Campus community honor President Peters at informal reception

By Logan Love

As NIU President John Peters nears retirement, faculty, students and staff gathered to talk about his legacy and wish him well.

An informal reception was held to celebrate Peters after the University Council meeting on Wednesday in the Holmes Student Center University Suite. Peters will officially step down on June 30.

Alan Rosenbaum, University Council executive secretary, said it will be a change of pace for the Peters.

“I think it’s a well-deserved retirement,” Rosenbaum said. “I think eventually everybody retires, and I think that he made a lot of very positive changes at NIU. I think the university developed in a lot of ways while he was here. I feel that he’s been an excellent president for us and I wish him well.”

Rosenbaum expressed caution about trying to distill a 13-year presidency down to one or a few major accomplishments.

“I think people have to sort of not think of this simplistically,” Rosenbaum said. “When you talk about a legacy its almost like one thing, whereas a president does many things. Like any other president he has his strengths and he has his weaknesses, but he’s done a number of excellent things for NIU. Foremost among them is certainly the way he led us through the crisis [of] the February 14 tragedy. He really was a very important person to have and was really important to students and faculty alike during that time.”

Student Association President Delonte LeFlore also talked about Peters’ legacy, which he said includes keeping the university together following the Feb. 14, 2008, shootings and being an advocate for higher education.

“I think it’s an extraordinary legacy that he leaves behind, because he challenged the university to think differently,” LeFlore said. “He has been there in the roughest time for the university and helped navigate and kept the meaning of being a Huskie alive.

“He’s a big advocate of higher education and that’s been shown through his constant work and his various leadership roles in the state. Whether it’s dealing with pension [reform], funding for higher education or legislation, he’s been actively involved with that.”

Special Events Director Ellen Andersen worked with Peters during his tenure.

“I’m sad, sad to see him go, but he deserves it,” Anderson said. “It’s time for him to enjoy his retirement, but I’m going miss him. I think he’s done an amazing job moving the university forward, and I’ve been here 18 years.”

Anderson said a lot has changed during the last 13 years, and Peters had brought the university forward. He said he was excited for incoming NIU President Doug Baker to continue that movement and to form his own vision.

During Peters’ tenure the face of NIU changed with the construction and renovations of numerous buildings on campus, Rosenbaum said. He pointed out Peters’ ability to raise funds for the university.

“He’s been a great spokesperson for NIU,” Rosenbaum said. “He’s clearly a huge fan, very devoted and loves the school. He’s a strong proponent of public education and of the mission of NIU, which is to bring education to people who may have never had an education before or come from families who have not went to college before. He has been influential in building the endowment of the university. He has raised more money than any president prior to him: He raised $200 million in his 13 years. The prior 10 years we had maybe $37 million total.”

LeFlore said Peters never wavered in his commitment to shared governance and he always made time for the students. LeFlore said he was able to see a side of Peters most students didn’t as SA president.

”I’ve had the privilege to work with him this year on a closer basis and you can tell the passion that he has for this institution and for students,” LeFlore said. “But you also can tell he’s tired and you can also tell he’s moved NIU to a level as far as he can. I think as a university and the DeKalb community we all are ready for and excited for that new adventure of President Baker coming over and changing things and the momentum that is something new and fresh and you never know what to expect. If I could sum up how I feel about President Peters retirement, I’m sad, I’m happy and I’m excited.”