North Central College - Naperville, IL

North Central College's ninth president

From the day he arrived on campus—March 25, 1991—President Harold R. Wilde embraced the campus, the faculty, the staff, the students and the alumni with a loyalty, enthusiasm and optimistic outlook that impressed even those who hired him for the job. “From day one or maybe day 10, Hal had become 100 percent a North Central person,” says Steve Bergerson, who headed the Presidential Search Committee and eventually chaired the Board of Trustees. “He so embraced North Central and North Central embraced him.”

Once on the job, Wilde embarked on an agenda that included seeking more and better-qualified traditional-age students; a commitment to the Leadership, Ethics and Values program; and expressing his vision of North Central becoming one of the finest comprehensive liberal arts institutions in the country. Wilde was “a leader with the vision and energy to move North Central along the course which Gael Swing had set,” says John J. Case, Board chair until 1992.

Twenty-one years later and with the help of a large cast of donors and other loyal supporters, Wilde leaves a legacy of building a healthy endowment, nurturing great teaching and student learning, and transforming the campus with magnificent facilities ... all while making an indelible impression on everyone who met him with a graciousness, good humor and humbleness that comes from his Wisconsin upbringing.

But perhaps his greatest contribution was the endless pride he took in North Central College—embodied with an ever-present red hat, red jacket, red tie, red vest—which served to boost the Cardinal pride of everyone else in the community, too. How could we not love the school he loves?