Alumnus appointed to Board of Regents

By Dawn Panka

Northern family tradition dating back to 1902 and former political involvement in DeKalb influenced an NIU alumnus to accept a position as a member of the Board of Regents.

Joseph B. Ebbesen, a former DeKalb mayor, school board and City Council member was appointed recently to the Regents, following state action to establish two new seats on the Board. The board governs NIU, Illinois State University in Normal and Sangamon State University in Springfield.

The addition of alumni to the Regents from NIU and ISU was mandated under legislation, following near-unanimous passage last June. The new law also provides that an SSU alumnus will be appointed when a vacancy occurs.

Ebbesen and ISU representative Carl E. Kasten of Carlinville took the oath of office at the board meeting Jan. 24.

Ebbesen, 66, is a retired optometrist who has lived in DeKalb most of his life. After attending NIU, he completed requirements for a Doctor of Optometry degree in 1951 from the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago.

He continues to work as an optometric, real estate and governmental consultant.

Ebbesen said his becoming a Regent member stems from his deep interest in NIU.

“I’ve always had a deep interest in Northern as an institution; its past, present, and future,” Ebbesen said. “I hope my past experience with NIU will help make some sort of a contribution.”

As a state legislator, Ebbesen was influential in helping NIU to obtain a law school and also attempted to establish a separate governing board for NIU.

“Those were both two important issues that I felt would be in the best interest of the institution,” Ebbesen said. “At the time that the law school was brought up, the only law seats available were either at the University of Illinois or Southern Illinois University.

“Up in northern Illinois, where the concentration of the population is, there was no public university law school to attend. They were all private,” Ebbesen said.

The bill to gain a separate governing body for NIU obtained the House of Representatives’ approval but failed in the Senate. Ebbesen now plans to focus his attentions on the governance of the three regency institutions, not just NIU.

“I feel that it is my responsibility as a Board of Regents member to focus my attentions on all three of the Regent universities,” Ebbesen said.

“I am looking forward to making a contribution that will prove to be of some value to higher education, especially Northern,” Ebbesen said.

Ebbesen said his family ties to NIU were very influential in his interest for improving NIU. “My great-aunt was in the first graduating class from Northern, and my mother, my wife, my brother and my daughter also graduated from NIU.”