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NIU renames buildings to honor two prominent university figures

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University is giving a nod to the legacies of two prominent figures by renaming buildings in their honor.

The community will have the opportunity to celebrate changes to the Campus Life Building and New Residence Hall in October during the university’s Homecoming celebration at two separate events.

NIU President John Peters celebrates with the Huskies after a win at Purdue in this file photo.

NIU President John Peters celebrates with the Huskies after a win at Purdue in this file photo. (Beck Diefenbach/)

The Campus Life Building will be renamed in honor of the university’s 11th president, John Peters. The building will now be known as the Peters Campus Life Building. New Residence Hall will be renamed the Fanny Ruth Patterson Complex, after Patterson, who was the first Black woman to graduate from NIU, then known as Illinois State Normal School.

Peters devoted 13 years to fostering student life and student engagement at the university.

Matt Streb, chief of staff for NIU, said that among all the buildings on campus, university officials knew they had to rename the Campus Life Building specifically.

“President Peters was known as the student’s president when he was here,” Streb said. “Many of the offices and programs currently in the campus life building are things that he was very supportive of — things like the Center for Student Assistance, the University Honors, the CHANCE Program. I think that building reflects a lot of what his values were when he was president.”

In his honor, the NIU Board of Trustees voted in June to rename the Campus Life Building after Peters.

Peters had an impact on university life in a variety of ways over the span of 13 years.

Namely, Peters oversaw what university officials describe as a “residential renaissance,” which encompassed upgrades to Grant Towers, the reopening of Gilbert Hall, the creation of Northern View Apartments and the opening of the first new undergraduate housing in 40 years.

Streb said Peters saw value in creating spaces for university students to live, study and work together.

“President Peters believed very strongly in students having a great residential experience,” Streb said. “I think you see that’s reflected in building of New Hall, the building of Northern View [Apartments], the renovations of Grant [Towers] and Gilbert [Hall]. Again, he believed very strongly in having a great residential experience.”

Peters also elevated the university’s fundraising arm during his time as president. Under his leadership, NIU’s True North campaign raised more than $150,000.

Peters helped the university complete the construction of several new buildings including Barsema Hall and the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center, as well as several major remodeling projects including the five-year overhaul of Altgeld Hall and the transformation of Cole Hall into a state-of-the art learning space.

New Residence Hall at Northern Illinois University Wednesday, July 13, 2022.

New Residence Hall at Northern Illinois University Wednesday, July 13, 2022. (Mark Busch –

Elsewhere on campus, New Residence Hall will be renamed after Fanny Ruth Patterson. Now the building will be recognized as the Fanny Ruth Patterson Complex.

“Fanny Ruth Patterson was a trailblazer,” Streb said. “She was the first African American to graduate from what was Illinois State Normal School. We weren’t NIU at the time. Being able to honor her is important to a new generation of Huskies.”

Patterson, of Hinckley, enrolled in courses and went on to receive her two-year degree in 1915 from Northern Illinois State Normal School, the predecessor to NIU.

Streb said it makes a lot of sense to bestow Patterson with this honor.

“We have a scholarship named after her,” Streb said. “She’s certainly somebody we’ve recognized over the years. But we thought this was an appropriate honor for her given the fact that she was such a trailblazer on campus.”

In recognition of her legacy, the NIU Board of Trustees voted in June to rename New Residence Hall after Patterson. The board’s decision also strives to demonstrate the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

“A lot of what happens in New Hall right now, we do see a lot of our diversity, equity and inclusion type programs that go on in what is called the community center — which will be called Patterson Community Center going forward,” Streb said. “That is one of the reasons why our Residence Hall Association thought this would be a fitting honor.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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