Pres. appoints Mellard chairman

By Tom Omiatek

As one of the first stages in defining NIU’s athletic direction, NIU President John LaTourette appointed English Professor James Mellard as internal self-study committee chairman.

Mellard was chairman of the English department from 1978 to 1984 and was acting dean of NIU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from 1984 to 1985. As a faculty member he received several grants including a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Mellard’s athletic experience comes from his college years when he played basketball for Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. When he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1960, he received an award as the graduating athlete with the highest scholastic average.

Mellard was asked to direct the internal committee which, in cooperation with an external committee, will conduct a review of NIU’s athletic program. The self study was ordered by LaTourette at the beginning of the semester to clearly define the direction of the university’s athletics as an independent.

“Jim (Mellard) is well qualified to direct the internal review because of his broad university perspective,” LaTourette said.

Mellard said, “I talked with the president and he inquired about my interest in acting as chair. In a way I’m surprised. I’ve seen the reports and the list of people chosen to be on (the committee).”

“I don’t know as much (about NIU’s athletic program) as I would like to, but I have an appreciation for the program,” he said.

Executive Secretary to the University Council Jim Giles said that the president’s choice makes sense. “In two ways Jim (Mellard) is a good choice. He has a lot of administration experience, and he also has played basketball in college.”

Giles said Mellard always has been interested in the athletic program. Giles helped LaTourette choose the chairman by limiting the list of possible candidates to only the best qualified applicants.

Mellard said the first committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for the end of next week. He said the exact time depends on the schedule of LaTourette, who plans to attend the meeting.

“The first meeting will be to get ourselves organized. We will make decisions on how to proceed,” Mellard said. He said the committee will decide if they should assign different groups to focus on particular areas of athletics.

Men’s Athletic Director Robert Brigham and Women’s Athletic Director Susie Pembroke-Jones will not be members of the committee but will act as resource persons.

“With a committee like this you have to have points of contact,” Mellard said. “They (the athletic directors) have to be those points of contact.”

Mellard said the review is necessary for the changes that NIU has undergone in athletics.

“It’s a tough job to go from the second level of intercollegiate athletics to the top level,” said Mellard. “We have to find out how difficult it is for an institution like Northern to achieve this level of success.”