December 3, 2009
DeKalb, Ill. — The man who worked tirelessly for more than two decades to defend, enhance and expand doctoral studies at Northern Illinois University now has a key building on campus named in his honor.
The university’s Board of Trustees today voted to change the name of Faraday Hall West to John E. La Tourette Hall, named in honor of NIU’s 10th president. The change is effective immediately.
The 115,000-square-foot building, constructed during La Tourette’s tenure and located near the center of campus, houses state-of-the-art physics and chemistry laboratories, lecture halls, classrooms and offices.
La Tourette came to NIU in 1979 as provost and served as president from 1986 to 2000. During his tenure, he led NIU in establishing and developing four new Ph.D. programs—in geology and environmental geosciences, biological sciences, mathematical sciences and physics.
“Throughout his career on campus, John La Tourette championed the doctoral mission of Northern Illinois University and lobbied for the facilities to complement such a mission,” said NIU President John Peters. “The addition of Faraday West was a watershed event on our campus. It provided facilities that allowed us to greatly expand our teaching and research efforts. It is only fitting that the building, which President La Tourette fought so long and hard for, be named in his honor.”
Board of Trustees Chair Marc Strauss agreed.
“The legacy of John La Tourette is evident all across campus,” Strauss said. “So it’s entirely appropriate to have a building in the heart of our community named in his honor. In renaming this facility ‘John E. La Tourette Hall,’ we pay tribute to the university’s 10th president while also reaffirming the importance of graduate education and the pursuit of new knowledge at NIU.”
Faraday Hall West cost $27.7 million to build and first opened in the fall of 1995. It was dedicated the following spring in a ceremony attended by Gov. Jim Edgar, who noted the new facility cemented “NIU’s commitment to science in the cradle of Illinois’ high-tech corridor.”
Indeed, the establishment of Faraday West, which supplements science study space in the adjacent Faraday Hall (built in 1963), helped set the stage for NIU to win approval from the state for a Ph.D. program in physics in 1999.
La Tourette lobbied two decades for the physics Ph.D. In doing so, he cited the strength of NIU’s faculty in both physics and chemistry (which already had a doctoral program), its growing collaborations with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory and the essential role of the sciences in contributing to the vitality of the northern Illinois region.
After NIU’s own Board of Trustees was established in 1996, founding trustees including Myron Siegel, Bob Boey, Manny Sanchez and George Moser “carried the torch” for a physics Ph.D. to the Board of Higher Education and state legislature, La Tourette said.
“I'm honored that my name will be attached to a building on campus that represents high-level graduate study and research,” La Tourette said from his home in Prescott, Ariz.
“I was heavily involved in the planning and construction of Faraday West, and in a way the building represents my own career path, which focused on nurturing graduate education,” he said. “Even before coming to NIU, I introduced a doctoral program in economics at SUNY Binghamton and served as the head of graduate studies and research at Binghamton and Bowling Green State University.”
Today, the programs housed in NIU’s La Tourette Hall are thriving. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Department of Physics have about 60 graduate students each. Both programs have nurtured young and talented researchers and have been major suppliers to the high-tech workforce along the I-88 corridor and greater northern Illinois region.
La Tourette said the opening of Faraday West represented a highlight of his career—but it was one among many.
During his tenure, NIU also established the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, nurtured the growth of the College of Law, established three major off-campus education centers and secured funding for the restoration of historic Altgeld Hall and the construction of the Convocation Center. New buildings erected during his tenure included the Campus Life Building, the Engineering Building and the Campus Child Care Center.
“They were all struggles that required a great deal of persistence and very strong proposals,” La Tourette said.
A formal renaming ceremony for John E. La Tourette Hall is being planned for April 2010.
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Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs