Contact: Joe King, Office of Public Affairs
October 18, 2003
DEKALB — Officials from Northern Illinois University and the NIU Alumni Association announced plans today to construct a $6.2 million Alumni and Visitors Center.
Drawings unveiled before the homecoming football game against Western Michigan call for a two-and-a-half story, 37,000-square-foot building of brick, stone, glass and steel to be built on the southwest corner of Annie Glidden Road and Stadium Drive. The property is currently occupied by a 1,200-square-foot single-family home that was converted into offices for the NIU Alumni Association. That building will be demolished.
The Alumni and Visitors Center will include a faculty library, state-of-the-art meeting and conference facilities and office space for the NIU Alumni Association, the NIU Student Alumni Association and other university departments. Its centerpiece will be the Great Hall featuring plaques, displays and exhibits highlighting the history of NIU and the accomplishments of the university’s alumni.
Depending upon the success of fundraising efforts, groundbreaking for the building could take place as early as Spring 2004, with an opening 12 to 14 months later.
“We want the Alumni and Visitors Center to become a reality soon,” said Bob Fioretti, a 1978 graduate of the NIU College of Law who is president of the NIU Alumni Association. “It’s time for Northern graduates to step forward and let everyone know what a great university we are, and this building will help us make that statement.”
NIU President John Peters said the project is one that should excite the entire university community.
“This building will be a symbol for the excellence of NIU,” Peters said. “It will be a central gathering point for our alumni, a place where they can reconnect with the university. It will also be a stepping off point for new students where they can get a sense of what it means to be part of the NIU family.”
The building will be privately financed through the cooperative efforts of the NIU Alumni Association and the NIU Foundation.
Slightly more than half of the construction cost has already been pledged, with gifts totaling nearly $3.6 million. Of that amount, Dennis and Stacey Barsema have made a naming gift commitment of $2.5 million and the NIU Alumni Association has pledged $500,000 to the project. John and Nancy Castle and other alumni and friends of the university have made additional leadership commitments. There has also been a generous bequest from the estate of an anonymous donor.
Dennis Barsema and Nancy Castle have committed to leading the campaign to raise the remainder of the money needed for the building. Completing the project, they say, is a matter of pride.
“This will create a wonderful front gate for the university, a focal point for the pride that all NIU alumni feel,” Castle said. Castle earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in psychology from NIU and now works as a professor in the Communicative Disorders Program.
“It will be a place where anyone coming to campus can learn about all that we have accomplished — the type of honors we have earned, the discoveries that are being made here and the success that our alumni are experiencing. We are a first-class university, and I think this project will help drive home that realization for anyone who walks through the doors,” Castle said.
It was that opportunity to update the image of the university that appealed to the Barsemas. The couple previously made the largest gift ever to NIU to build a facility for the College of Business.
“When Stacey and I reconnected with NIU three years ago, we said that we planned to become active, involved supporters of the university for many years,” Dennis Barsema said. “This project appealed to us because it will enhance the reputation of NIU and help attract top-flight students to what we truly believe is an outstanding public university.
“In researching projects at other universities, I heard again and again that centers like these have helped other schools reconnect with their alumni and raise their profiles – I have no doubt this center will succeed similarly,” Barsema added.
Provost Ivan Legg said he has seen such results first-hand during his tenure at Auburn University.
“In the long term, this building will generate more support for the university. It will add a quality of awe and respectability that no other facility on campus provides,” Legg said. “The richness of our campus is conveyed by its physical presence, and this beautiful building will stand as a tangible symbol of NIU as a quality institution of higher learning.”
Fioretti agreed with Legg’s appraisal and said that he and others are anxious to see the facility completed.
“Our dream, when we began contemplating this project several years ago, was to create a building that would celebrate the accomplishments of our alumni and introduce our future alumni to that tradition. I think this building will accomplish that goal quite nicely,” Fioretti said.