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Brigham Legacy Celebration scheduled Oct. 10

September 30, 2014
Robert Brigham

Robert Brigham

Northern Illinois University will honor the memory of the late  Robert J. Brigham Sr., whose 50 years of service to the university included 19 as the Huskies’ director of athletics and dated back to his time as an NIU student-athlete.

The Brigham Legacy Celebration will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, in the Pollock Ballroom of the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center.

Members of the NIU and DeKalb community are invited to attend the celebration of Brigham’s accomplishments, his life, and his dedication to Northern Illinois University. Hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served.

As space in the ballroom is limited to 300 people, those who wish to attend must RSVP to Amy Schmidt of the Huskie Athletic Fund at (815) 753-1923 on or before Monday, Oct. 6. Attendance is by advance reservation only.

Brigham, a World War II veteran whose association with NIU began in 1946 as a football player and wrestler and continued for more than 50 years, including 19 as the Huskies’ director of athletics, passed away May 25, 2014, in DeKalb.

He made a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of NIU student-athletes that continues to this day.

As the Huskies’ athletic director from 1968-87, he took NIU from NCAA College Division to University Division (or major college) status, oversaw the Huskies’ admission to the Mid-American Conference in 1973, enhanced NIU’s athletics facilities and saw multiple teams qualify for NCAA championships competition. After leaving the AD’s chair, Brigham became the special assistant to the president. In that role, he managed the university’s compliance obligations until his retirement in 2001.

Photo of an NIU football helmet with Bob Brigham’s initialsIn 2003, the playing surface at Huskie Stadium was named “Brigham Field” in his honor and the North End Zone is officially known as the Brigham Family Plaza in honor of him and his family. Brigham entered the NIU Physical Education Hall of Fame in 1987 and was inducted into the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1991, he received the F. R. “Bud” Geigle Outstanding Service Award from the NIU Foundation.

Prior to becoming athletic director, Brigham spent 11 seasons as NIU’s head wrestling coach while also serving as an assistant football coach. He posted a record of 82-45-6 in wrestling dual meets and coached five individual national champions and 11 All-America selections. As a member of Hall of Fame football coach Howard Fletcher’s staff, he helped the 1963 Huskies to a 10-0-0 season and the College Division National Championship.

Brigham’s affiliation with NIU began as a football student-athlete following a distinguished Navy career in World War II. Despite being cut by Coach George “Chick” Evans in his freshman season, he returned a year later and eventually earned distinction as a member of the “Pony Backfield” at NIU. He finished his playing career as a three-year letterwinner in football and also lettered one season in wrestling before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1949.

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