DeKALB – Northern Illinois University officials are hoping a new sculpture on campus will up the school’s social media presence and foster a community feeling among the students and staff.

“We’re in a social media world,” Dennis Barsema said after the unveiling. Both he and university President Lisa Freeman want students to share their school spirit with the world.

Barsema, a 1977 NIU alumnus and current chairman of the board of trustees, and his wife, Stacey, a member of the board of directors for the NIU Foundation, made a $25,000 donation to commission the sculpture.

On Thursday, the university unveiled the glossy, red NIU letter sculpture at the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons, between the Founders Memorial Library and the Holmes Student Center. It stands 6 feet high and 19 feet wide.

Photo taking in front of the sculpture is encouraged and so is tagging the school with #HuskiePride.

The Huskie Pride Sculpture was an idea bandied about during discussions on how the school could commemorate its 125th anniversary, coming in May.

The sculpture design was the product of Mariano Spizziri, manager in the university’s marketing and creative services department, according to a news release from the university. Spizziri created a plastic prototype of the letters and noticed how many people flocked to take photographs in front of it.

Barsema said the NIU letters also were the way to go because when people think of NIU, Northern Illinois University is the only thing that comes to mind.

Joe King, associate director of NIU institutional communications, said when people are at sporting events, they don’t chant, “Northern Illinois University” Their loud, spirited chants are “N-I-U!”

What’s under the tarp?

The unveiling was not without mystery and curiosity.

Wondering what might be underneath a black tarp in the commons between the library and the student center brought a mass of students toward the event. The marching band performed, and the school mascot, Victor E. Huskie, and two husky dog mascots, Mission and Mission II, attended and took many photos with those who crowded to watch the unveiling.

Brandon Johnson, a sophomore studying computer science, said he thought it was amazing that the university got a new piece of art on campus. He shared his curiosity and wondered what it might be.

“I saw them set it up yesterday, and I want to see what’s under the tarp,” he said.

Freeman gave a short speech that let people know the sculpture was for everyone.

“This sculpture, with its bold, classic lines, speaks loudly and proudly about what it means to be an NIU Huskie,” she said. “It speaks to the legacy of our alumni and the spirit of our student body. We are truly grateful to Dennis and Stacey for this gift. It not only demonstrates their pride in NIU, but also creates a new opportunity for all of us to share our Huskie pride with the world.”

Barsema said the addition of the sculpture adds another source of pride to the university.

“This is just one more reason to celebrate NIU,” he said.

Some students already have plans for the sculpture.

Daniel Guerrero, who is in his final year of law school, said the sculpture already is a landmark

“I like that I can say, ‘You can meet me at the NIU letters,’ ” he said. “I definitely plan on taking my graduation pictures here.”

Guerrero said he likes that the school installed the sculpture this year so he can enjoy it before he graduates.

“It looks amazing with the colors,” he said. “It’s the perfect size.”

Katherine Hahn-Boisvert, a sophomore organizational communications major, said she thought the sculpture was great for the university.

“It really brings a lot of Huskie pride,” she said happily.

Grant Eads, a freshman computer science major, was impressed by the brightly colored sculpture and cannot wait to see it when winter covers the campus with snow.

“It’ll be a great contrast with the red letters and the white snow,” he said.

Freeman said she was pleased to see the large gathering of students, alumni and faculty show up to the unveiling.

“I hope this will be a photo spot for generations,” she said. “This adds a pop of color.”

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