A woman checks out a book from the library.

Northeastern Illinois University celebrated its sesquicentennial during the 2017-18 academic year. This is no small feat in a world confronted with educational, social and economic challenges.

Like many institutions of higher learning, the University traces its roots to the beginning of teacher training. Northeastern was founded in 1867 in Blue Island, Illinois, as the Normal School, Cook County’s first teacher training institution. Northeastern has a rich tradition of educational innovation and prides itself in preparing teachers and administrators who make a difference in Chicago. That tradition continues to this day and has expanded to include all of the University’s academic disciplines, allowing the University to fully embrace the community in which it resides.

Over the years, the name, location, and mission of the University changed, but the commitment to learning and teaching has continued from generation to generation. The University has not only changed and grown, but it has expanded to address specific urban needs. The Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies was established in 1966 as an important expression of the University’s commitment to inner city communities and especially to the African American community. Three years later, in 1969, the University’s El Centro location was founded with a special focus on service to the large, diverse and growing Latino community. In 1978, the University opened the Chicago Teachers’ Center to offer professional development programs for urban teachers and administrators. Most recently, Northeastern joined the University Center of Lake County in 1996 as a founding member of a consortium of public and private universities offering college-level course work in Lake County. To complete the picture, this mix of essentially urban locations and partnerships also includes the Gensburg-Markham Prairie, which the University acquired in 1973. Consisting of 100 acres of unspoiled Illinois prairieland, it is located just south of Chicago—a beautiful preserve for future generations to learn from and enjoy.

This rich history tracks the dynamic growth of the city and the region. While keeping faith with its original mission—to provide an important resource for students from Illinois—today Northeastern attracts students from all over the world and is poised to become a model of regional public education with a truly global mission. Northeastern’s learning environment is enriched though the community’s ethnic, cultural, age, and language diversity. Throughout our history the University has maintained, fostered, and celebrated its commitment to diversity.

Today, Northeastern offers its 10,000 students more than 70 undergraduate and graduate programs in the arts, sciences, education, and business. Faculty encourage students to integrate classroom instruction with field-based learning, research, and service locally and around the globe.

Northeastern's Historical Timeline

Cook County Normal School (1867-1896)

Daniel Sanborn Wentworth, Principal, 1867-1882

William C. Dodge, Acting Principal, 1882-1883

Francis Wayland Parker, Principal, 1883-1899

Chicago Normal School (1896-1938)

William Griffin, Acting Principal, 1899

Arnold Tompkins, Principal, 1900-1905

Ella Flagg Young, Principal, 1905-1909

William Bishop Owen, Principal / President, 1909-1928

Hazel Stillman, Acting President, 1928

Butler Laughlin, President, 1928-1936

Chicago Teacher’s College (1938-1965)

Verne O. Graham, President, 1936-1938

John A. Bartky, President, 1938-1942

John I. Swearingen, Acting President, 1942-1948

Raymond Mack Cook, Dean, 1948-1960; Dean of the South Side Campus, 1961-1965

Chicago Teacher’s College North (1960-1965)

Roy Newell Jervis, Dean (Dean of the North Side Campus), 1960-1962

Northeastern Illinois State College (1966-1971)

Jerome M. Sachs, Dean, 1962-1971

Northeastern Illinois University (1971-present)

Jerome M. Sachs, President, 1971-1973

James Mullen, President, 1973-1976

William Lienemann, Acting President, 1976

Ronald Williams, President, 1976-1985

Gordon H. Lamb, President, 1986-1995

Salme Harju Steinberg, President, 1995-2007

Sharon K. Hahs, President, 2007-2016

Richard J. Helldobler, Interim President, 2016-2018

Wamucii Njogu, Acting President, 2018

Gloria J. Gibson, President, 2018-2023

Katrina E. Bell-Jordan, Interim President, 2023