Henry S. Bienen

(Top photo: Library of Congress)





The vision of the founders, "to create a University of the highest order of excellence, complete in all of its parts," remains one of our strongest guiding principles today.

Dear Northwestern Alumni,

This year marks the celebration of Northwestern's Sesquicentennial, the 150th anniversary of the University's founding. Accordingly, we are planning several opportunities during the coming year to celebrate Northwestern's heritage as well as look forward to what I believe is an extraordinarily bright future for the University.

As a Northwestern alumnus/a, you may have been asked why an institution located solidly in the Midwest is named "Northwestern." At the time of its establishment, the University's founders were determined to create an institution that would serve the entire Northwest Territory, a vast region that included what are now the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and a part of Minnesota. Therefore, they chose the name "Northwestern."

Northwestern's founders were men of extraordinary vision, particularly when you realize that in 1850 Evanston did not even exist, and Chicago was still a rough frontier town (the law office where the founders first met sat above a hardware store on a muddy street). To plan a university that would rival the well-established East Coast institutions in its size and academic strength was truly ambitious. Yet John Evans, Orrington Lunt, Grant Goodrich and the others present that day, May 31, 1850, were determined to do so.

That aspiration for greatness continues to shape our plans for Northwestern's future. As reported elsewhere in this issue of the magazine, we have increased the goal of Campaign Northwestern by $400 million, to $1.4 billion, making it one of the largest fund-raising efforts in higher education. Although the overall campaign total now stands at approximately $935 million, individual goals for some projects remain unmet. As a result, we will now focus our efforts on specific areas, including final funding for major building projects and increased endowment for scholarships, fellowships and faculty chairs.

These areas are critical to the long-term success of the University. We plan to increase our efforts to attract the best faculty to Northwestern. We want to retain the outstanding teachers and researchers now here while also expanding our faculty selectively. In addition, we want to increase the diversity of our faculty. We also seek outstanding scholar-teachers.

I am very pleased to report that outside research funding for the University totaled $236 million last year, the most in Northwestern's history. In addition, we now rank 33rd in the country in medical research funding from the National Institutes of Health, compared with 52nd 10 years ago.

What this increased financial support really shows is that Northwestern faculty members are doing cutting-edge research in a variety of important fields, including new treatments for cancer, bioremediation of polluted land and the study of key policy issues in economics and government. It gives me great personal satisfaction that Northwestern is contributing to the improvement of society in many different ways through this important research.

We also continue to seek to bring the best students at all levels to Northwestern. The academic profile of our freshman class is very strong, with a combined SAT average of 1377 and a median high school class rank at the 96th percentile. Our professional schools again this fall will enroll some of the best students in the country.

In addition, we have allocated greater resources for graduate school fellowships, which enable us to attract a strong group of students at that level.

Providing leaders for the Northwest Territory was a key goal when the University was founded. Today Northwestern is proud of its role in preparing leaders in business, government, law, medicine, science, journalism and the arts not just for the Midwest but the entire world. When you look at your fellow alumni, you can clearly see that the founders' vision of preparing students for leadership continues to be realized today.

Northwestern has a rich heritage of which we can be proud, as well as an extremely promising future. The vision of the founders — "to create a University of the highest order of excellence, complete in all of its parts" — remains one of our strongest guiding principles today. Our students, faculty and alumni are unquestionably more diverse than the original nine men who met 150 years ago. But just as those men had a vision and the determination to make the vision a reality, I am confident that, building on their strong foundation, we will be successful in our work for this great University.

Sesquicentennial events planned throughout the academic year include publication of a new book and video on Northwestern history and an all-campus celebration that will be held Oct. 20–21. I hope you will be able to join us, either on campus or at an alumni gathering in your area.

Henry S. Bienen