Hundreds of faculty, staff, students and community members gathered near Northern Illinois University’s East Lagoon Monday afternoon to celebrate the presidency of John G. Peters.
The program – which included videos highlighting President Peters’ many contributions to the university – also featured comments from NIU Trustee Robert Boey, executive vice president and Provost Ray Alden, Political Science Chair Matt Streb, vice president for University Relations Kathy Buettner, Castle Bank chair John Castle and Student Association President Delonte LeFlore.
“I can honestly say that from the first time I met John, I knew he would be the one to take us to the next level,” said Boey of his now very close friend at the farewell event. “Dr. Peters envisioned what [NIU] could become, and then he made it happen.”
Over the past 13 years, Peters built a remarkable legacy that will shape NIU far into the future. His Vision 2020 Initiative positions NIU to become the most student-centered public research university in the Midwest by establishing and achieving strategic goals for the coming decade in areas of student, faculty and facility excellence.
To commemorate that legacy, Buettner presented John and Barbara Peters with a photo collage featuring photos of the many highlights and accomplishments from his NIU presidency, arranged in the shape of the NIU logo.
When Peters assumed the NIU presidency June 1, 2000, he embarked on a mission to bring new recognition and expanded resources to the university. Under his guidance, NIU was admitted to the nation’s most prestigious public university association, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, an honor reserved for the top 5 percent of universities nationwide.
During Peters’ administration, NIU ascended to the highest-possible Carnegie ranking for research universities, gained admittance to the elite Universities Research Association and secured a voice on the NCAA Executive Committee when he was appointed to represent the Mid-American Conference.
The landscape of NIU’s flagship DeKalb campus also has changed during Peters’ tenure. Among the most visible contributions is the New Residence Hall – “the crown jewel of the Residential Renaissance” – which opened its doors this past fall and houses over 1000 students.
Additionally, Northern View, apartment-style living geared toward students with dependents, upperclassmen and graduate students, opened in 2008 as the first new building for student housing at NIU in 40 years. The New Residence Hall and Northern View were both built under Peters’ leadership, making use of public-private partnerships.
Peters also utilized low-interest Build America Bonds to remodel and modernize residence halls Grant Towers C and D and Gilbert Hall as well as the Holmes Student Center and the coming intramural sports complex on the West Campus.
“I learned a lot from President Peters – whether it be about higher education, leadership, politics or even athletics – but I think the thing I learned the most from him was how he treated people,” said Streb, who served as the associate to the president in 2010 and 2011 and now is the university’s faculty athletics representative and chair of the Political Science Department.
“John has succeeded in elevating the university’s academic profile and national stature, in improving the campus, in engaging the alumni and donors, in guiding the campus through tragedy to a greater strength, and in ensuring that our students succeed,” Provost Alden told the crowd, pointing out that Peters’ most important attribute is that of “the students’ president.”
The official presidential portrait of the “students’ president” was unveiled at the end of the program, receiving loud applause from the many in attendance.
“I’m very pleased with the portrait, as you can imagine,” said President Peters. “It came out very, very well. They obviously picked a very good artist to do it.”
“It has some symbolic things in it that I wanted, and they got them in. We’ll let people look at it and see if they can guess what those symbolisms are.”