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Barry Schrader


I have been writing a column for the Chronicle most of the time since December 2007, with two breaks, one in 2016 and the other in 2017 when my wife Kay suffered a stroke. They are all archived here.


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NIU’s new president tweaks one tradition

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist....................................April 12, 2019

Watching the Investiture of NIU’s 13th president Lisa Freeman last week I was intrigued by the big staff she was presented and that gold medallion she was given to wear. What is their history, I wondered.

By contacting Lisa Miner, senior director of institutional communications at NIU, I got the answers to all of my questions.

The University Mace, symbolic of authority, was specially designed in 1968 for the inauguration of the late president Rhoten Smith, and kept as a tradition at every new president’s inauguration since.

The walnut staff originally had four sides on the head with quotes from historic figures on each side. President Freeman wanted to add some new life to the tradition and had it redone with six sides and quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., President Ronald Reagan, First Lady Michelle Obama, Paulo Freire (the late Brazilian educator and philosopher), Aristotle and lastly a familiar quote from the NIU fight song.

Now about the crown jewel used in the ceremony: The Medallion. It is six ounces of 14-karat yellow gold with a 19-karat Star Ruby at the bottom. It was also designed for the induction of President Smith in 1968. Presidents get to keep the medallion for use at commencements, other formal ceremonies and special events. But you won’t find it hanging on her office wall. It is kept in a secure undisclosed location.

At left is the six-sided head of the University Mace with new quotes chosen by President Freeman engraved on each side.
The Medallion loaned to each president to wear at special ceremonies. (NIU provided photos)

One of the Investiture speakers, a friend of Dr. Freeman, suggested becoming president is like going into battle and the mace might come in handy. It reminded me of a quote from US President Teddy Roosevelt who once said "speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far." But I don’t really expect to see the new president carrying that stately staff around campus.

Now getting back to those quotes, which a few readers may want to know about; they include:
(1) “Public education is our greatest pathway to opportunity in America. So we need to invest in and strengthen our public universities today, and for generations to come.” —Michelle Obama
(2) “Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which enough people, it is hoped, will learn to want what is worth having.” —Ronald Reagan

(3) “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” —Aristotle
(4) “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
(5) “Education does not change the world. Education changes the people who will change the world.” —Paulo Freire
(6) “Forward, Together Forward.” —NIU Fight Song

Since I am on the subject of NIU, here’s a little quiz. Other than my friend Sally Stevens, can anyone name the 13 presidents without using Google or Wikipedia? If it’s not worth the effort, here are their last names: Cook, Brown (J.Stanley), Brown (Joseph), Adams, Holmes, Smith, Nelson, Monat, Wingfield, La Tourette, Peters and Baker. Of course you already know Number 13.

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Barry Schrader
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