In September of 1895, NIU founders used a lead pencil to formally break ground on construction of a new university in DeKalb, Illinois. The following month, more than 20,000 people showed up to watch a crane slowly lower the cornerstone in place for what would become Altgeld Hall.
In January 2020, NIU began the celebration of its 125th anniversary. It was intended to be a year-long celebration that featured special events, history projects, music and fine arts, service projects and more. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, several of the events had to be postponed. As a result, the celebration will continue in 2021!