Willie the Wildkit was replaced by Willie the Wildcat for Evanston native Ian Weinberger when he enrolled at Northwestern.
Weinberger’s Wildkit cheers in Welsh-Ryan Arena used to support Evanston Township High School in its basketball game against its rival, New Trier High School. The school’s games consistently sold out at the high school gymnasium and were moved to NU four years ago.
Weinberger, now a Music freshman, is among a small number of Evanstonians who attend NU. Although the Office of Undergraduate Admission could not provide an estimate of how many native Evanston residents are enrolled, Weinberger said eight people from his graduating class attend NU.
“My dad took me to my first basketball game when I was two-and-a-half,” Weinberger said. “So I came home and told my parents I wanted to go to Northwestern. Obviously growing up here, I sort of felt a part of Northwestern for a long time.”
Mia Townsend, a Weinberg sophomore, also is an Evanston native. She received a scholarship to NU through the Evans Scholars program, an organization that provides scholarships for golf caddies.
Townsend, whose family lives approximately five minutes from campus, visits home about once every three weeks. Along with seeing her family, she also enjoys being able to use her car on the weekends.
“Walking is a little bit much,” Townsend said. “I don’t think I’ve walked from Northwestern to my house since, like, sophomore year of high school.”
Despite having local friends and growing up close to NU, Townsend and Weinberger chose to live on campus. Weinberger said he thought about commuting “for about 35 seconds.”
“I love my family, but I definitely thought it was important for me to live on campus,” Weinberger said. “That and my dad said he would change the locks – just kidding.”
They may not change the locks to keep their son at college, but Weinberger’s parents said they never expected him to live at home.
“To us, part of being at college is being able to live it 24/7,” said Barbara Goodman, Weinberger’s mother. “It’s nice to have that independence. We are trying to give him his space.”
Weinberger packed for school at midnight the evening before he moved into Jones Residential College. The next day, he went home for a crate of items he’d forgotten, and he still uses the one-and-a-half mile distance between home and campus to his advantage.
“Occasionally it’s tempting to want to go home more often, you know, get your laundry done, get some dinner or whatever,” Weinberger said. “I’ve been doing a better job of trying to be at school.”
Weinberger said he sees his family twice a month, and his parents attend his concerts on campus. Both Townsend and Weinberger said they keep in touch with pre-college friends.
“A lot of my friends were from the Chicago area,” Townsend said. “I didn’t really make very many friends freshman year. I am still closer to them than people here.”
As a NU student and Evanston native, Weinberger has a unique perspective of the relations between the city and the university.
“Evanston isn’t a fan of Northwestern, the institution itself,” Weinberger said. “But I think as a whole Evanston is glad Northwestern is here. It’s nice for Evanston to have all the students around.”
Reach Sarah Tompkins at [email protected]