- Synopsis: Introduction, Summary of Life before, during, and after NIUKeywords: chicago; school; undergraduate; interests; career; job; retirement; retire; department; Northern Illinois University; NIUTranscript: MOORE-MOAURO: My name is Jeremiah Moore-Moauro. I’m here with my fellow interviewer, Kelsey Pann, and our narrator, Jerrold Zar. The date is Saturday, September 28th, 2019. We are here in the sound studio of the DeKalb Public Library located in downtown DeKalb, Illinois, to conduct an oral history interview with Jerrold Zar for Northern Illinois University’s 125th anniversary oral history project. Thank you Mr. Zar for being with us today. Please introduce yourself by telling us a bit about where you grew up and your life before coming to NIU.
ZAR: I’m originally from Chicago, and I attended Chicago public schools until I was a high school sophomore. My family moved to Highland Park, Illinois. I graduated from high school at Highland Park. I then came to Northern Illinois University as a freshman. My interest was in biology, primarily because I had a very influential biology teacher in high school, who really got me intrigued and encouraged me to pursue it. I graduated from NIU in 1962 with my bachelor’s degree in biology. I then when decided I was so interested, I'd go to graduate school in biology.
My high school teacher, whom I discussed this with, said, “Great idea, but you should go to a different school to get some more varied kinds of instruction.” I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana for a master's degree. I did that in two years, then I was so interested, I stayed on for PhD at the University of Illinois and did that for- it took me five more years to do that. Three more years, a total of five years in graduate school, and got my PhD and then stayed on as a post-doctoral fellow for one year doing research with my major adviser who was supported by the National Science Foundation at that time. So, I got some additional research experience.
The department chair at NIU, whom I knew from my undergraduate days, contacted me and said there was a faculty opening. Literally, he recruited me to apply for a faculty position at NIU. I came up here, I was interviewed, I gave a talk on my research, and they decided to hire me. I only interviewed in one place. It was an interesting experience to start as a faculty member because I knew so many of the faculty from being in their classes, and all of a sudden, I’m their colleague. Instead of calling them Dr. Jones, I started calling them Charlie. It’s a little different situation, but I adapted. I think they adapted.
I was at NIU on the faculty for 34 years in that department. The last 18 of those years, I was vice provost for graduate studies and research and, simultaneously, dean of the graduate school. One of the things I liked about that position is that I got to deal with all three dozen departments in the university, and I learned a lot about all the departments in all seven colleges. Some departments, in fact, came into being --a couple of colleges came into being while I was serving in the upper administration. I dealt with quite a number of faculty from a great diversity of fields.
I dealt with lots of deans, lots of different -- 171 department chairs I dealt with over the 18 years. I found that very interesting. I have a multi-disciplinary background as far as administration goes with higher education. Then I retired in 2002. Well, it’s been a long time. I remained in DeKalb. I’ve served on many boards and committees in town including some at NIU, including the committee on the 125th anniversary which I’m currently on. Here I am today. Somehow, I volunteered to be interviewed for the oral history.
- Synopsis: Undergraduate Life at NIUKeywords: Undergraduate; car; cars; DeKalb; freshman; student; enrollment; dorm; resident hall; student demographics; professor; teacher; scholarship; laboratory; music; fraternity; instrument; ensemble; jazz; marching band; orchestra; biology; studyingTranscript: MOORE-MOAURO: Well, very good. That is an absolutely fantastic introduction because it touched upon everything else that we’re going to ask. What I’d like you to do is I’d like to ask you -- Let’s see here. Coming from Chicago, what was it like transitioning into the life of an undergraduate? Were there any, say, cultural shocks in living on campus as opposed to living back at home? Just, what was that like?
ZAR: I don’t recall anything particularly shocking or distressful. I had never lived away from home before. It was different living on campus in a residence hall in a small town. I did not have a car as an undergraduate, so I didn’t- well, I could walk downtown DeKalb, and I did. I would go downtown DeKalb to see a movie or to go to a restaurant once in a great while. Otherwise, I was pretty much on campus. I found the campus to be welcoming and comfortable. I don’t recall any difficulties. That was at a time when the university was growing very rapidly.
When I started as a freshman, there were 5,000 students. When I graduated four years later, there were 10,000. It doubled in those four years. When I came back as a faculty member in 1968, there were 20,000, so it doubled again. I’ve personally seen the university quadruple in size. I’ve now seen it shrink back down to 16,000. I found the campus to be comfortable. I lived on campus my entire four years as an undergraduate in the only men’s residence hall at the time.
MOORE-MOAURO: How many other residence halls were there then?
ZAR: At the time, there was -- when the institution opened, Williston Hall was a women’s residence hall. I don’t think there was another women’s residence hall till the '40s. Maybe ‘49, there was Adams Hall. Those were both women’s residence halls when I was a student. Then there was what we called Neptune Hall, which is now called Neptune North, that low building. Those were the only ones in existence when I was an undergraduate here.
Gilbert Hall, which is where I lived, came into being in about 1951, and I came in ‘58. It was the only men’s residence hall for a long time. As I recall, I don’t know why I remember the number, there were 484 residents in Gilbert Hall. We lived four in a room, very small room. There were four of us in there, two bunk beds, no telephone. No place to use a computer because there were no computers. It was quite different, but I found it comfortable enough. People complained about the food sometimes, but my wife can tell you, I'll eat anything, so I didn’t mind the food.
MOORE-MOAURO: That actually gets right at student life. Something you brought up, you said that you didn't have a car. Was it common for students to have cars on campus at this time?
ZAR: Not that I recall. I don't recall there being a parking lot for students, but I might not have noticed because I didn't need one. I don't know how common it was. These were largely undergraduate students, entirely undergrads whom I interacted with. I just don't know about that. They're mostly from the region.
MOORE-MOAURO: Mostly local students from the immediate surrounding areas?
ZAR: Northern Illinois. Many, many, many of whom were interested in preparing to be teachers, which is why I went there. As I mentioned, I was encouraged and greatly influenced by my high school biology teacher. I came here intending to be a high school biology teacher. I went through in getting my baccalaureate degree. I went through the teacher certification process and then decided to go to graduate school, but I was prepared to be a high school biology teacher, till I went to grad school, got interested in research, and career changed.
I came here, in fact, on a scholarship that was to support people who were thinking about being teachers. This, of course, was a teacher's college, became a “university” only one year before I came, 1957. It began as a teacher's college and still is a very important producer of teachers.
MOORE-MOAURO: That actually answered the next question I had, which is why did you want to come to NIU and what your educational purpose was? One thing that you mentioned earlier was that you had influential teacher in high school that motivated you to come here and become a teacher. Now, what, if any teachers at NIU, inspired you to go forward or continue to pursue your interests? Are there any that stand out in your memory as particularly--?
ZAR: Yes. In high school, I mentioned the biology teacher. Very influential, very good teacher. I also remember my high school chemistry teacher and high school physics teacher. The three science areas at the high school. Those are the only three high school teachers I remember by name. I remember that I had a history course. I remember I had an English course, enjoyed them, but I don't remember their names and what they looked like. Science was certainly my area of interest. When I came here, I encountered in the biology department also some very, very good and influential teachers.
As an undergraduate, I worked in a research lab on a National Science Foundation grant that one of the professors had. Actually, as an undergraduate, I worked in two different professors' research laboratories. The department at that time was in Davis Hall, which was called the science building. In fact, on the front, it's carved in stone. It still says science building. Built in the mid- to late ‘40s, I believe, right after the war. It housed biology, chemistry, physics, the earth sciences, which later split into geography and geology, and home economics. Those were the departments in that science building.
I worked in two research labs as an undergraduate. I got a lot of excellent experience and encouragement there, probably what got me interested in research and graduate studies.
Yes, there certainly were faculty who were very important in my professional development. I don't recall a bad faculty member, one whom I disliked or thought was incompetent, in any department. Of course, as an undergraduate, I had a general education, experiences across the liberal arts and sciences anyway.
I also maintained an interest as an amateur musician as an undergraduate. I began playing the trumpet in high school. At NIU, as an undergraduate, I was in the concert band, I was in the marching band, I was in the orchestra, and I was in a jazz ensemble. It's not the same. It’s a precursor to the current well-renowned jazz ensemble at NIU. I kept that up for four years as an undergraduate, then I put my horn away for 30 years. Took it up again, we could talk about that.
MOORE-MOAURO: We most certainly will. Now, since you were so involved with music as an undergrad, out of curiosity, were you ever part of any or knew of any student music organizations at the music school?
ZAR: Yes. There is a national music professional fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha. I was inducted into Phi Mu Alpha as an undergraduate. I'm now, I believe, officially, a life member. I've maintained my membership. There were a lot of music majors in that organization as well as some folks, such as I, who were not majoring in music.
MOORE-MOAURO: That's incredibly interesting in the interest of ensuring that interview bias is always discussed in the interview. I too am a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, so my interest has piqued. I will stick to our script as much as I can.
ZAR: I don't recall when the fraternity started on campus. I was not a founding member, but it was pretty early on, I imagine.
MOORE-MOAURO: Did being with these other music students, then, influence your undergraduate experience as a student, maybe not academically, but culturally, on campus?
ZAR: Of course, being in the music ensembles, I interacted with many students from different areas. I don't recall being very socially involved with those students outside of the musical activities. I may have been. I just don't recall. Probably too busy studying biology.
- Synopsis: Addition, Removal, or Operational Changes to Colleges and Departments at NIUKeywords: department; college; dean; students; University of Illinois; U of I; split; competing; competition; university president; stigma; regional needs; social needs;Transcript: MOORE-MOAURO: Of course. Let's see here. You brought up very briefly that there was a home economics department at the university. That's not a department anymore, is it?
ZAR: No. That turned into -- What is it called now? It's in the College of Health and Human Sciences, which didn't exist then. It changed its name to something like Department of Family and something or other. I think it's changed again since then. I should have brought a catalog with me. No, I don't have a current catalog. I consult the catalog online.
MOORE-MOAURO: Did you find that in your time at NIU, there were many, or maybe that was the only one, consolidations of departments and/or changes in the way that they operated academically on campus, such as how the home economics department has changed and shifted, involved with culture and--?
ZAR: Yes, as an undergraduate, I wasn't really cognizant of what was going on in other colleges and departments, but I do know now, looking back, especially when I became a university level administrator, I knew something about the history of some of these departments. Home economics, of course, changed. What it was, basically, in those days, it was training teachers to teach in high school things like cooking, sewing, things of that sort. It has certainly expanded in other things now. At the time, as I mentioned briefly, there was no Department of Geography, no Department of Geology.
There was a Department of Earth Sciences, which later split into those two fields of earth science. There was a Department of Social Science. Now, I don't know if that changed when I was there or a little before, but that broke into things like history and sociology and anthropology. In fact, I think sociology and anthropology were once the same department, and then split, and political science. There was no College of Engineering. There was a Department of Technology, which mainly was to teach people -- to train people to be teachers in high school with things like driver's education and shop.
High schools used to teach shop for boys, and driver education, which is a big thing in high schools. The Department of Engineering came into being much later. I was here then as a faculty member when that happened. There was no College of Law. What's currently the School of Theater and Dance did not exist. You could study theater, but that was in the Department of Speech, which turned into the Department of Communication, used to be called the Department of Speech. I had a speech course as undergraduate. You learn how to give talks to the public.
There were changes like that, evolution of departments and fields of study, a lot of expansion of fields of study. Let's see, what else did we have? There was no College of Visual and Performing Arts. That was lumped in with -- Let’s see. I think there was something called the College of Fine and Applied Arts, and the fine arts were art and music. As I mentioned, theater wasn't in that college yet. Other things, the applied arts included, I think things like nursing were in there. Technology maybe was in there. It was a very broad college called "fine and applied arts," so that certainly changed. Education, of course, was an immense and very important college.
The College of Education is addressed to get several departments there. Those department names kept changing, and the organizations kept changing of the fields within that college. My observation over the years as an administrator was every time a new dean of education came in, he or she changed the names of the organization of departments, so that has gone through a lot of changes. It's still, of course, a very important component of the university.
Then liberal arts and sciences, of course. Law came into existence. That was kind of exciting. In the case of both law and engineering, in order to form new units like that and new majors, you have to have approval of the State Board of Higher Education. They were very reluctant at times to give NIU permission to do new and increasingly diverse things, and especially if the University of Illinois objected. The University of Illinois is a preeminent engineering college in the country. As a college of law, of course, they were not sure. They wanted us to have those colleges, but we ultimately got them.
MOORE-MOAURO: They had the power. The University of Illinois had the power to affect if other universities like NIU could establish a competing--
ZAR: It was not an official power, but they can certainly give input to the Board of Higher Education which listened to them sometimes.
MOORE-MOAURO: Was there any friction between NIU administration and U of I administration as a result of this?
ZAR: Not that I'm aware of. I'm sure the presidents discussed it between them. At the time, we had -- I was involved when the university wanted to expand their offerings of PhD programs. We started PhD programs in about 1961, I think. They only had a couple of them. History and English were among the first, I believe. Every time we wanted to add a new one, the University of Illinois took a close look at it and wanted to keep the competition down, I suppose. I remember attending a meeting with the committee on the Board of Higher Education with President William Monat, who was arguing for a new PhD program. I know we [unintelligible 00:27:17] with, perhaps, Physics.
Anyway, I was sitting in a meeting room right behind Bill Monat. This committee, which was called the "Commission of Scholars," President Monat referred to them as the "Commission of Non-scholars." I referred to them as the "Commission of Pseudo-scholars," so we gave them pet names. They were not all high-level researchers in doctoral fields.
Anyway, they were very critical of this proposal of ours, which I had something to do with preparing. At one point, I was sitting behind President Monat, and I could tell from the back of his head that he was grimacing, but we ultimately got it. It was a struggle at times to establish ourselves as a doctoral and research university. It was not always easy.
MOORE-MOAURO: Very interesting. With establishing NIU as a doctoral and research institution, the push-back associated with it -- was that because of the level of educational history had going into wanting to go above and beyond what it was traditionally? Was it a stigma in the Illinois collegiate system that followed NIU, or?
ZAR: Not so much a stigma but probably a conception that other more established major universities had of us -- they shouldn't have been concerned about competition. They still get marvelous students going there. I'm a masters and doctoral graduate of the University of Illinois. I have very high regard for the university, but I think that we're trying to keep competition down and keep their reputation up, shy, pulling our reputation out. I don't know. I was not involved in discussions between presidents or anything of that sort.
MOORE-MOAURO: Do you think that continues into 2019 at all?
ZAR: Nothing I'm aware of. Of course, I'm no longer in a position to be aware of that.
MOORE-MOAURO: Well, maybe, up to 2002, then.
ZAR: Yeah. The time that I was in as university administrator, I did see some of that with regard to establishing the two colleges I mentioned, law and engineering. Other than that, I don't know that we had -- I don't know. It could be that other universities, including the University of Illinois, were somewhat opposed to our establishing our branch campuses, Rockford, Naperville, and so on. I'm really not aware of them.
MOORE-MOAURO: Okay. Yes, please, have some water if you like some. Let's see. You've discussed the changing of the names and branching out of different colleges as a reflection of different presidents coming in, just wanting to make changes, I suppose. When it came to the, I guess, maybe, specialization of these colleges, breaking up of them into more individual, such as the College of Science and Technology that you talked about, from there came the College of Engineering, was this more so a reflection of administrative desires or was it a reaction to the changing environment of higher education in the United States during the time?
ZAR: Probably both and probably also an assessment of societal needs, especially in the region. It turns out, for example, with the establishment of the College of Engineering and expanding greatly what used to be the Department of Technology, there probably was an assessment of the need for engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, industrial engineers, those are the three departments. The dean of that college recently informed me they're beginning a major in civil engineering also. It's become quite a broad and diverse College of Engineering, whereas it used to be a place where you learn how to teach shop and driver's education
- Synopsis: Administrative Duties at NIUKeywords: education board; Board of Higher Education; program; undergraduate; masters; graduate; degree; eliminateTranscript: MOORE-MOAURO: Sure. We've focused on some broader concepts surrounding and NIU, and I'd like to return to your personal experiences now with a few questions. You worked here for a fairly significant amount of time, 34 years. Now, over that time, you've held many different positions at NIU. What impact do you think your work has had on the student's experience?
ZAR: Well, as a classroom teacher, I probably taught 10 or 12 different courses from freshmen through graduate. I hope I have positively influenced a few students along the way. As an administrator, I was involved in, I think, maintaining quality and integrity of academic programs and research across the campus. Also, I was certainly involved in the establishment of new graduate programs across the campus.
The annual evaluation of both undergraduate and graduate programs, degree programs, all across the campus, the university was required by the Board of Higher Education to perform periodic evaluations of programs. How well they're operating. I was involved in every one of those degree program evaluations as an 18-year member of the Academic Planning Council and as a dean. I was involved, whether my impact was always positive, I can't judge. I think I had some impact, and I trust somewhat positive.
MOORE-MOAURO: You mentioned that you were an 18-year member of the academic -- What was it again?
ZAR: Academic Planning Council.
MOORE-MOAURO: Yes. Were there any projects that you were part of that stood out in particular?
ZAR: Well, I can't name particular ones, but certainly the establishment of new programs, new bachelors, master's, doctoral programs that was evaluated. These annual reviews, I think, every program had to be reviewed every so many years. Seven years or whatever it was. Every year, we did have a subset of all the programs that had to be reviewed. I was not officially obligated to comment on the undergraduate programs, but I did. I read them all, all the massive program reviews that departments wrote. No one particularly stands out. All programs are important. How's that for an administrative comment?
MOORE-MOAURO: It sounds very administrative to say.
ZAR: I was also involved in reviews that resulted in the elimination of programs.
MOORE-MOAURO: Okay. The elimination of programs, what-- Gosh, what's a good way to put this? When you had to eliminate a program, when they were under review, are there any that you remember as being particularly, say, controversial to eliminate, that maybe there were individuals who wanted to keep hold of these programs or those who wanted to move forward in a different direction? Did it cause any friction that had an impact on the university?
ZAR: I do not recall. I don't know how many programs I might have seen disappear. A lot of them were modified. One in particular, I remember, that was eliminated, there used to be a masters of library sciences, Master of the Library Science, I guess it was called. The reason that was eliminated was actually because that department, or at least the college dean, wanted it eliminated.
There are many programs on campus who have to be certified by a national organization, an accreditation organization in that field. In the case of Library Science, these are the professional fields. Look, in Library Science, there's a national organization. They were making some demands on the department that the department or the college did not approve of, did not want to abide by, so they eliminated it. We no longer have a Master of Library Science. I don't recall others.
- Synopsis: Impact of State Funding and Economic Pressures on NIU from 1960 through 2002Keywords: WWII; housing; finances; economy; state; department; financial; funding; president Kennedy; federal; 9/11; September 11th; barracks; residence hall; Vice Provost;Transcript: MOORE-MOAURO: Now, like I said, it's a larger question that we wanted to ask. Now, during your time as faculty from 1968 to 2002, the United States did go through multiple, large, political, economic, and cultural changes. Can you share any stories about any national events that significantly impacted life on campus that you observed?
ZAR: No. I don't think so. 9/11 was a big thing. We were affected by it just as any portion of the citizenry was affected by it, but it didn't cause any changes in the university operation, university programming or university emphasis. I don't recall anything else.
I do recall the fact in World War II, not that I was here then, but after World War II, there were huge numbers of former military who wanted to go to college. We are talking about the late 40s. The university had on its campus, housing units. We called them barracks because they were barracks, like military barracks, on the campus to house this influx of students, primarily men, of course. These were located right north of Gilbert Hall, where the Anderson Hall parking lot is now. There were a whole series of barracks. I could see them from my dormitory room. That's what I mentioned before, the university was in fact growing rapidly then.
That was in effect the war, was the effect of the university in that respect, it caused a lot of people to suddenly want to go to college. I don't recall any other historical event. I was at the University of Illinois as a graduate student when President Kennedy was shot I think. I remember where I was and I remember hearing about it but it didn't affect the university's operation.
Now, of course, the university is affected by monumental changes in the Federal Financial Support and State Financial Support. No specific instance, but just routine problems with budgeting at both those levels, and I did experience that periodically.
MOORE-MOAURO: So what's one instance that you had to deal with these changes in monetary allocation on a Federal level that affected what you were doing on the campus administratively then?
ZAR: One of my administrative responsibilities as a Vice Provost for Research was I oversaw the office of sponsored projects, which served to assist faculty in applying for Federal or other grants for research. The amount of Federal Fund and State and private funding that came into the university for research was assisted greatly by that office that I oversaw. So I am certainly aware of problems with granting agencies when their budgets were cut. It affected our grant income.
Some of that money I was able to use went into a central university fund that I was able to use to support research across the campus at my discretion. Such as, one of the commonest things was supporting the expenses of faculty traveling to professional meetings to present research papers. I would get many many requests from faculty to match the support their departments could give them for travel. So major changes in Federal, to lesser extent State, funding would affect things like that.
MOORE-MOAURO: When it came to your personal discretion of money allocation, did you ever find yourself I suppose maybe favoring any department over another, just from your own area of interest, educationally, professionally, anything of that sort ever?
ZAR: Not that I know of. Maybe I was subconsciously, I don't think so. Probably, if one did a tally of the amount of my office's financial support of research across the campus, you would find more dollars allocated to the Sciences than to Education or the Humanities, for example. But that's simply because the Sciences have greater expense needs. Department of English doesn't need a lot of laboratory equipment, for example, whereas the Sciences do. Engineering do, but nothing conscious, there was no favoritism intended, certainly
- Synopsis: Diversity at NIUKeywords: Diversity; faculty; female; women; student; academics; university history;Transcript: MOORE-MOAURO: Okay. Let's see here. Now, from your perspective as a student or an alumni or faculty member, what are some of the more important changes that you think have occurred since 1968 at the university, in any manner you deem as important?
ZAR: Well, the expansion of the university certainly, in size, although that's now shrunk back some and also, the diversity in disciplinary areas. The academic diversity is greater. There is more emphasis on research, not to the detriment I hope of instruction, but more emphasis on research and graduate programming, especially doctoral programming. Also, the diversity of the student body. That has increased tremendously over the years and consciously so. The university has had administrators specifically to encourage an expansion of cultural diversity. I can't judge quantitatively how successful that effort has been, but I know it is. The diversity has increased.
In fact, I had an assistant dean in the graduate school office that has a primary function -- graduate student diversity. I was involved in several state-wide efforts to increase diversity of graduate students. I was on two major state-wide committees. I chaired one of them, I think I was Vice-Chair of the other one. There was a lot of effort across the state and across the country in doing this. So those are changes: the diverse student body, the diversity of academic offerings.
MOORE-MOAURO: When do you think that this interest in the university's diversity started? In the late '60s and early '70s, how aware was the university or yourself or your department or those you worked around, how aware were they of the question of diversity as it might end up developing through the later half of the 20th century, in higher education?
ZAR: I think there was an awareness and I think the emphasis and encouragement for it came from the top. I think we had presidents who were into this, and really it's occurred throughout the history of the university. We started as a teacher's college, almost entirely women. We've got more men in the fields of education than we used to have. We have many more women in the Sciences than we used to have.
When I was undergraduate Biology student, I think we had one female faculty member. Now, there are several. I don't recall running into a female faculty member in Physics or Chemistry. Perhaps Mathematics, but I don't remember. Not Computer Science. So there have been great changes in both gender diversity and ethnic diversity, which I think have been in the works throughout the history. Nationally, of course, there was increased emphasis in the '60s in a sense and we followed along with that, we were in the mainstream I think.
MOORE-MOAURO: So you wouldn't say that in any way shape or form it was, well that's just a bit leading, from an-
ZAR: I agree with you.
MOORE-MOAURO: Was there a push nationally that was felt by the university then or would you say that it was homegrown in the university's administration for this push for diversity?
ZAR: Probably there was a lot of internal push for it, but I am sure that we were aware of what was going on nationally and we had to be part of it. Agreed with it and wanted to be a part of it.
- Synopsis: Advice for Students at NIUKeywords: student; undergraduate; courses; class; majors; major; career; goal; Bill MonatTranscript: MOORE-MOAURO: Since we've been moving a bit forward in time here in discussing things with you, for an incoming freshman is there any advice that you would give that individual coming to NIU for the first time, entering higher education for the first time?
ZAR: Study hard. One thing is we have a lot of students who come here and they're not certain what they want to major in, and that's fine. President Bill Monat whom I mentioned before, he had a child here, I think it was his daughter, who came here as an undergraduate. He used to comment that she was a member of the major of the month club. She would change her mind as to what she wanted to ultimately major in quite frequently and he thought that was fine and I think that's fine.
You start off and you take, what I would encourage is taking a diversity of courses in a diversity of fields of study which you need to do for general education anyway, and you decide on one or two areas that you want to emphasize. Some students come here with a very firm career goal in mind. This is especially true in the professional fields. People come here saying I want to be a nurse, I want to be an engineer. Fine, that's fine too. We can accommodate both kinds of students I hope.
- Synopsis: University Involvement Post RetirementKeywords: 125th Anniversary; director; committee; department; Annuitants Association; Ph.D.; University of Illinois; U of I; travel; 100th Anniversary; undergraduate;Transcript: MOORE-MOAURO: Good, and let's just discuss a little bit about your involvement past say 2002, your professional involvement. You had mentioned that you continue in some ways to be involved with the university through the 125th-Anniversary project, through Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra. What would you like to say about your post-2002 association with the university? The things that you've done, been involved with?
ZAR: Well I've been involved with a few committees of the university. I've been a long-time member for example of the board of directors, it's not called that I think it's called the executive committee or something. Of the friends of the NIU library, a support group for the university libraries. I was on the NIU annuitants board of directors shortly after I retired. I'm now on the committee for the 125th Anniversary, I'm on two subcommittees of that committee including the history subcommittee.
I keep in touch with a few people at the university, I know a few of the deans. I haven't seen my department chair since yesterday, but I keep in touch with him. Every year I know fewer and fewer of the biology faculty because they retire, but I still know a few of them. I certainly keep in touch. I've been a loyal Northern Star reader for decades, I learn a little bit from there, I get newsletters that the university puts out about what's happening. I am interested in the university, its present and its future, not to mention its past, [laughs] so I kind of keep in touch.
MOORE-MOAURO: Why specifically the 125th-Anniversary project then?
ZAR: Well I was asked, I don't know who threw my hat in that ring. I'm officially a representative of the NIU Annuitants Association because I am a retiree, but also I have a long history with the university. I was also on the committee for the 100th Anniversary. I think I'm known as somebody who's not only been around a long time but somebody who has an interest in what goes on and what has gone on so there's a certain logic, I suppose, to my being involved.
MOORE-MOAURO: Okay. Now, is there anything that you'd like to specifically share with us that we haven't addressed here today? Anything about yourself and your relationship with NIU that you think is particularly important.
ZAR: One thing I would stress is that my undergraduate education at NIU was pretty good. The reason I can judge that is I went to the University of Illinois for graduate school. The University of Illinois is not only the so-called flagship university of the state of the state of Illinois, it is one of the most eminent universities, especially public universities in the country. Very large, very diverse, very high quality and I was well prepared I thought. I was well prepared in the sciences, especially biology, I was competing with students who came from many, many, many other, not necessarily competing, but I was with students from many, many other universities.
I could read, I could write, I survived well as a graduate student and I credit a lot of that to my undergraduate work here. I feel that kind of gratitude to the university in a reflection of the education that I got.
MOORE-MOAURO: Would you say the education, what impact has it had professionally then?
ZAR: Well, it certainly helped prepare me for my profession. By preparing me for graduate work, it helped me achieve the masters and Ph.D. which had then prepared me for being a faculty member. I was also a consultant for many years, I consulted with government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency. I consulted with industry, I consulted with other universities who wanted me to talk about fields in biology, fields in my expertise or talk about administration of graduate programs, so I traveled around the country for that.
I traveled from, let's see, from the east -- The University of North Carolina on the East Coast. I was invited to a university, the University-- Oh no I was further east than that, The University of Puerto Rico. As far west I got is The University of Guam, so I spoke in both of those places.
MOORE-MOAURO: Wow. That is a very large footprint then.
ZAR: Yes. My toes touched a lot of places, I don't know about the whole foot.
- Synopsis: Closing Remarks and the Future of NIUKeywords: 125th anniversary; NIU; Northern Illinois University; future; history; enrollment; student attendance; president; university;Transcript: MOORE-MOAURO: Sure, sure. Well, what else do you think then deserves attention during the 125th Anniversary year for Northern Illinois University?
ZAR: Well, I think it's worthwhile celebrating the history and development of the university. How it got to where it is. Make some statements about where it is and what its contributions are to society and to the citizenry, and also, to do an attempt at forecasting where we're headed and what we might look like at the 150th.
MOORE-MOAURO: Where do you think NIU is headed then? If we're going to talk change over time from 1968 to 2019 and looking forward into the future- [crosstalk]
ZAR: That's no longer history. Is it?
MOORE-MOAURO: No, but it could be important and if somebody is listening to this 50 years from now well, then it will be history.
ZAR: We could meet again in-
ZAR: - 25 years from now and discuss it. Actually there's some difficulty in trying to prognosticate. The State support for years has been somewhat uncertain. The enrollment problem is a problem. I would hope the university would, and it may, the enrollment and fiscal problems may force us to delete some programs that we might not otherwise delete. But I hope whatever programs, academic areas, we emphasize 25 years from now, I hope that's based upon reasonable analysis of what societal needs are, what student needs and desires are, as well as what our capabilities are. Not an easy job.
I never wanted to be a university president for that reason because it's not-- NIU is on its 13th president. I have personally witnessed seven of those thirteen. That's half. This is not the first time the university has had budgetary and other problems, and I have seen how presidents have handled it, some better than others. I've seen how other administrators have handled it. The results overall have been okay, but what it will be like 25 years from now I do not know. But I hope what has successfully brought us to where we are now and doing well, what we are now, I hope that continues. I hope we've got people up there who are cognizant of how to make those plans and achieve them.
MOORE-MOAURO: Well, Mr. Zar, I would like to extend not only my personal thanks, but a thank you from the Northern Illinois University History Department, for participating in the 125th Anniversary Project. You have provided wonderful insight into not only your time at NIU but also reflected upon the changes the university has gone under in the latter half of the 20th century. The importance of change over time forms the central focal point for historical analysis, and the contributions you have made today will be a valuable resource moving forward in not only preserving the institution's history, but showing how far the university has come. Mr. Zar, we thank you.
ZAR: Thank you.