DeKALB – Now, it’s as if Northern Illinois University never honored former U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert after trustees voted unanimously Thursday to rescind his NIU honorary degree.
Hastert, a now-infamous alumnus of the university, was given an honorary Doctor of Laws in 1999. Decades before, he had earned his master’s degree at NIU.
“While Hastert has been a longtime supporter and advocate for NIU, his recent admission of criminal activity and sexual abuse of children does not reflect the values of the university or the spirit in which the degree was awarded,” NIU’s eight trustees said, collectively.
Further, a federal judge Thursday said the former Speaker of the House must report to federal prison by June 22 to start serving his 15-month sentence.
Hastert, 74, an Illinois Republican, was sentenced April 27 after pleading guilty to charges he evaded bank laws when he paid about $3.5 million to cover up decades-old sexual abuse. He molested an athlete he coached as head of the wrestling program at Yorkville High School – where he also taught.
The move to rescind his honor is an unprecedented one for the university, as Hastert is the first to have his NIU honorary degree revoked.
But it follows suit with his undergraduate alma mater Wheaton College. The school removed “J. Dennis Hastert” from its Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy, and Hastert resigned from its advisory board.
Lewis University had given the former congressman an honorary degree in 2002, and planned to take it away.
Last month, the NIU Graduate Council’s Honorary Degree Committee officially asked for the honor to be stripped from the Illinois leader who, at one point, was second in line to the U.S. presidency.
Committee members said in a statement this month that what Hastert did, “constitutes incontrovertible evidence that he has acted in ways that do not reflect the values of the institution.”