Category Archives: History

Dance Marathon Founding Father: Tim Rivelli (Weinberg ’76)

Tim RivelliMore than 1,000 students will gather under a tent outside Norris University Center this weekend to dance for 30 hours for Northwestern University’s 40th annual Dance Marathon fundraising event. Tim Rivelli (Weinberg ’76) helped organize the original NUDM event in 1974 through his role as executive vice president of the Associated Student Government. Rivelli shared his memories of the humble beginnings of an event that has since become one of the largest student-run philanthropic events in the country.

During my first year at Northwestern in 1973, I was the co-chair of an Associated Student Government sub-committee called the University Community Relations Committee. The purpose of the committee was to build better community at Northwestern among the student body. At the time, Norris Center was relatively new, and the facility had not really been fully developed yet. There were very few restaurants in Evanston for students to gather. Northwestern had this great community of students and a variety of student groups, but many students felt that the university lacked a sense of community. So the focus of the community relations committee was to try to find ways to get students to work together and build a better community. The idea for Dance Marathon came from Jan Jacobowitz, who was also involved in ASG and a member of the ASG University Community Relations Committee. Jan had friends at the University of Illinois, and she visited them and participated in their dance marathon event. She thought it was awesome and suggested to me that we should do something like that at Northwestern. I was very supportive of the idea, and I thought it would be a great way to get students from all different segments—people that are living in dorms, people in fraternities and sororities—of the Northwestern community to work together on a common project.

But it took some manpower to plan and organize the event. We also needed to try to find a charity. So we met with representatives from the Epilepsy Foundation of America and later the National Association for Retarded Citizens. These charities became our first beneficiaries. We were also trying to understand where and how we might stage an event of this magnitude. We worked with University officials and received permission to hold the event in Blomquist. We had to figure out how to recruit a team of people to organize and put on the event because there were a lot of things from a facilities standpoint that needed to be done. I was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity, and I asked if they would be interested in helping. They agreed to get behind the event in a big way and figured out how to organize the music and staging and other parts of the event. We attempted to obtain donations of supplies and equipment for the event to minimize our costs and to maximize the amount we could give to the charity. We put together a structure to recruit people to be dancers. I think we had 15 couples and raised more than $9,000.

NUDM 1975For an initial event, it was a great success. There was no playbook for us to use. We didn’t have any elaborate organization. It was a seat-of-the-pants type of thing. When you think of it in terms of getting it started, it was a lot of blind faith. We went forward hoping that we could put it on in a way that was successful, and I think the people that participated in the first event had a good time. When you fast forward to 2014, it’s inspiring to look at the scope of Dance Marathon now: more than 20 student committees, more than 1,000 dancers, an elaborate process for people who are in the charitable industry to submit their causes as potential beneficiaries.

 

It is clear that the Dance Marathon fulfilled the vision of building a better community within the students at Northwestern. From what I’ve seen, it’s also great way to use the talented students at NU to help others in need. NUDM clearly teaches a life lesson that it’s important: Whenever you can bind people together for a common purpose to help others who are in need, you can reach a whole new level of unity, and you can truly help people. I think it’s important for students to remember that lesson as they move forward in their careers after college and go off into the world. We all need to pay attention to others who are in need, and use our time and talent to give back to others.

NUDM dancerWhen I hear the stories from the beneficiary organizations and see Northwestern students coming together to raise more than $1 million for charities, it’s so inspiring. Who could have ever dreamed that what we started in the mid-1970s would have grown into something like that? It’s amazing to think about the ripple effect of what we started in 1975 and to look at what good it has produced over the last 40 years. When people graduate from Northwestern, I am sure that they think that NUDM was one of the best things they were involved in.  I’m very thankful that I was able to play a role in getting this started.

Alice Millar Chapel Turns 50

Completed in September of 1963, Alice Millar Chapel and Religious Center has served as the location for many spiritual and ceremonial events in the life of Northwestern University. As we honor the 50th anniversary of the building, read Northwestern magazine’s full story on the chapel’s rich history. Scroll below to take a virtual tour of some of Alice Millar’s truly unique stained glass window designs with University chaplain Rev. Timothy Stevens.

Medicine Windowmedicine window

Commerce Window
commerce window

Communication Window
communication window

Space Window
space window

Scientific Discovery Window
scientific discovery window

Front Window
main window

Read a full description of each of the chapel’s windows.

World War II Midshipmen’s School at NU

As World War II raged in Europe, Northwestern University was one of three schools to open a Midshipmen’s School to train Naval officers. By 1945, more than 25,000 men had graduated from the school.

Rev. Robert Wilch graduated in 1943 and looked back fondly on the time he spent training for the Navy on Northwestern’s Chicago campus. Hear his memories in this 2009 interview, featuring archival footage of the Midshipmen’s School at NU. Read more

NU has a long history of naval training on campus, as one of the six original Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps units was established on campus in 1926 and remains today. Last Friday, current NROTC students honored alumni who gave their lives in war.

On this Veterans Day, we honor and remember all the courageous men and women–past and present–who served our country in the military. Thank you for your service.

Relive WNUR’s Broadcast of ‘War of the Worlds’ from 2001

This week marked the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles’ infamous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, and Northwestern students celebrated by gathering at a residential college Wednesday evening to listen to the original production and engage in a fireside discussion afterward.

But on May 13, 2001, a group of students working at Northwestern’s student radio station, WNUR, produced and aired their own live version of “War of the Worlds.”

The brainchild of Mark Gordon (Communication ’03), the radio broadcast used the original script but was adapted to include references to Northwestern, Evanston and Chicago people and landmarks. According to a story that ran in The Daily Northwestern, WNUR received permission to alter the script from the estate of Howard Koch, one of the writers of the original broadcast.

Gordon recruited WNUR students who typically reported news and sports, as well as a few radio/television/film majors to round out the cast. The broadcast begins as a breaking news story about a mysterious accident on the I-90/I-94 John F. Kennedy Expressway. The cast rehearsed in Annie May Swift hall several times before the live production to coordinate the timing of their lines with the various sound effects that Gordon had previously recorded to make the broadcast sound authentic.

“My favorite story related to the show was how we got the car horn sound effects,” said Brian Nemerovski (Medill ’03), who played a sports anchor in the fake broadcast. “Obviously, we needed the sound because the re-creation centered around traffic being stalled on the Kennedy. So Mark Gordon walked into the attendant’s booth at the Whole Foods parking garage on Chicago Avenue and asked them to press the panic button on as many sets of keys as they could find. The attendants agreed, and Mark got the sound!”

Given the pandemonium created by the original 1938 broadcast, WNUR took no chances and featured disclaimers throughout the show to remind the listening audience that this was a theatrical production and not an actual emergency.

“I think someone even called Evanston and Northwestern police just to keep them in the loop in case they got any calls,” said Ben Harper (Medill ’03), who served as a news anchor in the broadcast.

Click below to listen to the complete WNUR broadcast from 2001, courtesy of Ben Harper. The action starts around the 10:15 mark.