmen. Meanwhile, we know we need to intensify our efforts, not only with our traditional base of freshman students, but with other categories of students, including transfer students, non-traditional students and international students. For each of these segments, we have task forces working on plans to help us get sharper, more focused and more aggressive in our recruitment effort.

Among the things we are already doing is developing ways to more efficiently and effectively link financial aid to student need; intensifying our existing partnerships with community colleges with plans to be on-site at up to six of these colleges by the end of the year; reaching out to the business community to develop relationships that could lead to additional adult learners; and adopting a more unified approach to branding and advertising to drive awareness and interest in NIU.

While we are confident that our effort to expand enrollment will bear fruit, that may take time. And meanwhile, we continue to face an uncertain financial picture in the State of Illinois. As a result, while we’ve cut $45 million out of our operating expenses in three years, we see a need to cut another $20 million during this fiscal year and increase focus on revenue-generating opportunities.

That said, I have asked the Senior Cabinet to provide me with recommended scenarios for cutting five and 10 percent of Division operating budgets to get us to a goal of $20 million. These are to be strategic, long-term cuts designed to ensure our core mission is strong and that the university is financially sustainable. Reductions will not happen across the board, but rather will be tailored to the unique goals and objectives of each unit. I am working with CFO Al Phillips to review the Division recommendations, which will lead to a review by the Executive Budget Committee. We expect to have an action plan ready to roll out in the next six to eight weeks, and we will communicate this plan promptly when it is finalized.

In the coming weeks we’ll keep you informed with status updates. We will also be working to educate the university and community on NIU’s revised Freedom of Expression policy which takes effect this Saturday. The new policy and related procedures are the result of many months of collaboration throughout our university community with the intention and commitment of ensuring that all students, faculty and staff have the broad latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn.

Together Forward,


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Brilliant’s CEO Pays It Forward With Scholarships Fri, 30 Sep 2016 20:07:56 +0000 Brilliant’s CEO and NIU alumnus Jim Wong gives back to the accountancy program by awarding student scholarships.

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brilliant-niu-scholarships_2016_1Brilliant™, an award-winning search, staffing and management resources firm specializing in accounting, finance and information technology, has awarded Brilliant Financial Search scholarships to two NIU accountancy students.

Michael Krueger and David Ribordy, both upper-level accountancy majors at NIU, were selected as recipients of the annual scholarship award and received $2,000 each for this academic year.

“I am thrilled and honored to receive the 2016 Brilliant Financial Search accountancy scholarship. I’m very happy to represent such a well-respected company who shares my passion to be best in their respective class in the recruitment industry,” Krueger said.

“Being selected to receive the Brilliant Financial Search scholarship has provided me with more than just financial support,” Ribordy said. “The scholarship has allowed me to focus more attention on schoolwork, as it reduces the stress that arises from the cost of education. Receiving the scholarship is also a recognition of my dedication to hard work and the potential I possess. I’m grateful for this opportunity and the commitment Brilliant is showing to my future success.”

The scholarships were presented recently at the Beta Alpha Psi/Accountancy Alumni Awards Banquet in the NIU Holmes Student Center.

“It’s a privilege to award these individuals with resources to support their accountancy studies,” NIU alumnus and Brilliant’s CEO Jim Wong said. “Twenty-five years ago, I received the same award from the NIU accountancy program. I’m happy to give back to the school who helped me by paying it forward to these deserving students.”

The scholarship recipients are selected by an NIU accountancy awards committee based on academic criteria.

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Thomas Rhett to Bring Country to NIU Convo Thu, 29 Sep 2016 15:57:01 +0000 Thomas Rhett, with Kelsea Ballerini, Russell Dickerson and Ryan Hurd, will appear at the NIU Convo on March 3!

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thomas-rhett_albumThomas Rhett will be onstage at the NIU Convocation Center with special guest Kelsea Ballerini and up-and-coming performers Russell Dickerson and Ryan Hurd on Friday, March 3. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at the Convo box office, and all Ticketmaster outlets.

Rhett was recently chosen as one of five of CMT’s Artists of the Year. The singer/songwriter sparks “an ushering in of Country’s future,” according to Rolling Stone.

He dominates the Nielsen 2016 Mid-Year List with “Tangled Up,” which is ranked as one of the top five country albums and includes the chart toppers “Die a Happy Man,” “Crash and Burn” and “T-Shirt.” “Die a Happy Man” was recently the most streamed song overall with more than 80 million streams, was chosen as Top Country Song during the 2016 Billboard Music Awards and was selected as the Single Record of the Year by ACM and ACCA.


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Diversity Dialogues Wed, 28 Sep 2016 19:34:14 +0000 On Sept. 29, the play "Defamation" will allow the audience to become the jury.

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The fall series of Diversity Dialogues kicks off with the play “Defamation” at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium of the Holmes Student Center.

The play explores the highly charged issues of race, religion, gender, class and the law with a twist – the audience is the jury. The premise is a civil suit: A South Side African American woman sues a Jewish North Shore real estate developer for defamation. The legal issue is whether or not she was falsely accused of stealing his watch and whether she suffered financial harm. Through deliberations and post-show discussions, the audience engages in civil discourse that challenges preconceived notions and ultimately delivers the verdict.

The Diversity Dialogues series was launched earlier this year to provide a space for members of the university community to talk openly and honestly about complex and important matters.

The series is sponsored by the College of Law, College of Visual and Performing Arts, First- and Second-Year Experience, Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Student Involvement & Leadership Development. Students can get credit for the Business Passport Program or Honors Engaged.

For more information, visit

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Career Fair: How to Get Hired Wed, 28 Sep 2016 18:30:39 +0000 Come back to NIU to prepare for a job interview or attend the Oct. 19 Job Fair.

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job fair_webEven though you’ve graduated, NIU always has its doors open to help you find a job. In addition to job fairs, Career Services offers a list of potential employers, interview resources, practice interview sessions, resume assistance and a preparation workshop.

Before the Fair

Learn how to make the most of a job fair and find out how to prepare your elevator speech at the Career Fair & Internship Prep Workshop, which will be held 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the Campus Life Building, Room 100.

internship fair_webCheck out the list of employers at and then you can begin researching the companies you’re interested in.

Find interview resources at

You can also download the Careers by Symplicity app and select “NIU’s Huskies Get Hired” as your school to stay in touch with Career Services.

At the Job Fair

The Full-Time Job Fair will be held 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, at the NIU Convocation Center. Here are some tips to prepare:

  • Arrive early to make a good impression while employers are still fresh and in attendance.
  • Bring several resumes, a calendar to track interview dates, a notepad and a folder for company information.
  • When you arrive, you’ll receive an employer guide. Use this guide and the Careers by Symplicity app to prioritize and map out employer locations. Visit high-priority employers after you start feeling comfortable and confident in your approach. Don’t spend all your time standing in one long line.
  • Be assertive, courteous and confident when you approach employers. Recruiters want to meet you. Remember to smile and insert your elevator speech into the conversation.
  • Ask questions about the position, the training and the company. Don’t ask about salary.
  • Request business cards from recruiters. Send thank-you emails when you get home.
  • Write a few notes about key topics after talking with recruiters.
  • Need help? Find a Career Services staff member for on-the-spot coaching.

After the Fair  

Continue to search available jobs and connect with employers by uploading your resume and updating your profile at

Career fairs for engineering, retail, IT and STEM professions are also on the fall calendar. Visit or call 815-753-1641 to learn more.

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NIU Is Where the Heart Is Tue, 27 Sep 2016 17:18:35 +0000 NIU has been a part of the Landgrafs' lives for more than 40 years.

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Landgraf_NIUFor more than four decades, Northern Illinois University has influenced the lives of John and Anne Siepka Landgraf.

It was not only the backdrop for the educational foundation that set the stage for long, impactful careers. It is a place full of memories, the place where a friendship evolved into marriage. And it is where their service and commitment pays it forward for current students.

Anne, ’73, knew she wanted to teach. After attending a summer program at NIU between her junior and senior years in high school, she was sold.

“That sealed the deal,” she says. “This is where I wanted to be.”

John, ’74, M.S. ’75, who at one time wanted to be a doctor, embraced his love of science and majored in biology.

“College is like a renaissance,” he says. “I learned so much.”

He credits his professors with fueling his interest in science and imparting knowledge that he used during his professional career at Abbott Laboratories.

“Dr. Starzak, Dr. Lynch, Dr. Grosslags, and Dr. Zar were all fantastic professors,” he says. “They made learning fun. I used so much of what they taught me at Abbott over the years.”

Anne majored in history and minored in biology – a move that would prove beneficial later in life.

“I always loved history,” she says. “The best advice I ever received from the education department was to get a strong minor since history teachers are a dime a dozen.”

Her science background helped her land her first teaching job at St. Joseph School in East Aurora and her third position in Libertyville. She was fortunate to obtain employment following John’s moves in his career.

“I applied to be a substitute teacher and they told me that they needed a science teacher,” Anne says. “I was hired on the spot and went home with textbooks.”

Campus Romance

Aside from classes, their worlds revolved around hanging out with friends, playing cards, campus activities, and the residence halls where they lived. Anne lived in Douglas Hall and John lived in Grant North.

Anne fondly remembers activities at the student union, some of which she planned as a member of the university center activity board. John remembers watching foreign films with subtitles on Saturday nights in the Reavis lecture hall and attending football games.

“We weren’t winning back then,” he adds.

While he admits to not being “a big sports guy,” John did learn how to play handball. Initially it was to meet his physical education requirement, but he went on to play handball for the next five years.

John and Anne didn’t connect right away – in fact, it took three years. John was a friend of Anne’s brother Rick, who also lived in Grant North. The two would see each other in passing, but it wasn’t until Anne returned to NIU after graduation to take an earth science class that sparks flew. The two started dating in October, were engaged in January, and married in July.

“Everything happened in nine months,” Anne chuckles.

Forty-two years, three children, and six grandchildren later, the union can best be described as the perfect combination of right brain and left brain.

“Anne is the writer,” John says. “I’m the science, math, and finance guy.”

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from NIU, John began work at Inolex Corporation. After two years he joined Abbott Laboratories.

Meanwhile, Anne embarked on a career in the classroom, teaching at three schools and serving as a junior high substitute teacher for fifteen years.

“I taught both history and science at my first two positions,” Anne says.

John often assisted with the science projects Anne used in the classroom, such as doing throat cultures, swabbing objects and hands to look at bacteria, and looking at slides using a microscope.

“We called it science in a box,” John says.

Anne eased back on teaching to devote more time to family, and John retired from Abbott in 2015, after thirty-eight years with the Fortune 500 company. John retired as executive vice president and ran Abbott’s global nutritional division, the largest business at the company. The same year, he received distinguished alumni awards from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the NIU Alumni Association.

Landgraf_Alaska- recent tripGiving Back

The duo haven’t slowed down, devoting their time to family, traveling, and working on projects that interest them. Their commitment to philanthropy is deeply rooted in their childhoods in modest blue-collar neighborhoods.

“I was brought up with the expectation that if you were blessed, you gave back,” John says.

Their shared philosophy, together with the value they place on education, has served as a compass for their efforts.

“We focus our efforts on education and medical science,” Anne says.

John has served on the NIU Foundation Board and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council, in addition to making time to meet with students and present to classes. He was instrumental in developing a relationship between NIU and Abbott, which employs about 500 NIU alumni.

The couple established an endowed fund to support student engagement in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This endowment was the cornerstone for the Student Engagement Fund, a collaborative project between the college and the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning.

John served as a member of the Independent Takata Corporation Quality Assurance Panel, reviewing and assessing policies, practices, procedures, structure, and personnel of the Takata Corporation to ensure the quality and safety of the company’s airbags. The airbags are the target of the largest recall in U.S. history, affecting an estimated 32 million vehicles.

“I’ve traveled to Japan, Mexico, and the United States to see facilities and provide recommendations,” John says, adding that only a few members of the panel have a scientific background. The panel’s report was published in February. John has stayed on to help Takata with the implementation of the panel’s recommendations.

Anne served on the school board for Community High School District 128 for a decade. It was in that role that she experienced the power of philanthropy. Tax dollars can only go so far, and there was interest in how to support learning experiences and instructional needs that don’t always make it into a budget.

“People want to donate directly to a local school,” Anne recalls. “We established the District 128 Foundation for Learning in 2006 to fill that need.”

The foundation served as a catalyst for alumni, community members, and interested companies to identify and fund myriad projects.

“A lot of the projects were technology-based, but some of our funded opportunities involved getting students to learn collaboratively,” Anne explains.

Anne went on to serve on the foundation’s board for six years. It has awarded more than $200,000 in grants since inception to support teachers and their instructional needs.

“It was impressive to see the impact the dollars made,” Anne says.

John has his own pet projects, serving on the boards of the Northeast Illinois Council – Boy Scouts of America and the Mailisita Foundation and Education Center, which serves the educational needs of the orphan population in Tanzania.

Landgraf-FavoriteFamily Time

Travel is a love of the Landgrafs – and a bit of a challenge. John’s work at Abbott took him around the world, visiting more than fifty countries.

“We’re trying to find countries that John hasn’t been to,” Anne says, chuckling.

“The only continent I haven’t visited is Antarctica – and I am working to convince Anne to come with me on a trip in 2017,” John says. “As a businessman, you see a lot of sites, but you don’t have the opportunity to enjoy it. I’m looking forward to going back to places I’ve been previously.”

Family has remained a top priority, and the couple often travels with their children and grandchildren.

“The excursions are called ‘Dad-Pays’ vacations,” John says. “We set a date and location. Then it comes down to who is available to travel.”

“Each of the kids are expected to plan the trip’s activities,” Anne adds. The arrangement, which John learned about from another executive two decades ago, has led to trips to Disney World, cruising the Mediterranean and Baltic seas, enjoying the rich history of San Antonio, and recently enjoying the splendor and beauty of Alaska.

“It’s a tradition we are committed to continuing,” Anne says. “We want to show our grandchildren more of the United States and the rest of the world.”

“Curiosity about the world has been passed on from us to our kids and now our grandchildren,” John says. “We are blessed.”


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A Legacy of Education Tue, 27 Sep 2016 17:13:21 +0000 Long after her death, an alumna's legacy lives on in training other teachers.

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It was a sleepy spring day on campus when education major Siobhan Murphy, ’09, wrote one of the most important letters of her life. She thought of new beginnings as she sat down to write.

“I’d like to thank you for your generosity,” she began. “Without your gift I wouldn’t be at NIU today.”

As her pen rolled across the slick, bright white surface of her notecard, the grateful nineteen-year-old expressed her vision for the future.

“Once I graduate, I plan to teach first grade and inspire young children to go to college.”

She had no way of knowing it then, but as she wrote that letter, Murphy joined dozens of NIU students who had written similar letters of gratitude to a family whose generosity helped keep them at NIU – students like Piotr Wojciaczak, ’12.

“Paying for college was hard,” recalls Wojciaczak, now a middle-school teacher at Pulaski International School of Chicago. “I was often discouraged along the way. I had loans and I would worry about not being able to find a job,” he remembers. “Scholarships let me focus on what I could achieve rather than whether or not I would be able to come back the following semester.”

Murphy and Wojciaczak are among twenty- six students who have received a Eunice B. Schwemm Scholarship over the past seventeen years — an award created in memory of a woman who made the most of her opportunities and whose legacy at NIU is to provide even greater opportunities for future students.

Education: A Launching Pad for a Better Life

Eunice Schwemm

Eunice Schwemm

It was the early 1920s when Eunice Schwemm, ’23, enrolled at Northern Illinois State Normal School to earn a certificate in teaching. Warren G. Harding was president, and women had only recently won the right to vote.

Even as valedictorian of her class at Barrington High School, Eunice’s avenues for professional study were limited. Women of her time generally became nurses, secretaries, or teachers.

She may not have had many doors open to her, but Northern’s door was open wide. Resolute in her desire to become a teacher, Eunice walked right through that door and flourished as a college student.

After graduation, she landed a job in the Oak Park public school system, where she taught for several years before marrying Earl Schwemm in 1928 and returning to her hometown, Barrington, to raise a family.

Although she set aside her lesson plans and grade books, Eunice always remained a teacher at heart. Earl made a good living selling insurance for the Great-West Life Assurance Company, while she channeled her passion for education into her roles as homemaker and mother. The couple raised three sons: Jack, Dick, and Bob.

“My parents lived the American Dream,” says Bob Schwemm. “They did better than their parents and worked to provide an even better life for us. That’s why I’ve made plans through my trust to remember NIU and contribute to this family legacy.”

“In an unspoken way, my parents taught us that education was the launching pad to a better life,” he adds.

Both Earl and Eunice were active civic leaders supporting local schools, libraries, various “head start” programs, and equal housing rights. Bob recalls growing up in a home filled with creative energy and appreciation for the arts. His mother loved to play the piano and was good enough in high school to play background music for the silent movies playing at the local theater. Eunice often arranged family field trips to museums, parks, and cultural events and asked her sons to reflect on the experiences in their journals.

“I enjoyed the destinations, but I thought writing about them was pure torture,” Bob laughs.

The Schwemms also had a strong sense of social justice. “They both respected people who worked hard and believed that those with advantage should spread it around,” says Bob. “As a teacher, my mother always had a soft spot for kids who were trying.”

Eunice passed on her love of teaching to her sons. Bob is the Ashland-Spears Distinguished Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, where he has taught constitutional law and civil rights since 1975. Dick, a retired IBM executive, teaches adult education courses on the U.S. Constitution, physics, and other topics in New London, New Hampshire.

Creating Eunice’s Legacy
When Eunice passed away in 1999, she left a bequest to NIU that provides opportunities for students like Murphy and Wojciaczak. When son Jack, a Chicago- area corporate executive, died in 2011, he too left funds for the family endowment.

Bob says his mother would be happy knowing she was opening doors for others. “I think she was always slightly frustrated that she didn’t have more options herself,” he adds.

Eunice’s values live on in her scholarship recipients. The ideal candidate for an award hails from the Chicago metropolitan area and plans to teach in high-need inner-city schools.

Scholarships like the Schwemm endowment meet a growing need at NIU. Last year, 84 percent of students required some form of financial aid, and only 24 percent of them received scholarship support. Once they come to NIU, scholarships keep great students in school – in fact, nine out of ten NIU Foundation scholarship recipients graduate.

“We are sold in what we are doing at Northern because it’s meaningful to others and we know that’s what our mother would have wanted,” says Bob. “She believed that if you give people a chance, they will flower.”

“I’m honored someone believed in me and knew I would be a good teacher,” says Wojciaczak as he prepares for his incoming classes of six-, seventh-, and eighth-graders. “I want to teach my students to dream big and gain an understanding of themselves and what they want to achieve – all of which are lessons that receiving a scholarship helped teach me.”


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Carrying on the Legacy Tue, 27 Sep 2016 17:07:22 +0000 Alumna honors her NIU experience by making it possible for future Huskies to obtain an education.

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RosenOver the years, students in Richard Johannesen’s Contemporary Speakers and Speeches course had learned to expect the unexpected.

A gifted orator himself, Johannesen was known not only for the depth of his knowledge, but also for the passion with which he imparted it.

While legend has it that the popular professor would leap atop his desk to emphasize a key point, the class period that former student Marianne Rosen remembers best began with his feet squarely on the ground and his finger on a “play” button.

It was the fall of 1980 when Rosen’s classroom came alive with the voice of the young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he vividly described his dream to the nation. As she listened, Rosen’s own dream began to take shape.

“I felt the power in King’s words. I was mesmerized by the sound of his voice and that words could change lives so deeply and forever,” she recalls.

As the speech ended, the observant senior noticed her professor wipe a tear from his eye.

“From that moment, I knew I wanted to study rhetoric and public address, teach communication, and pass on the knowledge Dr. Johannesen had imparted all semester,” she says.

That realization—and the life of meaning and purpose that it inspired—led Marianne and her husband, Leonard, to create a scholarship endowment for current students in communication studies.

“Our hope is that each year we give a student the opportunity to get the life-changing education that we know Northern will provide,” Marianne says. “We want to relieve some of the financial pressure so that students can relax and absorb all that the discipline has to offer.”

For Marianne, the discipline offered a great deal. Recently retired from a successful thirty-four-year teaching career herself, the names of her professors at NIU roll off her tongue like the names of good friends who never left her side.

She speaks fondly of Dr. Barbara Bate, who taught her about gender and communication; Dr. M. Jack Parker, who helped her master the art of argumentation and fostered her love of coaching debate; and Drs. Charles Tucker and Art Doederlein, from whom she learned communication and film theory, respectively.

Along with Professor Richard Johannesen, Marianne cites Dr. Lois Self, who introduced her to the study of rhetoric of social movements, as particularly influential.

“They taught me the key roles that enthusiasm, kindness, support, and friendship play in our classrooms,” she says.

Those lessons stayed with Marianne throughout her career. Marianne began teaching in 1984, first as a faculty assistant at the University of Wisconsin and Edgewood College in Madison and later as an assistant professor at Herzing College in Wisconsin. In 2007, she began teaching speech and debate at a private high school in southern California and earned the Diamond Coach Award from the National Speech and Debate Association. The team placed first in its league and sixth in the state, and in 2014 a team member won the national championship in the impromptu category.

Thirty years passed between graduation and the day Marianne came back to visit campus.

“Watson Hall felt so familiar, and Dr. Self was as brilliant and articulate as ever,” she says. “I was thrilled to think of the students who have experienced her classes throughout the years.”

The Rosens will provide life-changing experiences for future generations through full-tuition scholarships for students during their time at NIU. Candidates will demonstrate their commitment to social justice with an essay about how the scholarship would help them become engaged citizens and work on behalf of the disenfranchised.

“Because Northern gave me direction, my hope is that this endowment will help other students find theirs,” she says.

Each day for the past thirty-four years, before she began class, Marianne would pause to thank her mentors for introducing her to the field.

“I kept a copy of Dr. Johannesen’s book, Contemporary American Speeches, in my office where I could see it and hoped I was carrying on his legacy in a way that would make him proud,” she says.

To learn more about how you can leave a legacy at NIU, click here or call 815-753-1386.


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Ready, STEM, Go! Tue, 27 Sep 2016 16:14:06 +0000 NIU’s popular STEMfest will amaze and inform thousands of visitors Saturday, Oct. 8.

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stemfest-2-centerpieceFor the seventh consecutive year, NIU’s popular STEMfest will amaze and inform thousands of visitors of all ages at the NIU Convocation Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8.

This free family-friendly festival, attended by nearly 7,500 people last year, showcases the fascinating power of the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) through hundreds of hands-on activities, including cow eyeball dissection, fun-fly sticks and a telescope station.

More than 200 exhibitors, including NIU STEM departments, student groups, regional corporations, museums and national laboratories, will offer learning games, interactive demonstrations, informative talks and even art projects, all designed to draw visitors into exploring STEM concepts and careers. As always, scouting groups and children will have plenty of opportunities to earn STEMfest patches by completing fun worksheets.

This year for the first time, STEMfest visitors can observe how 3D printers are used to bring ideas to life. This exciting new option is made possible by Dremel 3D, which donated two printers to NIU’S STEM Outreach program earlier this year.

stem_web2“The look on kids’ faces as they watch a design materialize right before their eyes is truly amazing,” says STEM educator Pettee Guerrero. “The pure excitement of that moment motivates them to dive deeper into the STEM world.”

Other new additions include a “superconducting levitation” display, made possible by a grant from the DeKalb County Community Foundation; soldering stations set up by 2Dkits, where students can create their own STEMFest pins; a virtual reality experience created by Zspace; and BLOCK Fest® for young children and their parents.

Throughout the day, the STEMfest stage will host special presentations, including a reading from “The Toy and the Tide Pool,” the second book in the STEM-themed Stuffed Bunny Science series, written by Gillian King-Cargile of NIU’s P-20 Center. This adventure story introduces young readers to ocean animals, biodiversity and earth system science.

Several of this year’s exhibits will be recurring STEMfest favorites, such as the Laser Lab, the Haunted Physics Lab and the STEM Read Book Fair. The Midwest Museum of Natural History will once again showcase its bone and fossil collection and creepy-crawly petting zoo. Argonne National Laboratory, NASA and Paradise Robotics will also host exhibits. Usborne Books will sell a large selection of STEM-themed books for young readers, with a portion of the proceeds supporting STEM Read’s year-round community programs.

STEMfest sponsors include the DeKalb County Community Foundation, 3M, ComEd, Nicor, Ideal Industries, Traditional Medicinals, Dremel 3D, AptarGroup and Ecolab. Media partners include Haunted Illinois and B95 WDKB-FM.

Free parking will be available.

This day of community learning, hosted by NIU STEAM Works, would not be possible without the hundreds of students, faculty and teacher volunteers who work with visitors to inspire today’s students to become tomorrow’s STEM innovators. For more information, contact Pettee Guerrero at 815-753-0533 or

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Forever ROTC: Classmates Reunite Mon, 26 Sep 2016 16:20:03 +0000 1986 NIU ROTC classmates returned to campus for a 30-year reunion.

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From left, John Watwood of Huntsville, Ala., Al Schroeder of Kenosha, Wis., Nick Sikora of Oswego, Ill., Eileen Holcomb of Denver, Colo., Kim Mihalik of Corpus Christi, Texas, Doris Box of Atlanta, Ga., and Keith Willis of Philadelphia, Pa.

The NIU campus is both bigger and smaller than Eileen Holcomb remembers.

Holcomb,’86, and about a dozen of her 1986 ROTC classmates gathered in DeKalb over the weekend of Sept. 24, and all remarked on the many buildings constructed over the last 30 years. But Holcomb said she remembers the campus feeling much bigger.

Al Schroeder,’86, and John Watwood,’87, remembered working out at the Chick Evans Fieldhouse before the Campus Recreation Center was built. As they gathered at Huskie Stadium for a Saturday morning run, the friends recalled running laps around the stadium as students.

“I remember it always being so cold,” Holcomb said.

“I remember running in shorts in the snow, but I actually don’t remember being cold,” countered Kim Mihalik, ’86.

For many of the classmates, the reunion was their first time back to campus since graduation, but no matter where they were, they were rarely far from reminders of NIU.

“I ran into people all over Europe,” said Schroeder, who retired from active military duty last May. “I think a lot of school [ROTC programs] don’t put as many kids in active duty as we did. It was interesting to travel all over the world and run into people you went to school with.”

Several of the alumni said the lessons instilled in them through ROTC reverberated throughout their military and civilian careers.

“Everybody in our class did pretty well for themselves,” Schroeder said. “Instructors would say things to us that were irritating at the time; then later I would find myself saying the same things to my employees.”

Watwood, who retired last year as a lieutenant colonel, said the sense of service instilled by ROTC was one reason why he returned to the military after eight years in a civilian career. Nicholas Sikora, ’86, now chief of police in the village of Elburn, Illinois, said his experience in ROTC laid the groundwork for many of the skills he would need in law enforcement.

“We all seem to be something of a leader in our fields,” said Holcomb, a registered nurse. “We’re the people others look to in order to make things happen. We learned a lot of good stuff here at Northern.”



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