Salme Harju Steinberg

President Emerita, Northeastern Illinois University



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Dr. Salme Harju Steinberg is an historian, writer, and leader in higher education. A specialist in U.S. economic and social history, she has published and lectured in these areas as well as in corporate philanthropy and the not-for-profit sector. She served as president of Northeastern Illinois University for 12 years between 1995 and 2007. She is the author of Reformer in the Marketplace: Edward W. Bok and the Ladies’ Home Journal, and a contributor to many scholarly journals and publications. In 2009, in collaboration with the American Council on Education and the Ocean University of China Press, her autobiography is included in Footprints to Success in the Academy: Personal Stories by American Higher Education Leaders.

After earning her doctorate in history from the Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Steinberg taught at Goucher College and Northwestern University. She was elected to the Hunter College Hall of Fame by the alumni association of Hunter College, where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in History.

As president of Northeastern Illinois University, a state university serving over 12,000 students and the most diverse university in the Midwest, Dr. Steinberg was committed to student access and excellence and to creating opportunities for first-generation college students to study/work abroad. Under her direction, Northeastern also became well-known as an institution that celebrates the fine arts and performing arts on campus.

Dr. Steinberg chaired the Board of Trustees of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary from 2002 to 2008. As President Emerita of Northeastern Illinois University, she currently serves on the International Commission of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities as well as the HACU Government Relations Committee. She served on the Cinema/Chicago Board (2003-2007) and currently is on the Educational Advisory Committee to the Mercy Home Leader Council, and is a member of The Chicago Network and the Illinois Women’s Forum.

Her many awards include recognition for her leadership in international education and the arts. In 2006, she was awarded the Amicus Poloniae bestowed by the Polish Ambassador to the United States. She holds the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago Outstanding Achievement Award for Education, the Grand Asian Award from the Asian American Coalition of Chicago in recognition of her leadership, and she received the Illinois Committee on Black Concerns in Higher Education (ICBCHE) “Do the Right Thing Award” for her outstanding commitment to diversity in higher education in the State of Illinois. She also was among those honored for the “Outstanding and Inspiring Leadership Award” by the Consul General of India in Chicago.

On behalf of Northeastern Illinois University, she accepted the Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education from the Institute of International Education. In 2004, she was named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago by the Chicago Sun-Times. She received the 2007 Ruth Page Award for championing the arts as president of NEIU. In April 2008, the university celebrated the naming of the Salme Harju Steinberg Fine Arts Center in her honor.