Northern Illinois University Press

Education in Transition

The History of Northern Illinois University

Earl W. Hayter

In 1899, Northern Illinois State Normal School opened its doors. From that first student body of 173 prospective schoolteachers to the complex university of 1974 with over 21,000 students is a giant step on the prairie, and in a sense it is an accurate measure of the social history of the Midwest.

The challenge and change in the story of Northern's growth and development keeps pace with the region and its people. The invention and production of barbwire—the wire that fenced the West—brought business and money to DeKalb; three barbwire kings fought and won the battle to have the new Normal School located in DeKalb. In the beginning, the educational philosophy emphasized the training of prospective teachers and the practical management of the classroom rather than the more traditional education in the liberal arts; and, as teachers were seen as model human beings, the students were heavily indoctrinated with the mores of rural, midwestern protestantism. The monarchial reign of President Cook has given way to a democratic process—now, an undergraduate sits on almost every important board. The two-year certificate granted by the fledgling Normal School has been surpassed by ten doctoral programs (six in liberal arts and sciences and four in education). And although the campus's first building reflects then Governor Altgeld's conviction that an educational institution should look like a castle on the Rhine, forty-five buildings later the architecture of the new library building embodies the needs of a multiversity with the spirit of urbanization.

Professor Hayter has written a history and not a public relations puff-piece. As President Nelson notes in his foreword, "It is honest and candid. The warts and blemishes are all there." As a living university is not buildings and budgets but human beings with ideas and convictions, so this chronicle of Northern's first seventy-five years breathes life.

(1974)559 pp., 144 illus.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-047-9
cloth $40.00

Table of Contents

1 Forging a Normal School in Northern Illinois
2 DeKalb Wins the Prize
3 Launching the New Normal
4 The Twenty-Year Mission
5 Activities at the Normal School
6 The Decade of the Twenties
7 The Middle Period
8 The Coming of the University
9 Student Life and Interests
10 The Agony of Change
11 Creating the Future

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-047-9
cloth $40.00