Community members applaud Peters amid news he is stepping down


NIU President John G. Peters greets people after his State of the University Speech in front of Altgeld Hall Thursday afternoon.

By Felix Sarver and Joe Palmer & Kelly Bauer

NIU President John Peters has announced he will step down.

Peters, who was appointed in 2000, has served NIU for over a decade and has seen the university through glory and hardships: he worked to obtain a $4.2 million federal grant for NIU’s Physics Department; has worked with the state government to fix the SURS pension program NIU faculty and staff uses; saw the community through the Feb. 14, 2008, shootings; and, in recent years, has combated declining total enrollment.

“…This is the time…this is the time for me to pass the torch to another who will carry out the noble mission of this great university,” Peters said during his State of the University speech.

He will officially step down on June 30.

Community Reaction

Peters’ plans drew strong emotions from various members of the NIU and DeKalb communities; the announcement itself received a standing ovation.

State Senator Christine Johnson (R), who worked with Peters on various issues related to NIU, said he was “always excellent to work with.”

“He was always honest and forthright with the General Assembly about what was going on at NIU,” Johnson said.

Others said they believed NIU had done well under Peters. DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen said he believes the success of the university in recent years are a credit to Peters’ leadership.

Larry Bolles, former director of community standards and student conduct, worked with Peters for several years. Bolles said he is looking forward to meeting the next president and believes Peters was good at meeting the needs of the campus.

“Peters did a great job of leading this campus during challenging times in the state of Illinois,” Bolles said.

Austin Quick, Student Association Senate speaker, said the day Peters departs will be a sad one for NIU.

“As they say, all good things have to come to an end,” Quick said. “In order for this university to be sustainable we have to continue to bring in fresh leadership and fresh ideas.”


Peters, NIU’s 11th chief executive officer, was unanimously voted in to replace former NIU President John La Tourette by the Board of Trustees in March 2000.

Peters was viewed as a strong fundraising candidate while going through the NIU presidential search process. In a March 24, 2000, Northern Star article, Andy Small, DeKalb 1st Ward alderman, said Peters would come to NIU “with a lot of background [in] bringing cash back home.”

Peters had plans to deliver on those hopes, as well. During an open forum that was part of the hiring process, Peters said “as president, you have to set high goals and be an agent for change,” according to a March 6, 2000, Northern Star article.

NIU did see various changes under Peters, and, in recent years, many of those changes have fallen under the Vision 2020 initiative. NIU has seen the construction of the New Residence Hall Complex, the remodeling of Gilbert Hall and an increasingly large Honors Program, among other things. At his State of the University speech, Peters said NIU has also put more than $10 million toward merit scholarships for incoming and current students.

However, Peters does not intend to rest on his laurels as he waits to step down.

“I have eight months left on the job and I intend to make every day count,” he said.

Moving Forward

Peters’ final day will be June 30. He said he looks forward to helping the Board of Trustees find a new president for NIU.

Peters said he believes a search committee to find his replacement will be in place by November. Marc Strauss, Board of Trustees member, said he was grateful for Peters’ service and is sorry to see him go.

“At the same time also excited for the future,” Strauss said. “We will have a thorough search and I’m certain we’ll wind up with somebody great.”

After stepping down, Peters said he will write, teach and consult. He will also continue working with NIU.

“I cannot express in words my love for this university,” he said during Thursday’s State of the University speech.