2nd Annual Thousands Strong Raises Nearly $2 Million for Students!

By Eva Richards


It’s a fact. Huskies are stronger together. 

When we band together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish, and this year’s “Thousands Strong” day of giving event proved that once again!

Northern Illinois University alumni, students, faculty and staff, and friends of the University came together on Nov. 10-11 to celebrate the incredible positive impact NIU has on our communities, across the country and around the world. Thousands Strong, which borrowed its name from a famous line of “Hail NIU,” the University’s alma mater, honored the outstanding alumni and donors who help make NIU an engine for innovation, creativity and social mobility.

It all began with an opening night show that featured NIU President Freeman, and a performance by NIU acapella group, the Huskie Hunks, via Zoom. Our host, B.F.A. acting candidate Kate Drury, introduced four undergraduate students who were surprised with life-changing tuition scholarships—Alejandra Hernandez, Mekhi McCarthy, Edward Carter III and Fabiola Vargas.

The “Thousands Strong” day of giving began after the opening night show and lasted for 31 hours through 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11. While final totals are still being tallied, donors provided more than 2,700 gifts to the NIU Foundation for a total of $1,931,200. The event garnered close to 800 views combined between Zoom and YouTube, surpassing our goal of 500 and unlocking a $10,000 challenge gift from Tom Braje, ’64.

“I am so proud of what our Huskie pack is able to accomplish when working together for this extraordinary University,” said Michael Adzovic, director of the Northern Fund. “The positive impacts of these gifts will be felt by students and faculty for years to come and will ensure that NIU continues to fulfill its mission of empowering students through educational excellence and experiential learning.”

Thirty-three challenge and matching gifts were established to encourage giving, led by a $100,000 challenge gift donated by an anonymous donor, which was unlocked when the University reached 2,000 gifts. All seven academic colleges had giving challenges and matches, and many of them were met! 

A hard-working group of 150 Thousands Strong ambassadors helped spread the word about our day of giving, and they helped generate 417 gifts of more than $46,438 in donations through social media, text, phone, email or word-of-mouth. This is a record-setting group, garnering the largest number of referred gifts and the largest amount fundraised despite having 50 less ambassadors than the group that set the previous record. Plus, more students worked as ambassadors this year, helping us to reach new audiences.

As always, Adzovic said this level of success would not be possible without our dedicated campus partners—such as all seven colleges, and units like Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Huskie Food Pantry, Huskie Athletics, the Honors Program—who joined forces for this special day of giving.

“Thousands Strong is just one more way we can see Huskies in action, doing good in the world,” Adzovic said. “Our community came together and showed its Huskie pride and collective strength. When the Huskie family comes together, there nothing we can’t do. Together, we can move NIU forward.”