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updated: 11/13/2013 9:34 PM

NIU inaugurates new president

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Associated Press

DEKALB, Ill. -- Northern Illinois University inaugurated Douglas Baker as its new president on Wednesday during a 90-minute ceremony at the Holmes Student Center of its DeKalb campus.

Baker said he is honored to be entrusted with the responsibility of leading the university of 21,000 students. He said his top priority will be student career success.

"A university focused on student career success provides students with a deep and meaningful body of knowledge to help them succeed in their careers and in life," Baker said.

Baker took over for former NIU President John Peters this summer.

Peters was president for more than a decade, including one of its most trying times: On Feb. 14, 2008, a former NIU student stepped onto a lecture stage during a geology class and shot and killed five students and himself, injuring 16 others.

Baker is a former provost and executive vice president at the University of Idaho.

Since arriving at Northern Illinois this summer, Baker has made several administrative changes, including splitting up the beleaguered Division of Finance and Facilities.

The division faced troubles last year, when Associate Vice President Robert Albanese and convocation center Director John Gordon resigned amid misconduct allegations.

Albanese was one of three people who later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with the "Coffee Fund," which contained money from the sale of university-owned scrap metal and other materials.

Baker has also created a new international affairs division and hired both a new athletic director and police chief. He called the international affairs division a critical component for both the university and its students.

Senior school administrators have visited China for discussions with two new partnering institutions, Baker said. "In December, 23 leaders from those Chinese universities will join us to further explore our partnership."

The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle reports Baker said more changes, large and small, will be forthcoming.

"I can't do this alone," Baker said. "Who will make the changes? You: the faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as our local community."

After the ceremony, state Sen. Dave Syverson, a Rockford Republican, called Baker's ascendancy an exciting time for NIU. She said Baker has "some bold ideas," which she says are what people are looking for.

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