University kicks off 125th anniversary with exhibition

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Dan Doren

DeKALB — Students, faculty, staff and alumni turned out in droves to enjoy food, history, entertainment and speeches at the 125th anniversary kick-off event 3 p.m. Thursday.

The 125th anniversary celebration will feature a year-long series of events to commemorate NIU’s long history as an institution.

Attendees of the kick-off event convened and conversed in the gallery lounge at the Holmes Student Center while enjoying free refreshments and an excerpt from an upcoming exhibition called “Becoming Huskies,” for which there will be an opening reception 5 p.m. Tuesday on the main floor of Founders Memorial Library.

The sample exhibit included panels with historic dates for buildings and landmarks, a list of properties “lost to time,” like Kishwaukee Hall and Northern Zoo, and a brief statement about the origin of the Huskie identity.

There were also two canvas prints of historical photos hanging up next to a display case containing a Huskies football jersey dedicated to former NIU President John Peters, who served from 2000 to 2013.

“All the photographs were taken from the Regional History Center and University Archives,” Wade Duerkes, photography manager and 125th exhibition execution committee member, said. “They have photographs going all the way back to 1895, … documenting the whole history [of the university].”

Duerkes said the purpose of the exhibition is to illustrate the history behind what it means to be a Huskie and to encourage the practice of historical archiving for future generations.

“One of the things we wanted to do was kind of introduce that history to the campus for those who aren’t familiar with it,” he said. “We also kind of want to do a little call to action to really promote the idea that the reason we have this local history is because those before us took the time to write this stuff down [and] share that history.”

Remarks were given at 4:15 p.m. in the Duke Ellington Ballroom by NIU President Lisa Freeman, SGA Senate Speaker Ian Pearson and Peter Garrity, Alumni Association Board President. Matt Streb, chief of staff to the President, acted as the master of ceremonies.

There were performances by the NIU Black Choir, NIU Choir, pep band and the Silverettes dance team, as well as appearances from NIU’s mascots, Mission and Mission II, during the remarks portion of the event.

“We were founded with a simple goal of creating more teachers in 1895,” Freeman said. “Since then, we have evolved to embrace our current vision of being an engine for innovation to advance social mobility, promote personal, professional and intellectual growth and transform the world through research, artistry, teaching and outreach.”

Pearson commented on acceptance and opportunity as part of NIU’s culture.

“When others are asking me what being a Huskie means to them, you’ll hear many answers,” he said. “But the one that unites all of us is the fundamental belief that NIU can be a home to students who would be otherwise left out.”

Despite the many changes the university has seen over 125 years, the NIU community’s commitment to academic excellence has remained constant, Garrity said.

“Since the doors opened, over 265,000 individuals have completed their degrees at NIU,” he said. “This means that 265,000 lives have changed, and I would say transformed.”

After remarks were given, Streb invited those in attendance to head downstairs to the lower level of Holmes Student Center to enjoy discounted beverages from Starbucks.