Professor Emeritus Daniel Wit strongly and positively influenced the development of the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences since its early days.
During his eight years as Head of the newly formed Department of Political Science, from 1961-1969, he developed and organized the undergraduate and graduate curricula into five key areas of specialization: American government and public law, public administration, political theory and philosophy, international relations, and comparative politics. He subsequently founded its pre-professional graduate program in public administration; designed, secured approval for, and established the Department’s doctoral program in political science; and secured funding to launch the Center for Governmental Studies.
Equally importantly, he built the Department’s faculty, recruiting over 40 new faculty members, including senior persons to lead each of the five divisions. His appointments included two persons who went on to become university presidents, one whose writings were quoted in case decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, two who became internationally respected experts in Southeast Asian studies, an internationally respected American political philosopher, and a public administration specialist who was elected as a fellow of the Congressionally established National Academy of Public Administration.
Dan also moved quickly in those early years to establish distinctive specialty programs within the political science curriculum. Building on his experience in Thailand, he teamed with the Head of the Department of History, Norman Parmer, who had experience in Malaysia, in securing contracts from the U.S. government to train Peace Corps volunteers for service in Southeast Asian nations. The contracts became the basis for the establishment of the College’s interdisciplinary Center for Southeast Asian Studies. By the late 1970s, the Center was labeled, by an external team reviewing the University’s accreditation status, as the foremost center for Southeast Asian studies in the western hemisphere.
In 1969, Dan was appointed the first Director of the University’s International Programs. That office was later transformed under his leadership into the Division of International and Special Programs, and his administrative titled was elevated to Dean. His work in this capacity, until his retirement in 1992, significantly enriched the College’s academic programs and earned NIU national recognition as one of the nation’s top ten universities in international study and programming.