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NIU remembers former provost J. Ivan Legg

August 26, 2015
J. Ivan Legg

J. Ivan Legg

J. Ivan Legg, provost at NIU from July of 2001 until his retirement in the spring of 2006, died Aug. 4 in Vancouver, Wash. He was 77.

Legg became well-known rather quickly in DeKalb when he chose to live in a second-floor apartment in Stevenson Towers for the fall semester of 2001.

“Students are what we’re all about. Living in the residence halls keeps me in touch with the grass roots of the university,” Legg said. “I’m usually out the door by 6:30 a.m., but I have gotten to know students in the lobby or in the elevator. Some of them call me ‘Dr. Ivan.’ ”

A chemist whose career in higher education included positions at Auburn and Washington State universities, Legg came to NIU from the University of Memphis, where he also was provost.

Born Oct. 15, 1937, to Rev. J. Thoburn and Mary Gray Legg in Brooklyn, N.Y., Legg spent his early childhood in New England and then in South America, where his father served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church.

The future academic graduated from high school in Rio de Janeiro. He earned his B.S. in chemistry at Oberlin University in Ohio and his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Michigan.

His love of science was infectious and both of his children followed in his footsteps in their chosen fields: Chris, a hydrogeologist, and Kristin, an ecologist. He also felt strongly that access to higher education should be universal and worked tirelessly in this endeavor throughout his career.

Survivors include his children, Chris and Kristin; and his grandchildren, Connor, Justin and Jordan. He also is survived by his first wife, Carolynne Merrell, mother of his two children; and Carrol Heller, his longtime partner, friend and gracious caregiver during his later years as he courageously fought Parkinson’s disease.

In remembrance and honor of Ivan, the family has asked that donations be made to the J. Ivan Legg Graduate Fellowship in the Department of Chemistry of Washington State University online (search by keyword “Legg”) or at P.O. Box 621927, Pullman, WA 99164-1927.