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Local

Pritzker adds 2 newcomers to Board of Trustees

Gayles, Athas appointed to seats held by Coleman, Struthers

DeKALB – New faces will join the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees after appointments made Thursday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Documents filed Thursday with the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office show that Pritzker has named Chicago attorney Montel Gayles to the seat formerly held by Wheeler Coleman, and Rita Athas of Chicago has been appointed to the seat formerly held by Tim Struthers. Both Athas’ and Gayles’ terms will expire in January 2025.

Pritzker also decided that former state Rep. Robert Pritchard of Hinckley, who was appointed to the board on a temporary basis in 2018, will permanently hold that board seat, with a term expiring in January 2023, records show.

Pritzker also reappointed Chicagoans Veronica Hererro and John Butler to terms that will expire in January 2025.

The NIU board was established by state law in 1996, with its seven members appointed by the governor to six-year terms. There is also a voting student trustee who serves a one-year term. The board is responsible for oversight and management of the university and its president.

“They selected some good people,” Pritchard said Thursday. “I look forward to continuing to work on the board and support a lot of the progress we’ve been making in so many areas leading to student success.

“The two new members will bring some insight and enthusiasm, experience, and connection to the political scene in Chicago,” Pritchard said. “I think we’ve got a good team that’s forming.”

Athas serves on the board of directors for the NIU Alumni Association and is a 1978 graduate of the university, according to the association website. She is also the senior advisor on the board of directors for World Business Chicago, a public-private nonprofit partnership that works to improve economic growth and supports businesses in Chicago.

Gayles, owner and founder of Gayles Consulting PC, is a 1983 graduate and also serves on the university’s board of directors for the NIU Foundation, the fundraising arm of the institution.

Pritchard said the new trustees will take their seats in June, and new officers will be decided then, too.

“I think Dennis Barsema [the current chairman] has done a great job as president and chair of the board, and we named Eric Wasowicz as vice chair,” Pritchard said. “I anticipate they will be reelected to those positions.”

He said he appreciated the governor’s careful selection of the new board, and wants to continue the education efforts on the board that he championed in the legislature, such as more funding for higher education, addressing student enrollment and narrowing gaps in student achievement, controlling costs, and dealing with infrastructure.

“We have a campus that was built for a lot more students,” Pritchard said. “It’s got a little gray hair around the edges, and we’re looking forward to a facilities management plan.”

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