A celebration of the life of Arthur Paul Doederlein will be held on campus this week.
That’s what Doederlein himself might have asked.
Over the course of more than four decades at NIU, the professor of communication challenged thousands of his students to do the same. Along the way, he sparked their critical thinking skills and taught them lessons that would endure throughout their lives.
“On every test, he asked students, ‘Why does this matter? Why do we care? So what?’ ” recalls his daughter, Cathy Doederlein, who took some of her father’s courses at NIU.
“A lot of his students remember this because it often created that ‘aha moment.’ He wanted students to examine what really matters in daily life,” she says.
Doederlein, 70, died Friday, Aug. 24, in DeKalb. He had retired from NIU in 2010.
The celebration of his life will be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, in the Duke Ellington Ballroom of the Holmes Student Center. Food and refreshments will be served throughout the event.
“We intend this to be a celebration of my dad’s life and his devotion to NIU and his students,” said Cathy, who serves as NIU coordinator of internships for the humanities.
Arthur Doederlein earned his bachelor’s degree from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., as a Rector Scholar, and his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. He studied at Northwestern under the auspices of an N.D.E.A. Fellowship and with the additional support he received as a Danforth Fellow Associate.
Doederlein’s own parents never attended high school, and throughout his career he championed first-generation college students like himself, as well as minority students through NIU’s CHANCE program.
Many of his former pupils went on to successful careers in academia, journalism, public relations and other areas.
“After receiving his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Northwestern, he was challenged to go serve students who were more like him – from working-class families,” Cathy says. “He loved reaching a population that had great motivation and desire; he wanted to be somebody who believed in them. Both of my parents have given so much of themselves to the university because they love seeing the success of students.”
Arthur Doederlein served more than 30 years as the undergraduate studies director in the Department of Communication. In that capacity, he advised thousands of students, spending countless hours assisting them in planning their academic programs and counseling them about graduate and professional schools and career opportunities.
Among his earliest assignments was as a professor in the CHANCE program, and his involvement with that ethnically diverse population remained a center of his professional life. In recognition of his service to CHANCE, he received a special award to acknowledge his longtime commitment to the program. Doederlein also was a recipient of NIU’s Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award.
Cathy Doederlein and her brother, Arthur Allen Doederlein, will speak at the celebration of their father’s life, along with a number of his former students and colleagues.
Speakers will include:
- Jim Solberg, professor emeritus at Purdue University and a lifelong friend.
- Alumni Mark Pollock, Robert Helstrom and John Butler, a member of the NIU Board of Trustees.
- Former student and colleague Judy Santacaterina, NIU director of the Bachelor of General Studies degree program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
- The Rev. Leroy Mitchell, retired director of the CHANCE program.