North Central College - Naperville, IL

2006: Challenges include meeting the $1 million Kresge Challenge

This fall, Broadway star Bernadette Peters, winner of multiple Tony Awards, gave 1,050 audience members in Pfeiffer Hall a night they’ll never forget.

Her performance was riveting, but at one point I found myself thinking about Lucia Spina ’97, whom I had watched perform so many times on Pfeiffer’s stage, with her equally powerful voice, soon to reprise on Broadway her successful Chicago role as a lead in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see Bernadette — and Lucia — on the stage in the new Wentz Concert Hall without the microphones required in Pfeiffer? What a moment that would be (Peters’ music director later told me she would love to help inaugurate the Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center)!

After a year that saw North Central College advance on so many fronts — in admissions, reputation, resources, athletics  — it is tempting to rest on our laurels, and to get caught up, as I was on that September Saturday night, in reveries about exciting moments to come. But after celebrating a record number of new students, a clean audit and $15 million increase in net assets, $11 million in gifts and a $1 million Kresge Challenge commitment, the opening of Kiekhofer Hall , the best football team in generations … I could go on and on … I know that some of the most difficult challenges we have ever faced are still before us.

At the top of the list is that magnificent Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center. We still have a long, long way to go — in the next six months — to meet the terms of the Kresge Challenge, and we will have additional funds to raise after that. As we begin the process of developing the Strategic Plan that will take the College through its sesquicentennial in 2011-12, it is clear that the next major project, dramatically improved science facilities, will be even more costly than this one.

Can we do it? Will we do it? Every page, every name in this Annual Report tells me we can … so many remarkable people … so many generous benefactors (so often farmers, teachers, owners of small businesses whose magnificent gifts we could not have anticipated) who committed their life’s resources to this College we love.

In thanking them, and all of you whose names appear here, in celebrating the year your generosity made possible, I must return to that incandescent night in Pfeiffer Hall with Bernadette Peters. One of her most famous roles was as Mama Rose in Gypsy on Broadway. It was a showstopper when Benna and I saw it there. And it was even better in Naperville.

We’ve all heard it. “I have a dream, a wonderful dream.” She was singing for us. She was singing for this great College. We owe it to our daughters and sons (and, in this year when Benna and I became grandparents, our grandchildren) to keep dreaming big dreams for this College, like the men and women who built Old Main in 1870 and Pfeiffer Hall eight decades ago. And to make sure, bit by bit, piece by piece, that those dreams come to pass. Thank you for all you do to give us confidence that we can realize our dreams and fulfill the promise of those who, for 145 years, have invested their time, their teaching talent, and their resources in North Central College.

Harold R. Wilde

North Central Now, December 2006