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Former NIU president, law school founder dies at 93

DeKALB – William R. Monat cared as much about Northern Illinois University as he did about World War II, said his wife, Josephine.

He loved his country, serving overseas during World War II as a sergeant in the Army infantry. His efforts earned him several honors, including an American Theater Service Medal, a European African Middle Eastern Theater medal and a Bronze Star.

He also loved NIU, working as a professor from 1969 to ’71 and then returning as vice president in 1976. Monat was NIU’s eighth president, serving from 1978 to ’84.

He died Saturday in his home in Jupiter, Florida. He was 93. 

“DeKalb and NIU were such important parts of his life,” Josephine said. “He worked hard with the community to make sure students were getting the best education possible.”

Acting President Lisa Freeman issued a statement Monday afternoon regarding Monat’s passing.

“All of NIU is saddened by the passing of William Monat,” Freeman said. “His contributions to the creation of the NIU College of Law and the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology helped cement the reputation of NIU as a well-rounded university prepared to meet the needs of our region. He was a visionary whose impact can be felt to this day.”

During his tenure, Monat helped open the NIU College of Law in 1979. 

“He was a tireless worker; he played an instrumental role with bringing the law school to Northern,” Josephine said. “The law school has been a big player in adding more diversity to the university.”

Before his time at NIU, Monat worked in a variety of roles at several schools, including Wayne State University in Detroit, City College of New York, Penn State University, and the University of Minnesota. 

“He enjoyed every single position in his life,” Josephine said. “But DeKalb and NIU always held a special place in his heart. All of our children grew up in DeKalb and three of them graduated with NIU degrees. The university offers so much opportunity.”

After serving as NIU president, Monat was appointed as the first chancellor of the Board of Regents governing NIU from 1984 to 1986. That board was established in 1967 and was set up to manage NIU, Illinois State University and Sangamon Sate University (now University of Illinois at Springfield).

Monat has been recognized for several awards by the DeKalb community. In 1985, he was given the NIU Francis Gykle Award, and the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce named him Person of the Year for outstanding service by in 1986. 

He is survived by his wife, Josephine, 89; and children, Lise Lunde (Dale), Catheryn Mocilan, Margaret Linell (Victor), William Monat (Jean), Eric Monat (Suset); and grandchildren, Michael and Alyssa Mocilan, Michael, Sarah, Daniel and Eric Linell, and William, Joseph and Madeleine Monat, and Naomi, Eliana and Serafina Monat.

Family requests any donations be made to the William R. Monat scholarship fund, care of the NIU Foundation.

A service and burial will be held at 1:15 p.m. Friday at the South Florida National Cemetery in Lake Worth, Florida. 

Josephine added: “NIU is a terrific place. It was always his vision for people to realize that.” 

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