Wasowicz to prioritize collaboration as Board of Trustees chairperson

By Elisa Reamer, News Editor

DeKALB As newly elected Board of Trustees Chairperson, Eric Wasowicz hopes to keep steering NIU in the right direction by having a strong management team, making sure all board members work together and continuing weekly meetings with NIU President Lisa Freeman. 

Wasowicz took over the position from Trustee Dennis Barsema when his term ended on June 17. Barsema served as chairperson since 2019. Wasowicz’s term ends Jan. 13, 2023. 

“The chair is where a lot of the main communications filter through me and then down through the rest of the board,” Wasowicz said. “Then determining if there’s some things that, you know, are coming up that we’re anticipating; maybe we need to then get that message out to the rest of the board or at least to the committees. It’s a lot more work and talking with more people in the public.”

Currently, Wasowicz is looking to change the Board of Trustees’ bylaws. He wants to rewrite them for everyone, especially so the board members of the future will be able to read and fully understand the bylaws. People don’t think about bylaws until they need them, Wasowicz said.

Wasowicz is happy to have such a strong management team on the Board of Trustees and believes that everything is moving in the right direction, Wasowicz said. 

His main goal as chairperson is to make sure the board is cohesive and all the members continue working together. In the past, board members didn’t agree with each other, which led to members not talking to each other. Wasowicz wants to avoid that while he is in charge, Wasowicz said

In 2009, he began going to NIU as extra help after Denise Schoenbachler, dean of the College of Business, led him to work at NIU. He then taught at the university from 2012-2017 until he became a trustee.

“Denise calls up and says, ‘Hey, we’re starting this entrepreneurship program. It would be great if you could help out.’ So I started coming out to NIU,” Wasowicz said. “There’s nothing else I could do in the industry, so I would go sit in the back of the classroom and be the so-called expert. After that year, the professor at the time, Lynn Neely, retired right before the start of the next school year.”

Teaching at the university has helped him as chairperson because he understands how difficult the job is. He got to know a lot of teachers, so he understands what they are going through and how important it is to stay flexible, Wasowicz said. 

Wasowicz found his way to the business school at NIU by testing out the waters of several different majors. He started at Triton College in 1975 to continue playing football. 

When Wasowicz transferred to NIU in 1976 after his brother convinced him to, he said he had four or five majors because he couldn’t choose what he wanted to do. He then graduated in 1980 with a computer science degree. 

Wasowicz said after three and a half years working for an Information Technology services consulting company, he went backpacking in Europe. When he returned home, he started his own company with one of his past coworkers and three fraternity brothers.

“The company is called Greenbrier & Russell, named after the two streets we lived on in DeKalb,” Wasowicz said. “We started that and we ended up building it up to nine cities. We had 700 and some employees.”

Wasowicz quit the company after his wife questioned if he loved her and his sons, or the pay and travel benefits from working more, he said. 

“My wife said to me, ‘It was always about where Greenbrier and Russell is going and we have two kids that barely know you,” Wasowicz said. “‘I know it’s not about the money anymore, so my guess is that you don’t love us and you just want to travel,’ and I said, ‘That’s not true.’”

When people wonder what is happening at NIU, they need to look at the management team and its strengths, which starts with Freeman, Wasowicz said.

“It’s Lisa’s job and her team to run the day-to-day, it’s not my job,” Wasowicz said. “Now, if she asked me to jump in or she said we’re needing some advice on a few things, yes, we’ll do that. I’ve got a few bits of knowledge I can pass along. While I will do that, I know I’m not there to operate.”