The Northern Almanac Ep. 22 - 'NIU Comes of Age'

Jul 9, 2020


Welcome to The Northern Almanac, a WNIJ living history project coinciding with NIU's 125th anniversary.


Up until the 1950s, Northern had served a single purpose, to educate the educators. But after receiving university status in 1957, NIU needed to be more than just a teacher’s college, so President Leslie Holmes (the namesake of the Student Center) approved the expansion of the school’s offerings. In 1958, it introduced a Masters in Arts and a Masters in Science. And the following year, a Masters in Music and a Masters in Fine Arts.

With so many new offerings, NIU needed to reorganize as a more conventional academic organization. Three new colleges emerged from this reorganization: The College of Education, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the College of Fine and Applied Arts. The College of Fine and Applied Arts later spun off the College of Business and was then reorganized as the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

With these new and expanded academic programs, NIU saw a huge influx of students, which, in turn, required a much larger faculty to teach them. The school’s administrators realized that if they wanted to recruit and retain “a more scholarly faculty,” they would have to begin offering doctoral programs.

So in 1961, NIU received state approval to grant its first doctorate degrees. It immediately offered Ph.D.s in history and English, and the Ed.D. in education and business education. At the time, University administrators considered this step “the true coming of age of NIU.”