Luis Gutierrez smiles in front of the mock-up of his plaque.

Monday, December 3, 2018

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez returned to Northeastern Illinois University, his alma mater, on Dec. 3 to formally donate his Congressional archive to the institution.

Gutiérrez’s collection includes legislative files, press releases, articles, bills, floor speeches, awards and photos. It is expected that many of the documents in the archive will relate to his work on immigration reform.

Once all the items have been received and properly sorted, the materials will be available for public viewing as part of Northeastern’s permanent collection at the Ronald Williams Library. It is anticipated that it will take two to three years before the archive is open for use.

“Northeastern Illinois University is a very special place,” Gutiérrez said. He went on to say: “It cemented who I would become because Chicago would become my life and Chicago would become my life’s work.”

During a small ceremony in the Ronald Williams Library, Northeastern President Gloria J. Gibson helped Gutiérrez unveil a replica plaque in his honor. When it is done, the plaque will be displayed near the entrance to the library.

Acting Dean of Libraries Lisa Wallis welcomed the congressman and guests, noting that this collection is very special to the university’s collection.

“The archives are the first of their kind at Northeastern, and it is an honor to have them here,” Wallis said.

Gutiérrez earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Northeastern in 1976. Northeastern awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in May 2018 in recognition of his many accomplishments, most notably his role in advocating for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Gutiérrez has served the 4th Congressional district of Illinois for 12 terms and previously served the City of Chicago as an alderman. Gutiérrez will retire from the House of Representatives at the end of the current term.

“I am especially pleased to welcome him, one of our most distinguished alumni,” Gibson said. “He’s home here at Northeastern. Rep. Gutiérrez, we are honored that you are here today. We are excited to house your archives and we are proud to call you a graduate of Northeastern Illinois University.”

As Gutiérrez reflected on his time at Northeastern as well as his time in office, he drew parallels between the social justice causes he championed as a student and the legislation he backed in Washington, D.C.

“I still believe in those basic principles of freedom today that I rallied around with students back here, more than 40 years ago, as a student at Northeastern Illinois University,” Gutiérrez said. He later added: “I hope, in these archives, people can come and see that the life and the times of Luis Gutiérrez in the Congress of the United States have been focused on labor and immigration. Immigration is an issue that brings people together; it’s social justice and equality and fighting discrimination and bigotry and fighting prejudice.”

Gutiérrez noted that Northeastern played an integral role in his life. As a student, he was part of the union for Puerto Rican students, worked on the school newspaper, and met his wife, Soraida, in the school’s cafeteria.

“I meet fellow alumni from Northeastern Illinois University in just about every aspect of my life,” Gutiérrez said. “I came here to say ‘thank you’ to all of you who work and toil here, so arduously, to make sure people can get a good education.”