Northern Star alumni establish $50,000 endowment, Phil Kadner honored

The Northern Star/Phil Kadner Endowment for Student Journalists Fund has been created in honor of Kadner, an alumnus from the ’70s.

DeKALB — The Northern Star Alumni Association has announced the establishment of a $50,000 endowment to fund staffers’ salaries. The endowment is named after NIU alum and longtime Chicago journalist Phil Kadner.

The Northern Star/Phil Kadner Endowment for Student Journalists Fund will help pay the salaries of staffers and editors at the Northern Star for years to come. Phil Kadner, along with others from the alumni association, want to see it grow further.

“Moneywise, we’d like to see it grow to at least $200,000, so that students in the future can get the opportunity we had,” Kadner said. “All of us love the place, and we have very fond memories of it. I think we’re all kind of dismayed that its level of funding has shrunk so low.”

How the fund was formed

Shelley Epstein, organizer of the endowment and Northern Star alum, expressed the same sentiment as Kadner, both of whom graduated in ‘74. “We’ve got $50,000, but we need more: $200,000, $300,000, and beyond. My fervent hope is that somebody who’s reading this who has the resources will say, ‘That’s a really good thing’, and they’ll help raise us up.”

“Having a paying job as a student can lead to something much more substantial, a profession, a livelihood. We desperately want the Star to survive many years from now because we all know what the Star did for us,” Epstein said.

Epstein was asked by fellow alums to help organize the fund. “Everybody who graduated in the ‘70s asked me to organize and raise some money for an endowment. We knew that the Star reporters and editors needed money because revenue declined so much,” Epstein said. “We decided to name it after Phil, who was a journalist for 50 years. He was a name that meant something to all of us.”

Kadner expressed shock and humility upon learning the fund was named in his honor. “I’m still not sure I’m that deserving of the honor because it was decided by people who are my former colleagues at the Star and people later on who went on to really nice careers themselves,” Kadner said. “It’s a great legacy if it can help in any way like that.”

Why Phil Kadner?

Kadner graduated from NIU in ‘74, going on to work for the Chicago Tribune-Daily Southtown for nearly 40 years as a columnist. Kadner worked for the Chicago Sun-Times until his retirement in 2021.

Epstein said the decision behind honoring Kadner was met with nearly unanimous praise, with many alums in the association citing Kadner’s work ethic and passion for journalism.

“You need a fire in the belly. Phil, till his last day as a journalist, never lost that fire,” Epstein said.

Kadner spent most of his career writing columns for the Southtown, telling stories for those that “didn’t have a microphone.”

“Stand up for the little guy,” Kadner said. “Whether it’s standing up against the government or people taking advantage of others, there ought to be someone telling stories like that. I learned that at NIU, that every single person in this world has a great story to tell if you’re willing to listen to them.”

Northern Star’s lasting legacy

Working as reporters for the Northern Star in the ‘70s, Epstein and Kadner accredited their success, along with many of their colleagues’, to the Star’s principles and values.

“We were given such a free hand, as students. It was our home, and we were able to make mistakes. It was about as pure of a journalism experience as we would ever have,” Kadner said.

Epstein cited working for the Northern Star as a reason for his profession today, going on to say that journalism defined who he and his friends were to become in the future.

“It was quite the social experience, working for the newspaper. People who are attracted to it are a different type. They’re idiosyncratic, they ask questions other people don’t ask. They’re extremely curious. And we want that next generation to have the same experiences we did,” Epstein said.

Kadner expressed hope for journalism at NIU, envisioning the endowment as a means to continue the legacy that he and other Northern Star alums started years ago. “I don’t want to see print publications die. It’s kind of anachronistic now, but I still think there’s a real value in having that.”

The Northern Star Alumni Association will be hosting a reunion banquet for “all 1970s era Northern Star types” on Sept. 16-17. Readers may visit their website for more information.