Manfred Thullen, former executive director of International Programs at NIU, died Saturday, March 29, in Surprise, Arizona. He was 70.
He had suffered a massive stroke weeks earlier.
Thullen led the university’s Division of International Programs from 1993 to 2002, when he retired. He played a large role in more firmly establishing the division by consolidating study abroad programs, advocating for internationalization of the curriculum and creating a strategic plan for international efforts throughout the university.
“Manfred was a strong and widely respected leader who brought significant changes to the Division of International Programs during his nine years as executive director and who worked tirelessly for the greater internationalization of this campus,” said Deborah Pierce, current associate provost of the division.
Thullen himself was a citizen of the world.
Born in Quito, Ecuador, to German parents, he grew up trilingual and multicultural in Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Canada and Switzerland. He studied at the University of Muenster, Germany, and then came to the United States, where he obtained advanced degrees from the University of Louisiana, Baton Rouge. In 1965 he became a U.S. citizen.
“Manfred was passionate about international education,” said Anne Seitzinger, director of the Study Abroad Office. She described Thullen as her mentor and a respected leader. “He was a positive and soft-spoken man who was nonetheless adept at getting his point across.”
Thullen’s career in academia spanned more than three decades. Prior to coming to NIU, he spent 24 years at Michigan State University, where he served in the Department of Resource Development, as well in the Dean's Office of International Studies and Programs. He also served as a faculty member at North Carolina State University.
“Manfred brought to NIU a tremendous amount of experience in international education,” Seitzinger said. “He saw the need for students to have an academic experience abroad and understood the long-term benefits. He put into place procedures to make the program stronger, and he built up the number of faculty-directed study abroad programs.”
Thullen also was active in the Association of International Education Administrators and served for a number of years on the organization’s executive committee. For many years, he also consulted with the Centro Marista de Estudios Superiores University in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, developing and implementing a service-learning plan across the curriculum.
Upon retirement, Thullen and his wife of 47 years, Dot Thullen, also an NIU retiree, relocated to Henderson, Nev., and then moved to Surprise, Ariz. They remained in touch with NIU and just this past year had established a study abroad scholarship.
In addition to his wife, survivors include daughter Christina Thullen, son Matthew Thullen, daughter-in-law Janet Thullen and granddaughters Hannah and Emma Thullen.
A private memorial service will be held Saturday, April 12, in Surprise.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: The Manfred & Dot Thullen Study Abroad Scholarship; Study Abroad Office; c/o Anne Seitzinger; Williston Hall 417; Northern Illinois University; DeKalb, IL, 60115.