‘Sadly overdue’

In 1967, both NIU and Illinois State University were seeking new presidents. Although the legislature had created a new Board of Regents to govern the two institutions after July 1, 1967, the search was conducted by the Board of Governors of State Colleges and Universites. The new Board represented a compromise since NIU had been lobbying for a separate board for some time.

Thus, when Sam Braden assumed the presidency of ISU and I became NIU’s sixth president on Sept. 1, 1967, we were reporting to a brand new Board, the members of which had been appointed by the governor only after we, ourselves had been selected. Needless to say, we were both somewhat apprehensive.

When we learned the Board intended to name a central office executive, as provided by law, we argued strongly that this office should be established as a staff position to the Board, with the Board/executive relationships to be those between the Board and the respective presidents. Accordingly, the Board established the position of Executive Secretary of the Board of Regents, initially filled by Franklin Matsler. Throughout the four years of my presidency, and I believe the subsequent years of Dr. Matsler’s tenure, there never was any interference from the executive secretary between the Board and the university presidents in the latter’s representations of his institution’s interests.

Upon Dr. Matsler’s retirement, the position of executive secretary was converted to that of chancellor. The difference in titles is significant, as it was meant to be; while the one denotes a staff relationship, the other implies executive responsibility. From the point of view of NIU, that title change represented a grave mistake. The recent moves by Roderick Groves (a member of the NIU Political Science Department during my day) clearly illustrates why Sam Braden and I were so concerned about the vital nature of our relationship as presidents to the Board.

NIU almost secured a board of its own in 1965 and again in 1969. Now, more than 20 years later, such a development is sadly overdue. Failing to achieve that, the rules changes sought by my friend Rod Groves should be strongly resisted by the faculty and administration of a university whose true potential still lies ahead of it.

hoten Smith

Sixth president of NIU