Six principals from NIU’s service region were named as the inaugural Marguerite Key Fellows, a new initiative of the NIU College of Education.
- Rachel Bednar, principal, Edison Middle School, Wheaton
- Jay Brickman, principal, Hinckley-Big Rock High School, Hinckley
- Patrick Hardy, principal, Proviso East High School, Maywood
- Debra Klein, principal, Emerson Elementary School, Wheaton
- Katie Matthews, principal, Grove Avenue Elementary School, Barrington
- Chris Tennyson, principal, Fulton High School, Fulton
The six principals gathered June 21 on the DeKalb campus for an intensive leadership retreat to share creative and potentially transformational ideas to “unlock” higher education for underserved populations of students.
Organizers hope those conversations will not only shepherd such students into college but also prepare them for success there.
The Marguerite Key Fellows Program was proposed by Alan Clemens, an instructor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, and Carolyn Pluim, chair of the department. The program was made possible by a gift Key made to the department with the goal of advancing the principalship across NIU’s service region.
“What we’re hoping to find is real evidence of innovation, energy and ingenuity that’s being brought to the table in service of this very poignant need, and to put additional focus on this innovation, to increase opportunities for students to successfully achieve their college dreams,” says Clemens, research associate and director of the Illinois Post-Secondary Report Card at NIU’s Center for P-20 Engagement.
“There is research that shows – and I personally believe this – that those students across the country who, at this moment are facing the most significant obstacles to college access and college success, are the country’s largest source of growth potential,” he adds. “I can’t see any more noble purpose, or more potentially powerful purpose for the future of our country, than empowering these underserved voices.”
A five-member advisory committee will guide the ongoing framework and rationale of the program as well as the selection, and work, of the fellows. Fellows need only serve one year, Clemens says, but are always welcome to stay involved.
“The Marguerite Key Fellows Program is a project in line with the vision and passion Marguerite has for supporting the preparation of future educational leaders,” Pluim says. “The program will recognize the great work Illinois principals are doing, and provide them with specialized professional development and growth opportunities.”
Key graduated in 1944 from Northern Illinois State Teachers College – now known as NIU – with a major in biology and a minor in music. When the Kellogg Foundation funded a program in Illinois to place a health educator on the staff of each state college, she came back to Northern.
She and her husband spent their professional lives in Washington, D.C., where she enjoyed a 40-year career in the Arlington County Schools as director of guidance in a middle school while he worked with the National Education Association.
Widowed in 1995, she returned to DeKalb and became involved in the successful campaign to purchase the Milan Township one-room schoolhouse and to move it to the NIU campus.
As she became more involved in activities and programs in the College of Education, she served on the college’s Development Committee for many years and helped to develop and promote fundraising and volunteer efforts. Her financial gifts enabled the development and implementation of innovative programs in the areas of principal and superintendent preparation.