Dennis & Stacey Barsema

Dennis: “Faithful to a cause, ideal, custom or institution. Unswerving in allegiance.”

These dictionary definitions of the word loyalty describe my family’s relationship with NIU pretty well. Loyalty doesn’t develop in a day or week or even in a month or two. It takes time. And I am sure my story is not unlike most alumni in that respect. I graduated from NIU, thankful for the education I received, the friends I made, and the life and leadership experiences that were an important part of my college years.

Then I got busy with life. But the seeds of loyalty had been planted. I would always remember the part NIU played in my formative years and I hoped that one day I would be able to express my thanks in a way that would not be forgotten.

During this past decade Stacey and I have met thousands of students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of NIU. Through each of these encounters we learned a little more about what NIU means to those whose lives it touches so deeply. For us, the letters “NIU” have come to stand for “Now I Understand.” It’s been said that we should “Build one step in our lifetime, so that those who come after us can climb one step higher.” Our wish for the world – and for NIU in particular – is that we all work together to build those steps.