Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth to help MPA program mark 50 years

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth

The nationally ranked Department of Public Administration is expecting a crowd of about 200 people for its 50th Anniversary Spring Gala Dinner in Chicago, where Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth will give the keynote address.

The event, which will also include an address from NIU President Doug Baker, will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, April 11, in the Cathedral Hall of the University Club of Chicago. Registration for the event is now closed.

Baker will be attending the event with his wife, Dana L. Stover, and two young exchange students from the Southeast Asia Youth Leadership. The president and first lady are serving as a host family for the program.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming Congresswoman Duckworth, who is well known in the NIU community and has certainly served her country with valor, and to meeting many of our highly engaged public administration alumni, who work each and every day to improve the quality of life in our region,” Baker said.

Duckworth, a decorated Black Hawk helicopter pilot who was severely wounded in 2004 during the Iraq War, was elected in 2012 as U.S. representative for Illinois’ 8th congressional district.

Prior to her service in the Iraq War, Duckworth had been pursuing a doctoral degree in NIU’s Department of Political Science, where she studied comparative politics and international relations with an emphasis on Southeast Asia, a university-wide area of specialization. The daughter of a U.S. marine who fought in Vietnam, Duckworth herself was born in Thailand and is fluent in both Thai and Indonesian languages.

During her time at NIU, Duckworth was a recipient of the highly competitive Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, offered through the NIU Center for Southeast Asian Studies. She spent time working as a research assistant for the Center for Governmental Studies and also coordinated a university project to measure radon levels in DeKalb County homes.

President Baker chats with Congresswoman Duckworth in Washington, D.C.
President Baker chats with Congresswoman Duckworth in Washington, D.C.

Duckworth’s doctoral studies were cut short when her Illinois Army National Guard unit was deployed to Iraq. During a mission north of Baghdad in 2004, her aircraft was ambushed and a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter she was co-piloting. She continued to attempt to pilot the aircraft until losing consciousness from blood loss.

As a result of the attack, Duckworth lost both of her legs and partial use of one arm. She received many decorations for her actions, including the Purple Heart, the Air Medal and the Combat Action Badge.

Following her recovery, Duckworth dedicated her life to public service and emerged as a national figure, advocating on behalf of veterans and disability rights. NIU presented her with an honorary doctoral degree in 2010.

The gala dinner will culminate nearly a year’s worth of events marking the Department of Public Administration’s 50th anniversary year. The program has had a long history of success, playing a major role in efforts to professionalize municipal staffs statewide and advance the national good government movement.

U.S. News and World Report currently ranks NIU’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program fifth in the nation in the specialty field of city management and urban policy and 12th in the field of public finance and budgeting.

The NIU MPA program produces about one-third of all Illinois municipal managers (view related interactive map), as well as administrative leaders in non-profits, park districts and police, fire, public works and economic development departments across northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

City and village managers from Bartlett, Elgin, Woodridge and many other communities are expected to be in attendance at the 50th anniversary gala. Other distinguished guests will include five former directors of the program: James Banovetz, Robert Agranoff, J. Dixon Esseks, Donald Menzel and Gerald T. Gabris.


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