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NIU renames La Tourette Hall for former president, science advocate

Published: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 11:17 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 11:36 p.m. CDT
(Elena Grimm –
Former Northern Illinois University President John La Tourette (center) is joined by his wife, Lili, and NIU President John Peters as he unveils the sign renaming the chemistry and physics building Faraday Hall West in his honor.

DeKALB – A former campus leader known for his many contributions to Northern Illinois University had a building named in his honor Tuesday.

Former NIU President John La Tourette and his wife, Lili, unveiled the sign renaming Faraday Hall West, which houses physics and chemistry programs, as John E. La Tourette Hall.

"It's just a mark in the long process of building a great university into the future," La Tourette said after unveiling the new sign.

The building's foyer was filled with present and former staff, students, community leaders and friends of the 10th NIU president during the naming ceremony, flooding outdoors and into a nearby room. The state of Illinois marked Tuesday as John La Tourette Day in his honor.

NIU President John Peters and other dignitaries described the commitment La Tourette made to grow the campus during his tenure from 1986-2000.

NIU doubled its landholdings during that time and new buildings, including the Campus Life Building, Engineering Building, Campus Child Care Center and Faraday West, were built. In all, more than $200 million in capital improvements were made under La Tourette, Peters said.

Also, the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology was established and more than a dozen majors were added, including Ph.D. programs in many science fields. An independent Board of Trustees was created in 1996.

Peters called his predecessor "a builder" of teams, buildings and programs.

One of his greatest hurdles was obtaining the doctoral physics program, which took two decades of lobbying to achieve, Peters said. The state-of-the-art amenities of the then-new Faraday Hall West played a major part in that process.

"Its opening in 1995 really gave help, the final push, to get the Ph.D. program in physics, which followed a few years later," Peters said.

This ultimately led to the unanimous decision made by the NIU Board of Trustees to change the building's name.

"The current Board of Trustees wanted to honor Dr. La Tourette because the fruits of his service and hard work are apparent just about everywhere on our campus," Board of Trustees chairman Marc Strauss said. "He guided this university through a tremendous period of growth, both in terms of academic programs and our physical campus."

Chris McCord, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, noted that both the physics and chemistry departments have grown in size and scope, and that sharing the facility allows the two programs to enhance one another.

La Tourette thanked the people who worked with him and inspired him, and detailed his accomplishments and the obstacles faced. He noted how the building now bearing his name was previously named after British "natural philosopher" Michael Faraday, which he said was a befitting choice for the university's mission in research and graduate studies.

"The building here sits among some very important buildings that represent scientists and educators," he said.

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