President Emerita, Northeastern Illinois University
Ruth Page Foundation
Ensemble Español: Spanish Dance Theater
Ryan Opera Center, Lyric Opera of Chicago
Dr. Salme Harju Steinberg is an historian, writer, and leader in higher education. A specialist in U.S. economic and social history, she served as president of Northeastern Illinois University 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 was 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.
While president of Northeastern Illinois University, a state university serving over 12,000 students and both a Hispanic Serving Institution and a Minority Serving Institution, 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. During and after her presidency, she has continued her advocacy for student access, excellence, global learning, and the arts.
As president she was an active member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and served as Board Chair of HACU. In 2013, HACU honored her with the President’s Award of Excellence. In 2021, she was inducted into the HACU Hall of Champions.
Other awards she has received 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, 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. 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.
Dr. Steinberg currently serves on the Ryan Opera Center Board of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Ruth Page Foundation Board, and the NEIU Foundation Board of Directors. In June 2023, she was named Chair of the Board of Directors of the Ensemble Español: Spanish Dance Theatre. She continues her participation on the Mercy Home Leader Council and is a member of The Chicago Network and the Illinois Women’s Forum.
She is married to Dr. Michael S. Steinberg; they have two adult children.