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 campus 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-present