During the spring of 1957, country-and-western singer Marty Robbins topped the Billboard charts with his timeless ode to a white sport coat, a pink carnation and a lonely prom night.
That fall, it was College of Education student David Taylor’s turn to wear an ivory jacket as the proud and handsome Homecoming king at the newly named Northern Illinois University. Unlike the lovelorn Robbins, however, Taylor had a beautiful date for the dance: Beverly, who would become his wife in 1962.
And on Taylor’s arm during the Homecoming parade College of Ed classmate – and Homecoming Queen – was Marjorie Brazzalle Meanger.
“I loved my years at Northern,” says Meanger, who went on to a thriving career as a kindergarten teacher in St. Charles. “I entered in 1955, when it was Northern Illinois State Teachers College, and I watched the change to Northern Illinois State College and finally NIU. There was a lottery to see which girls would go from the largest freshmen dorm, Neptune, to Williston Hall.”
For Taylor, the journey to DeKalb followed the footsteps of his older brother, Richard.
Both brothers came from the South Side of Chicago with state teacher’s scholarships in hand. Both studied education – Richard bound for a career as a teacher and counselor at Homewood-Flossmoor – and enjoyed four years of covered tuition.
Neptune Hall “had a good organization to get out the Homecoming vote,” says Taylor, whose career in Student Services took him from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., to Western Illinois University and Boise State University.
Sixty years later, as NIU prepares for the 2017 Homecoming celebration, recollections of college come easily for the man and woman who wore the crowns in 1957.
Meanger became “a town girl” during her sophomore year and soon met her future husband, Don, who lived across the street. They married in 1960.
“We built many friendships at Northern that continue today,” says Meanger, who lost Don 14 years ago to cancer. “We had two children who kept us busy, along with teaching kindergarten and being involved with our church, community activities and travel every summer.”
Their daughter, Melanie, also attended NIU to earn her degree in physical therapy. Like her mother, Melanie worked the sidelines as Huskie cheerleader – and was able to cheer during the 1983 California Bowl victory over Cal State Fullerton.
Now retired and a grandmother of four, Meanger is “busier than ever” traveling, volunteering and “paying back to the community.”
“Northern has remained at the top of the list,” she says, “because it gave us both the well-rounded educations needed to do our best in our careers. Go Huskies!”
Taylor remembers fondly an Alpha Phi Omega victory party dance after Student Stunt Night. It was the night the active fraternity officer met Beverly, who studied elementary and special education with an emphasis in speech therapy.
He stayed busy outside his classes by serving as chair of the Homecoming and Winter Carnival committees, president of Alpha Phi Omega, president and R.A. (then called Precinct Captain) of Gilbert Hall and playing intramural sports.
It served him well during his career: Upon his retirement from Boise State, school officials decided to name a residence hall – Taylor Hall – in honor of his dedication to their students and the university while serving as vice president for Student Affairs.
Parents of two and grandparents of two, the Taylors now are enjoying the freedom of retirement by traveling and thinking back to their professional launching pad in DeKalb.
“The good thing about Northern is that it gave you lots of opportunities for involvement,” Taylor says. “They were good times at Northern – good friends and good involvement with all kinds of campus life.”