North Central College - Naperville, IL

The Wilde Era in the words of the North Central family

As a former athlete at North Central and later a high school coach, I was always impressed with the wonderful support President Hal had for all the athletic teams. You could always find Hal by looking for the red jacket and the ever-present baseball cap. He certainly brought academics and athletics to national prominence.”

Bud ’48 and Lois Stauffer ’49 Berger

Dr. Wilde presenting me and my best friend, Floyd Thompson, the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2000—that, of course, was a high moment. But I was really impressed with his stopping by to see us here in Athens, GA, on his way to visit Paine College in Augusta, GA, several years ago. And you know what? The man doesn’t seem to age; he looks the same as when I first met him. He has been the right man at the right time doing the right thing for North Central.”

Dwight “Dee” Freshley ’50

Back in 1993 when I was the CEO of Solar Communications, Hal paid me a visit to, of course, nicely ask for money. I explained that I had never finished my undergraduate degree and due to his encouragement, I soon after enrolled in North Central’s evening program. Fast forward to 1998. It was my pleasure to be asked by Hal to be the Commencement speaker at my own graduation. I was so honored and will be forever grateful to Hal for his encouragement to complete my degree.”

Frank Hudetz ’98

Hal is a man of great intellect but also uncanny smartness, two remarkable qualities. But what I really admire most about Hal is who he is as a human being: his compassion, integrity and straightforwardness. Laced together, there’s no way to separate these qualities from his leadership style. These characteristics define how he has led this school the past 21 years.”

R. Devadoss Pandian, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty

My best memory of Hal was when I was trying to graduate. So, I went to his office and talked with him. He went out of his way to make sure I got the help that I needed. I am so grateful for him for doing that. I became the first male to graduate from college in my family. My family and I thank you, President Wilde!”

Michael Norwood Jr. ’04/M’10

After Hal came on board, I was confident that he was the best candidate for the job. But I had no idea that he’d turn out to be—in my opinion—the best president we’ve ever had. What totally impressed me about him is that as we dealt with the problems of the early ’90s, he’d call and talk things through, and while I looked at Hal as an academic—which I am not—and I thought of myself as a real-world person, we agreed 99.99 percent of the time. That surprised me. Hal has the intellectual side but he also has common sense. He always thought through the issues. I served as chair of the Board of Trustees for nine years—normally board chairs serve three or four years. We were just working so well together.
The other thing that impressed me is that from day one or maybe day 10, Hal had become 100 percent a North Central person. He so embraced North Central and North Central embraced him. And he’s grown from it and so did we. North Central is poised to really achieve great things. The success of sports, the quality of our faculty, our buildings—what we’ve done here without incurring debt is unbelievable. There’s no reason the next 21 years shouldn’t be just as great.”

Steven Bergerson, Board chair from 1992-2001 and a chair of the Presidential Search Committee, 1990-1991

In 2009 I graduated with my master’s degree in liberal studies more than 30 years after I graduated high school. The evening before, Hal hosted his annual tent party, where he met my family.
Our daughter was still in high school and had not yet decided on a college— that is, until she met Hal. He conveyed that North Central is a family, and what better way to continue a tradition in heritage, than to have a mother and daughter as graduates of the same school. The next day at Commencement, he asked if our daughter had given any more thought about her college choice. Well, Amanda is a junior studying physics and secondary education. Hal’s message was received loud and clear.”

Cheryl Gatto M ’09

As we were headed to Naperville from our northern Wisconsin home to move our daughter into a North Central dorm, we pulled into a gas station in Madison, WI. I noticed someone wearing a North Central tennis jacket! It was Hal, along with Benna, and they were on their way to northern Wisconsin for a vacation. Hal immediately recognized me. I’m sure he never expected to run into anyone he might know there.
What a remarkable talent and ability—and so very meaningful when someone knows you and calls you by name.”

Nancy Zeumer ’67 Kranpitz

I came to North Central as a new faculty member just months after Hal’s inauguration. All my previous work experience had taught me to keep my head down and steer clear of administrators. But I soon learned from one of my history colleagues that Hal relished a good debate on a wide range of subjects. Over time, I learned that my colleague was absolutely right. Hal wanted to know what was on the minds of faculty—even when he didn’t agree with us. Over the years, I’ve encouraged countless faculty and staff to talk to Hal about concerns they might have. I’ve taken my own advice—most recently when writing about Hal’s tenure for the 150th history. One of the things I will truly miss after Hal retires is knowing that he won’t be in the president’s office, willing to listen!”

Ann Durkin Keating, Dr. C. Frederick Toenniges, Professor of History

Like many, I enjoy the story that Hal tells at Commencement about the old man who never stops learning. My enjoyment comes from Hal’s unabashed enthusiasm for and belief in the moral of the story. Hal has done a wonderful job because, first and foremost, be cherishes education and the opportunity to learn. My other story is not really a story. Hal and I both grew up in Wisconsin. While we long ago moved to Illinois, one of us often does or says something which the other immediately recognizes as a leftover quirk from that Wisconsin upbringing. Maybe you can’t go home again, but your home follows along wherever you go.”

Steven Hoeft ’73, Board chair 2009-

My favorite Hal memory was hearing the story of his neighbor who went to the library each day ‘because there’s so much to learn!’ I heard it at the ’92, ’93 and ’94 graduations (by ’94 many of us in attendance could mouth the words along with him). For all I know, Hal is still telling that story each June!”

Nikki Siciliano ’93 Loomos

Short and simple ... Hal grabbing tator tots from Kaufman and eating them out of his hat.”

Kelly Ator ’11

When I came to North Central as a freshman in September 1953, C. Harve Geiger was president. He was followed by President Arlo F. Schilling, who signed the contract when my husband, Donald E. Johnson ’57, joined the faculty. Then came President Gael Swing, who was followed by President Hal Wilde. After his inauguration in Merner Field House, Hal greeted a long, long line of well-wishers, and as just one person in that line, I remember telling him that I knew he would be the best president North Central had ever had. I was right!”

Arline Coffman ’57 Johnson

College presidents who really care about a student’s experience are rare and special. I am reminded of this when I see Hal in his ‘perch’ watching an athletics event, when he responds to a concerned parent or visits with families at Honors Day. Benna is similarly loved and I’ve always appreciated the role model she is for our students. Students who visit other colleges or go to graduate school gain a real appreciation for Hal’s concern for them. Their friends marvel at the privilege of calling a president by his first name. He is a student’s president.”

Laurie Hamen, vice president for enrollment management, athletics and student affairs

My husband Wayne ’61 and I were in the Guggenheim Museum in New York several years ago when we spotted a family group wearing North Central clothing. Of course we asked who they were and it turned out to be Hal and his family. We had never met him but he was so gracious that we instantly were impressed.”

Barbara Mark ’61 Duehn

Traveling with Hal across the country and around the globe, we’ve become more than friends—we’re more like soul mates. We always have fun, we always laugh. His sense of Cardinal Pride is infectious and he always carries the North Central flag by wearing the logo on his cap, shirt or tie. During every meeting with an alum or friend of the College, his message is the same: to be a great college, we need your help. And that’s why he’s taken North Central to a completely different level.”

Rick Spencer, vice president for institutional advancement

I have often dubbed my stint as Board chair as my ‘second NCC education’ thanks to Hal who, throughout my tour of duty, maintained progressive leadership of the institution flavored with his own modern Midwestern conservatism. With his support at that time, a mandatory retirement age of 70 for all active Board members was passed. Hal’s support meant that we now have a younger, vibrant voting Board along with many Life Trustees who still provide wise counsel. And the idea for an every-other-year, off-campus February meeting of the Board was born.
The unexpected issues that arose were often the most interesting and challenging. Hal phoned to explain that some mold had been discovered in the ducts in one of the women’s residence halls. Being from humid Florida, I asked, ‘So, when don’t ducts have mold in ’em?’ He suggested that the best option was to move all the residents to the Holiday Inn for the term. I asked whether he thought he’d be able to convince them to move back after the problem was solved. Move them he did; they remained healthy.
Decisive … deliberate … dedicated … that’s my recollection of Hal’s hand on the tiller.”

Richard G. Norenberg ’55, Board chair 2001-2004

My husband and I have a wonderful memory with Hal. On January 31, 2010, my husband Dan ’07 proposed to me in a classroom in Larrance Academic Center. This was a Sunday morning and the campus was pretty empty. Dan and I walked around campus taking photos together. While standing in front of Old Main we see President Wilde driving by waving and honking.
We told him that we had just gotten engaged and that we both were graduates. He immediately got out of his car and asked to take a picture with us. It was the sweetest, most random moment that both my husband and I will never forget. We were so excited and humbled that he took the time to share that special moment with us. When it came time to deliver invitations to our wedding (held March 26, 2011), of course Hal and his wife were invited.”

Lauren Kirby ’08 Stanish

What has stuck with me is how Hal quipped ‘there’s always so much to learn!’ at Commencement. That phrase seedling has stuck with me over the years and has germinated as a part of who I am today. I can’t walk into a library, bookstore or museum without hearing those flowering words. There is always so much to learn.”

Ryan Kauffman ’04/M ’08

Some of our fondest memories during our time at North Central involved President Wilde, or as we all affectionately called him, Hal.
Hal would pop into the Cardinal Lounge to say hello, see what we were watching on television, or offer us the leftover cake that was upstairs. We were two of those lucky students who got an opportunity to have dinner with him—he treated us all like family, graciously inviting us into his home, giving us a tour and taking a big slice of cake we had made for the occasion (unbeknownst to his wife, who was out that night.) In 2010, we went through a difficult time when Lucas’ mom was killed in a car accident. At her memorial service, Hal made it a point to come and show support for his North Central family members. Of all our memories, this gesture carries the most meaning and reflects greatly on Hal and the North Central family. Although a big part of North Central’s heart is leaving with Hal’s retirement, we wish him all the best in his future endeavors, and will cherish all our memories of him. Thank you Hal!”

Lucas Mitzel ’11 and Kristen Klecka ’11

Hal attended his first Investment Committee meeting in the President’s conference room when the “old” Old Main had window air conditioning units. At the end of the meeting, he said, “Hey Loscheider, how do you turn this thing off?” I looked at him and said, “You see this button that says off? You push it.” He let me keep my job! Over the years, he proved time and again that he understands so much more than I ever will and that the breadth of his knowledge is
enormous. Hal Wilde is a brilliant and benevolent man.”

Paul Loscheider, vice president for business affairs

I recall the Search and Advisory Committees’ initial formal interview with Hal. The job description specified the new president was expected to increase the endowment. Hal stated he would seek donors to endow faculty positions in various departments. As Hal retires, there are 13 endowed faculty chairs.
I still enjoy recalling Hal’s oft-repeated story about when he took a break from his college studies to evaluate his goals. During that interval, Hal received a letter from a professor at Amherst encouraging him to reflect on his goals and then return to earn his undergraduate degree.
According to Hal, he carried that letter in his billfold for many years as a source of inspiration. He told this story to remind faculty of the various opportunities to support students as they reevaluate their personal and professional goals.
In my judgment, one of the reasons Hal made lasting contributions to North Central is that he fell in love with this College. When the North Central College Alma Mater is sung, I think Hal sings the line, “North Central is the school we love,” with the same intention, enthusiasm and pride expressed by those of us who are alumni.”

Howard Mueller ’58, Dr. C. Frederick Toenniges Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus

Hal Wilde’s tenure at the College has impacted faculty in dramatic ways. Hal has brought a respect for the faculty enterprise and a passion for the engaged academic life that has energized and enriched our daily
lives and shaped a forward-looking path of academic excellence. The funding initiatives for endowed chairs and Ruge Fellows not only gave special attention to the impact of faculty on learning and inquiry but did so in a way that supported faculty development at large. Each building initiative empowered academic programs such as the performing and fine arts, education or languages to fulfill long-held aspirations toward excellence.
Beyond all else, Hal Wilde has brought a passion for life, community, citizenship and ideas to the campus that is both contagious and demanding of the best in each of us. I will miss the structured as well as the off-the-cuff conversations about the latest academic trend or a book fondly remembered from a recent trip. And I will miss Benna and the extended Wilde family who have shared their lives, friendship and professional engagement with
us out of respect for the College and what seemed to be a bottomless, all-embracing regard for each of its individuals.”

Francine Navakas, Svend and Elizabeth Bramsen Professor in the Humanities

I will always remember the nights of pizza in the basement of Hal’s house, and the picnics on his front lawn. Hal always made the effort to make everyone feel connected and welcome.”

Kevin Araujo-Lipine ’06

In 1993, I was about to embark on my journey as a student at North Central College only to have medical complications.
My first of many good thoughts of North Central was the day President Wilde came to visit me in the hospital without ever having met me before. It meant so much to me that the president take the time to show how much he cared.”

Wendy Johnson ’95

A story about Hal Wilde: 22 years ago I was a student and working the ticket booth at a theater production on campus. A nice looking, tall gentleman came to buy a ticket. So as to give him the appropriate type of ticket, I asked him if he was a student (since North Central had a good number of nontraditional students then). He said, ‘No, I’m a president.’ I became quite flustered, but he kept smiling and wanted to pay for a ticket even after I assured him that presidents get in free.”

Allison Johnson ’92 Krogstad

Your kind words gave me courage and energy to continue through my roles as visiting lecturer (1989) to Associate Professor of English Emerita (2000). Your presence in my Business Writing class was a highlight. I can picture you seated cross-legged on a desk in Old Main. I wonder
if the students had any idea how unusual and wonderful that was! And the (Harold and Eva White) First Citizen of the College and Emerita status—these unexpected recognitions still thrill me.”

Nancy Chapman ’60