Pritzker names Athas and Gayles to NIU Board of Trustees

April 30, 2019

DeKalb, lll. – Gov. J.B. Pritzker has appointed a pair of accomplished Northern Illinois University alumni, Rita Athas and Montel Gayles, to the institution’s Board of Trustees.

Athas, who earned a master’s in public administration from NIU in 1978, has a resume filled with service to the region. She served as president of World Business Chicago for six years, was vice president of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and served as Mayor Richard M. Daley’s deputy chief of staff for external affairs for 10 years. She currently serves as a senior adviser to World Business Chicago and sits on the NIU Alumni Association Board of Directors. Athas’ term as an NIU trustee expires in January 2023

Gayles (’83 Communications Studies) also has a long history of public service, including in the roles of chief procurement officer for the City of Chicago, executive director of the Public Building Commission of Chicago and chief of staff at the Chicago Housing Authority. An attorney, Gayles also spent time as an assistant Cook County state’s attorney and ran his own law firm. He currently is the vice president of Business Development and Construction Management at Electrical Resource Management, and also sits on the NIU Foundation Board of Directors. ;Gayles’ term as an NIU trustee expires in 2025.

The two will replace Wheeler Coleman, who stepped down from the board in December, and Tim Struthers.

Struthers, who joined the board in 2015, brought an important local perspective to the university as well as a strong financial background. Both served the university well, said NIU Board Chair Dennis Barsema, praising Struthers’ work to strengthen and modernize the university’s financial reporting processes.

Coleman served on the board for seven years, including two years as board chair. He was a strong advocate for students throughout his tenure and was a steady leader through the university’s recent transition in leadership. , Barsema said,

“Both Tim and Wheeler provided tremendous business insight and strong leadership throughout their time on the board,” Barsema said. “I’d like to thank them for their dedication and service to NIU and the State of Illinois.

Pritzker also extended the appointment of Trustee Bob Pritchard through January 2023 and reappointed Trustees Veronica Herrero and John Butler to terms that will extend through January 2025. Board Chair Barsema and Vice Chair Eric Wasowicz will continue serving their terms which expire in January 2023.


Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. ;Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 courses of study while serving a diverse and international student body of about 17,000.

Media Contact: Joe King, NIU Institutional Communications
Phone: 815-753-4299

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