NIU President Lisa C. Freeman and the student organization, Dream Action NIU are the recipients of this year’s Eychaner Award, the longest standing LGBTQ+ advocacy award given at the university. Established in 1995 to honor its namesakes, Milly Eychaner a 1941 graduate of NIU, and her husband Howard, the award is presented annually through a collaboration among the Presidential Commission, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, and the student organization Prism.
This is the 25th year of the Eychaner Award. The Eychaners were active members of the DeKalb and NIU communities, and the couple was instrumental in the founding of DeKalb’s PFLAG chapter. They were known for a slogan printed on cards the couple would hand out to those they met, “Howard and Milly Eychaner, Proud of Our Gay and Non-Gay Children.”
This act of allyship, action and support was just one way they demonstrated strength, resilience and the power of advocating for what’s right, even if it seems unpopular or challenging.
The award connects the legacy of the couple, who both passed away in 2005, with honorees who follow their path and also make an impact at NIU and beyond. The support of the Eychaners’ to the GSRC continues to make an impact, and their example inspires pride and passion for social justice.
Dream Action NIU was honored in the student category. They aim to increase awareness about the situations undocumented students face in the US, and particularly on our campus. Members share the belief that higher education is a fundamental human right for all, regardless of citizenship status.
Comments from Dream Action’s nominators included, “Dream Action has been a great support for us as an organization. [They have] shown us that intersectionality matters and we will always push for better campus for all our students. I want to thank the people of Dream Action for being a pillar of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
“Dream Action’s fight and advocacy is ours, and our fight and advocacy is theirs. Together, we are working to support all students on this campus to be visible, advocated for, and to be supported. We are confident they deserve this award. “
President Freeman received the faculty, staff person or alumnus award. Among the remarks of her nominators were, “In President Freeman’s first State of the University address, she explicity named the LGBTQ community and the importance of this community at NIU. This was unsurprising to many of us, as she has consistenly, even in her roles as provost and acting president, included the LGBTQ community by attending key events such as the Pride Awards, Lavender Graduation, and Transgender Day of Remembrance. She has included LGBTQ issues within the Strategic Enrollment Management plan and has made it known that inclusion of LGBTQ topics is the expection at NIU.” Another wrote, “She made me feel valued as a queer person and as though I would be welcomed back to NIU with open arms, even beyond graduation.”