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updated: 5/6/2013 9:35 PM

NIU holds farewell event for departing president

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  • BRIAN HILL/, 2008 John Peters' tenure as Northern Illinois University president will end June 30.

    BRIAN HILL/, 2008 John Peters' tenure as Northern Illinois University president will end June 30.

Associated Press

DEKALB, Ill -- The character of Northern Illinois University President John Peters was praised Monday during a farewell ceremony for the man who led the school when a gunman opened fire on campus, killing five.

Hundreds of people, including students, alumni and community leaders, attended the event.

Julie Konczyk, a credit coordinator within the College of Liberal Arts and Science, was a student in 2003 when she met Peters.

"You'd see him, and he'd shake your hand and just always be very open, despite obviously being a very busy man," Konczyk said. "You got that sense that he wanted to talk to you."

Speakers praised the changes seen on campus since Peters became president in 2000. They pointed to the university's True North fundraising campaign, which brought in more than $180 million, and the construction of campus buildings, including Barsema Hall and the new residence hall.

Peters led the university through one of its most trying times: On Feb. 14, 2008, a former NIU student stepped onto a lecture stage during a geology class in Cole Hall and shot and killed five students and himself, and injured 16 others.

How Peters reacted to the tragedy made impressed Laura Gallagher, a sophomore mechanical engineering major.

"I love how he brought (the university) back from that tragedy ... to make NIU stronger and show how much NIU cares," Gallagher said.

Peter's actions also made an impression on Erin Ortiz, a senior physical therapy major, who met Peters at an event for incoming NIU freshmen.

"Even though they weren't his kids, he still cared for them," Ortiz said.

During Monday's event, Peter's official portrait was unveiled. It will be displayed on the third floor of Altgeld Hall next to the other university presidents' portraits.

Peters' tenure will end June 30. He'll be succeeded by Douglas Baker, provost and executive vice president at the University of Idaho.

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