Bill Kurtis speaks at Northeastern Illinois University's 2014 Alumni Reunion on Oct. 17.

Monday, October 20, 2014

When Bill Kurtis delivered the commencement address at Northeastern Illinois University’s graduation ceremony in 1979, the theme of his speech was climate change.

More than 35 years later, the legendary broadcaster and lifelong conservationist returned to Northeastern for the 2014 Alumni Reunion, and he still is looking out for our well-being.

“Truth finds its own way,” said Kurtis, whose lecture, titled “Death By Food: How the American Diet is Making Us Sick,” echoed the University’s Reimagining Food Initiative.

Kurtis, who founded Tallgrass Beef Company in 2002 to champion the environment and the health benefits of grass-fed cattle ranching, detailed changes in the Western diet to rely more on high-fat, high-sodium processed foods and beef that comes from massive feedlots. He called the nation’s obesity problem and the potential solutions a “very complex situation.”

“What value do you put on your children’s health?” he challenged. “We all make choices, whether it’s an apple or a Cinnabon, but when my doctor moved me from pre-diabetic to diabetic, I said, ‘Do I want to live to 85 or only 75?’”

Kurtis ended his lecture on a hopeful note, acknowledging that “this health movement is growing by leaps and bounds.”

The lecture was Kurtis’ first official visit to Northeastern since his 1979 appearance.

“You spend time someplace and you’re invested in how it grows,” Kurtis said. “It’s been great to see Northeastern Illinois University grow and succeed since then.”