Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs



True North: The First Campaign for Northern Illinois University

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News Release

Contact: Joe King, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-4299

May 16, 2007

NIU announces capital campaign: ‘True North’

DeKalb — The NIU Foundation has set a course for True North.

That is the theme of the university’s first-ever capital campaign, which kicked off with a gala dinner Saturday, May 5. Four hundred and seventy-five of NIU’s most loyal and influential supporters were on hand to help the university begin the public phase of a campaign to raise $150 million by 2010.

“True North is a value and a direction. It’s a celebration of everything NIU stands for – its core values of initiative, hard-work and access,” said NIU President John Peters. “It’s also about an appetite for opportunity, and above all, an abiding belief that focus, generosity and dedication can make the world a better place.”

The event launched the latest, and final, phase of a campaign that has been quietly in the works for nearly seven years – if raising $107 million can be called quiet.

Some of the gifts that comprise the total to date have transformed the landscape of campus, making possible buildings such as Barsema Hall, the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Academic and Athletic Performance Center and the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center.

Several recent gifts were announced at the kick-off:

  • Ray and Patricia Smerge, with a pledge of $2 million, created a named, endowed dean’s chair for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 
  • Rich Ryan endowed a chair in violin with a pledge that made it possible to bring the Avalon Quartet to NIU as teachers and performers.
  • John and Nancy Castle created an irrevocable charitable remainder trust with a $1 million endowment commitment that will provide both scholarship and academic program support.
  • Michael and Louise McSweeney named NIU as an irrevocable beneficiary in a trust valued at more than $1 million to provide scholarships and program support, and to create an endowed professorship in marketing in the College of Business.
  • An anonymous multi-year $1 million commitment to fund scholarships for business students, create a named professorship in accountancy and provide other support to the College of Business.

Those five leadership gifts set the tone for the final phase of the campaign, which will focus on building the university’s endowment to provide scholarships for students and to support faculty and academic programs, athletics and the university’s libraries.

“Building our endowment will help NIU support the national and international experts and teachers whose work with students will change lives and the world. It will help NIU determine its own future by strengthening the academic core of the university,” said Mallory M. Simpson, president of the NIU Foundation.

Building the endowment also helps the university live up to its commitment to making an excellent education affordable.

“Many of our students are the first in their families to attend college; some work full-time in addition to their coursework; some put themselves through school one class at a time,” Peters said. “Endowed scholarships keep them in school and help us keep NIU accessible to all students with the capacity to achieve and the willingness to work hard.”

That opportunity to change lives is one of the reasons that Dennis Barsema agreed to team with John Castle to co-chair the final phase of the campaign.

“At the end of the day, why are we here if not to make a difference? I challenge you. I challenge each and every one of us to leave our fingerprint on NIU,” Barsema said to those gathered at the kick-off event. “Now is our time. Now is our time to make a difference in the life of a student who one day could change the world.

“NIU needs our help. It’s a public institution that will not thrive unless it gets major private support. You have to exploit the power of our reach. We have to exploit the power of our reach, and when we do, we will be amazed.”

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