Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Happy birthday, Northwestern

Northwestern alumna Joy Johnson Heverly beamed with purple pride — and purple hair — at Friday afternoon’s opening sesquicentennial ceremony.

She wore a purple keychain bracelet around her wrist. She even wore purple underwear.

“I’ve got a purple wardrobe that you wouldn’t believe,” said Heverly, who attended NU in the 1950s for two years and now volunteers around campus. “Anybody who knows me knows I go from the eye shadow to the nail polish.”

Students watched the fireworks and clapped along as speakers played “Go U Northwestern,” at the Lakefill on Friday night. (Sam Comen – Daily)

Heverly and thousands of other alumni and students packed the campus this weekend to kick off NU’s 150th birthday bash.

Friday and Saturday’s festivities included an all-campus picnic, a 30-minute fireworks display and an 800-pound cheesecake.

Purple pinwheels dotted lawns around campus, NU marching band members waved purple flags, and students and alumni munched on purple M&M’s and drank purple lemonade.


During Friday’s opening ceremony at Deering Meadow, University President Henry Bienen emphasized NU’s history of diversity and said he will carry that tradition into the future.

Though all of the university’s past 15 presidents were men, Bienen said he expects a woman soon will fill the position.

“Clearly Northwestern has a rich heritage of which we can be proud, as well as an extremely promising future,” Bienen told a crowd of about 600. “The vision of the founders to create a university of the highest order of excellence remains one of our strongest guiding principles today.”

Both Bienen and Evanston Mayor Lorraine Morton emphasized the university’s contributions to the city, despite the oft-bitter debate over whether NU should contribute more to the city financially.

Morton, Education ’42, lauded the university’s tradition of community service and said NU’s welfare is intertwined with that of the city.

“We join you in the celebration and thank you for being here,” she said. “Your permanence is assured, Northwestern.”

Bienen also said the university’s contributions to Evanston overshadow occasional disputes.

“Although there may occasionally be disagreements with some members of the City Council, there’s no question that Northwestern remains an integral part of Evanston and of this community,” he said. “We offer here intellectual, cultural and economic opportunities which help make Evanston such an exciting and wonderful place to live and work.”

In addition to their contribution to the city, NU alumni make a dramatic impact on the corporate world, said Alumni Association President Ava Youngblood. For example, McCormick alumni designed Internet Explorer and helped build the spacecraft that sent the first man to the moon, she said.

A Kellogg alumnus also owns the company that produces 90 percent of the world’s zippers, Youngblood said.

“Every time you zip up, think of Northwestern,” she said.

Associated Student Government President Adam Humann said the festive weekend should help students feel more connected to the university.

“While it might not help me understand exactly what things were like in 1987, 1920 or 1851, this sesquicentennial celebration has helped me realize how much more attached every current student would be to Northwestern if only we understood the tradition that we add to each and every day, ” said Humann, a Weinberg senior. “Let us hope this is only the beginning.”

Also at the opening ceremony, a U.S. Postal Service representative unveiled a 20-cent commemorative postcard of the University Hall clock tower. The card will be available next year.

Though many students did not attend the opening ceremony, thousands turned out from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday for their free slice of a three-layer cheesecake. Workers served about 4,000 slices of the 600-pound cheesecake, topped with 200 pounds of whipped cream.

The cake was gone by 3:40 p.m.

Weinberg sophomore Elizabeth Glasgow, who helped serve the cheesecake, said she was “drenched” in frosting by 4 p.m. — and she doesn’t even like cheesecake.

“It was fun to think that this was probably the only time I will serve an 800-pound cheesecake,” she said. “It takes a little bit more effort than it looks.”


Prof. Garry Wills gives the keynote address, titled, “Is the university obsolete?” to an audience at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on Friday night. (Sam Comen – Daily)

At Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on Friday night, Prof. Garry Wills gave the keynote address, titled, “Is the university obsolete?”

Though many people are celebrating NU’s 150th anniversary, Wills said, some academics fear that the technological revolution is changing how people learn and research so much that universities soon will become outdated. Seventy-five percent of colleges offer some form of online instruction, Wills said, and 90 percent will by next year.

Even so, Wills said, the university will not disappear.

“The classroom is not a chat room, where people of no qualification can monopolize the conversation,” Wills said.

Though universities have changed over the years, he said, one element of the university has remained constant: knowing about knowing. The university is and always will be a place to ask the questions that people outside lack the time and the inclination to ask.

Wills asked another question dear to many NU students: If working in the real world is the best way to learn a profession, why do students study in a university at all?

At the university, Wills answered, students and professors share in exploring ideas beyond their practical applications.

“We learn what we thought we were teaching,” Wills said, quoting St. Augustine. “That is the university experience.”


Students, alumni, faculty and Evanston residents enjoyed hamburgers, cookies and purple-colored lemonade at the all-campus picnic held on the south and east lawns of Norris Center. (Esther Chou – Daily)

Before Wills’ keynote address, students, alumni, administrators and staff mingled amid pumpkins, haystacks and ice sculptures on the Norris University Center lawns at an all-campus picnic. They feasted on hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, veggies, ice cream and purple lemonade.

Taking advantage of the free food, some students grabbed handfuls of cookies and chips before leaving the picnic. One group of freshmen even walked off with an ice sculpture.

Later Friday night, a blaze of fireworks at the Lakefill colored students’ faces green, red and purple as they clapped to the sound of “Go U Northwestern” blaring from nearby speakers.

A fiery sign that read “Happy 150th NU” shone in front of people who lay on the grass for the 30-minute fireworks display.

Two-year-old Ethan Wright danced to the music and squealed in delight at each explosion. After the ashes of each firework drifted into Lake Michigan, he pulled on his mother’s shirt and said, “One more time, Mommy.”

Although Weinber
g junior Andrew Ellison said he had seen fireworks display that were more spectacular, he said NU’s birthday bash united the community.

“It wasn’t like a football game where people are pissed off if we lose,” he said. “It wasn’t about winning or competing. It was about celebrating the essence of what it is to be a Wildcat.”

On Saturday night, Pick-Staiger had the feel of a Hollywood movie premiere, complete with red carpets lining the sidewalks and spotlights searching the sky.

NU students struggle in a tug-of-war at Long Field on Saturday. NU once held a national title in the event, and Saturday’s competition gave students the chance to re-live history. (Sam Comen – Daily)

An evening of music and dancing culminated with the showing of “Northwestern: Moments in Time,” a one-hour video chronicling the history of the university through old film, photographs and interviews with administrators, faculty, alumni and students.

Earlier Saturday afternoon, teams of students competed in tug-of-war competitions, an event honoring the sport in which NU once held a national title.

“For sesquicentennial weekend, we wanted people to have fun and re-live history, so this is a small attempt at it,” said Virginia Albaneso-Koch, assistant director of the sesquicentennial celebration.

The Daily’s Demelza Baer, Farhanaz Kermalli, Ana Mantica, Ericka Mellon, Dan Murtaugh, Daniel Schack and Nathan Winegar contributed to this report.

Read more coverage from the Sesquicentennial Celebration

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Happy birthday, Northwestern