North Central College marks homecoming, 150th anniversary
By David Sharos For The Sun November 12, 2011 1:46PM
Updated: December 14, 2011 8:22AM
Homecoming events have long since had their way here at local high schools, but the granddaddy of them all was held this weekend at the college level as North Central College in Naperville welcomed back thousands of alumni as part of its celebration of its 150th anniversary.
The significance of a school dating back to the time just before the Civil War began wasn’t lost on many of the guests this weekend, including Paul Stiffler, 83, a member of the class from 1950.
“I earned a degree here in psychology and history, and I’ve been an ordained minister for 58 years,” Stiffler said. “I grew up in Akron, Ohio, where was I was born in 1928, and have made it a point to come to almost every reunion. I don’t think I’ve missed more than a handful of these over the years. The college has endeavored to pursue its purpose and its mission, and address the interests that the times have called for.”
Events were featured throughout the day Friday including a panel discussion that was held at 2 p.m. featuring history professors from the college who had researched the 150-year history of the school. A convocation was held later at Wentz Concert Hall at 4:15 p.m., followed by a reception. A dinner dance rounded out the day at the Recreation Center.
According to Ted Slowik, director of public relations and media relations for the college, about 2,200 people were in attendance.
“About 800 of the people here are attending because this is their homecoming dance, but the rest are alumni that have come from all over the country,” Slowik said. “I think this is both a celebration that involves looking back as well as forward. We’ve had just nine presidents in the history of the college, and Dr. (Harold) Wilde has been here the last 20 years. The expansion and stabilization over the last two decades has been remarkable, but we’re also looking very much to the future.”
Naperville resident and recent graduate Brad Spencer, 30, said he has lived in Naperville his entire life and came to the college as a student-athlete. Spencer said he continues to enjoy “the family atmosphere” of the college.
“The college itself has seen all the ups and downs of the country and has endured through these 150 years and come through it,” Spencer said. “When you look at what the current president of the college has done, it’s amazing to see the new buildings and what has been built here just in the last 20 years. The last two decades may have been the best in our history.”
Another Naperville resident, Lloyd Krumlauf, 61, from the class of 1973, said he came from a home in central Illinois to play football at North Central when the city had just 16,000 people.
Like Stiffler, Krumlauf said he has missed no more than a half dozen reunions.
“I volunteer here as the men’s golf coach and I really enjoy being around the kids,” he said. “It keeps you young, and the students haven’t changed since I first came here in 1969. The quality of the young men and women remains the same, there are just more of them. There are still loads of volunteers and people that continue to try and give back.”
Jeff Nave and his wife Sue did not attend North Central but came to the Friday night dinner as guests of someone who had. The Naperville couple offered a different spin about the college, noting that North Central is “one of the important amenities of the city.”
“We come to the concerts here at Wentz Hall and go to games like the Crosstown Classic and our kids have gone to a lot of the sports camps,” Jeff Nave said. “This event is a great thing for the alums, too, and you have to admire the founders of the school. The 150 years speaks to the vision of the college.”
Wilde said the accomplishments of North Central College have come as a result of those who have served before him as well as the city of Naperville.
“As I said during my remarks at the Convocation, I have been fortunate to catch the tailwind given to me by my predecessors, and I’ve had a lot of things go well for me during my era,” he said. “This has been a great time for the college as well as for the city of Naperville.”
There have been only nine presidents here over the course of 15 decades and it’s been a great run. As we say on campus, ‘Got history — got future’ and that gives us a lot of confidence and optimism. Look at tonight’s event: where in Naperville have you ever had 2,300 people for dinner?”