NIU names Doug Baker new president

By Kelly Bauer and Jessi Haish & Robert Baird

Doug Baker has been named NIU’s new president.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve Baker’s appointment at a meeting today. There was no discussion. Baker said he wanted NIU to have student-focused excellence, research excellence and financial excellence under his tenure. He said it is an honor to work at the university.

“NIU’s big enough to matter, but small enough to care about the students that it serves,” Baker said.

Baker said NIU has its greatest days ahead. Cherilyn Murer, Board of Trustees chair, said Baker would bring NIU to “different heights and different directions, and we see this as extremely positive.”

“His enthusiasm and the enthusiasm of his wife, Dr. [Dana] Stover, I think is perfect for this university at this time,” Murer said.

Baker said he knows NIU has faced obstacles. He said NIU must emphasize a campus culture where there’s ethically inspired leadership at every level; he said he would not let the university be distracted by its challenges.

Baker also said NIU needs to develop a stable financial model that does not rely on state funding, though he addressed Rep. Bob Pritchard and said he was “still looking for you to help us.”

“So what I’m looking for Mr. Baker to bring to us is an increased level to help with the funding of our academic and research programs so they can continue to grow and contribute to the economy,” Pritchard said. “The challenge is going to be doing that with continued shrinking state resources. We’re in such deep financial problems that people are forgetting the role that education plays. He could add his voice to our state discussion about what our priorities are.”

Baker has been the provost and executive vice president of the University of Idaho since 2005. According to the University of Idaho’s website, Baker is “fully engaged in active strategic planning and implementation…and is interested in developing work across organizational units for greater effectiveness.”

“[Baker’s] a great listener,” said Chris Murray, University of Idaho vice president of advancement. “He’s a strong, thoughtful and passionate leader. He’s a genuine person. He’s going to do a great job for [NIU].”

The names of NIU presidential candidates were kept confidential throughout the search. Today’s announcement came a week after trustees met with four finalists off-campus.

During the Board of Trustees meeting, Murer addressed critics of the search process. She said candidates’ anonymity helped protect their jobs.

“For those of you who were more critical of the process, please understand that we tried to reach an equitable balance,” Murer said.

Baker thanked President John Peters and his wife, Barbara, for their contributions to the university. Peters was not present at the Board of Trustees meeting or a post-meeting reception because he was at an Illinois Board of Higher Education meeting.

Peters officially steps down June 30 and the new president is expected to begin July 1. Peters announced he would step down on Oct. 11; he started at NIU in 2000.