Wheeler G. Coleman is the new chair of the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees, elected June 15 alongside four colleagues also chosen for new responsibilities.
Coleman, who has served on the board since 2011, said his election comes at “a critical time in the history of Northern Illinois University.”
“We need to pivot and move the institution forward,” Coleman said, acknowledging that NIU is confronting many challenges, chief among them a lack of state financial support and declining enrollment.
However, he expressed confidence in the university’s ability to overcome those hurdles.
“We have a dedicated and committed board that is determined to take NIU to the next level,” Coleman said. “We will move ahead with tremendous energy and integrity, always guided by the need to do what is in best for the university, its students, its faculty and its many stakeholders.”
A 1983 graduate of NIU’s nationally respected program in computer science, Coleman has served the board in a variety of roles, including as vice chair; leader of the Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and Personnel Committee; and vice chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Enrollment.
Following his graduation from NIU, Coleman earned an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.
During his career, he has held several senior vice president positons within Blue Cross Blue Shield and was the vice president and the chief technology officer at Health Care Service Corporation, the fourth largest health insurance company in the United States. Currently, he is the CEO and executive partner at Executive Consultants United, a Chicago-based consulting firm.
Other trustees elected today to new roles are Dennis Barsema, John Butler, Veronica Herrero and Tim Struthers.
Barsema, who has a long history of service and support to NIU, was elected vice chair of the board.
A graduate of the management program in the NIU College of Business, Barsema went on to become a senior executive at a number of tech companies, including CEO of Redback Networks, where he led one of the largest initial public offerings in Wall Street history.
Barsema and his wife, Stacey, shared their success with NIU, funding the construction of Barsema Hall, home to the NIU College of Business; they also were lead donors for the construction of the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center.
Since Barsema Hall opened, the proud alum and donor has been a fixture on campus. He championed the creation of the Social Entrepreneurism program in the College of Business, helping to develop the curriculum and working as an instructor for a decade.
He also has served on more than 12 for-profit and not-for-profit boards, and was one of the original directors of Impact Engine, LLC, a Chicago-based innovation accelerator that focuses on societal and environmental challenges. He also served as chair of the NIU Foundation board from 2011 through 2016.
Since being appointed to the board in January of 2017, he has chaired the Ad Hoc Committee on Enrollment as well as the Legislative Affairs, Research and Innovation Committee.
Outgoing chair Butler moves into the role of board secretary.
A member of the board for 10 years, Butler served as chair from 2013-2015, vice chair and had led multiple committees. He currently works as the director of communication and strategy and as assistant fund administrator at Painters District Council No. 30. Butler is a two-time alumnus of NIU.
Herrero will become the university’s representative to the state’s Civil Service Merit Board; in that role, she also will serve on the board’s executive committee.
The recent addition to NIU’s board – she joined in January – is chief program officer at One Million Degrees, a Chicago-based organization dedicated to helping low-income individuals graduate from community college as a stepping stone toward a better future.
Struthers was appointed to the executive committee. Struthers, named to the board in 2015, is the Illinois Market president of the First National Bank of Omaha.
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 courses of study while serving a diverse and international student body of about 19,000. The 17 NIU Huskie athletic teams compete in the Mid-American Conference at the highest NCAA Division I level.