Spring 2014

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A dancer hits the hardwood in 1978. Northwestern University Archives.

Then: The First Dance

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Check out highlights from 40 years of Dance Marathon history.

President Barack Obama (H06) fired up the dancers at the 2014 DM with his words of encouragement via a video message.

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Ever wonder about those strange designations we use throughout Northwestern to identify alumni of the various schools of the University? See the complete list.

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Dance Marathoners back in the day had it easy. At the first NUDM, at the newly opened Blomquist Recreation Center in February 1975, dancers were allowed two seven-hour sleeping breaks during the weekend-long event. The 21 couples in that first dance raised more than $9,000 — including a donation from Frank Sinatra Jr. — for the Epilepsy Foundation of America and a national mental health organization.

“NU’s Dance Marathon ’75 fulfilled our goals in uniting this campus toward a common cause,” entertainment chair Bill Buell (WCAS75) and public relations chair Roy Elvove (C75, GJ76) wrote in the Daily Northwestern. “It is our hope that marathons will continue here at NU, with greater success and participation than this first one.”

This spring Northwestern held its 40th Dance Marathon, with more than 1,000 dancers and a seven-digit fundraising goal for Team Joseph, which supports cutting-edge research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and the Evanston Community Foundation. (See complete coverage of the 2014 Dance Marathon, which raised a record $1.385 million.)

In honor of the anniversary, current students connected with NUDM alumni at a gala celebration at the Library Club in Chicago in February. They also collected old stories, photos and videos from past Dance Marathons “to show current students what NUDM used to be like,” said spokesman David Harris, a School of Education and Social Policy senior. (See some of the treasures from yesteryear.)

One former executive board member dropped by NUDM’s office with old T-shirts and news clippings. The board has collected funny photos from the event’s early years and stories about celebrity visits, including two appearances by former Northwestern student and celebrity supermodel Cindy Crawford.

For community relations chair Kari Fleischauer, meeting NUDM alumni has shown her the power of the event. “It’s so cool to see how this organization brings people together,” says Fleischauer, “and how close they’ve stayed to each other through the years.”