Volunteer Spotlight: Linda Mullen, ’72
By Eva Richards
Linda Mullen, '72, with her husband Mike "Moon" Mullen, '71, who she met on campus.
Linda Mullen, ’72, has always been a “people person.” Whether on campus as a student or as an invested alumna, she has always put relationships first.
Today, more than 50 years since earning her degree in sociology, it is this aspect of volunteering at NIU that means most to Mullen.
“Personal connections are the best for me. I chose the volunteer events where I could get to meet students and other alumni,” she said. “While a couple things were strictly online, others brought me to campus, and it was great to see the changes, and also brought back a lot of memories.”
During the last five decades, Mullen has given her time and support in many ways.
“I’ve worked at NIU Cares Days (which is now called “Paws for a Cause” each April). They were a total ‘win, win, win,’ with students volunteering in the community, people in the community being treated to students’ help, and alumni and students connecting,” Mullen said. “I’ve also helped with 'First Impressions' workshops, which is a networking practice for students. This volunteer experience took place during COVID-19, so it was all done virtually, which was how the students would have had many job interviews.”
Mullen has also helped to distribute caps and gowns before graduation.
“It was so fun to see the graduates getting ready for the ceremonies and excited about starting a new chapter in their lives,” she said. “I also got to participate in a panel to explore ways to get alumni involved. All of my volunteering experiences have been very different activities, but it was great to experience each one.”
Mullen’s favorite experience was very recent.
“Without a doubt, I loved working on the committee for the 50th reunion of the Class of 1972, which took place Oct. 7-8, 2022,” she said. “My parents attended their 50th class reunions, and they loved it! When the opportunity to be part of the revival of that tradition, I knew I had to be part of it. Making choices of designs and schedules was great. We got to look through the NIU Library archives to find things to display during the event, and it brought back lots of memories! The best was getting to know the other committee members—Susanne Koob and Cathy Werner—as well as working with my good friend, Mark Pienkos.”
Mullen notes that the volunteers enjoyed working with Senior Director of Alumni Relations Liz McKee as the events’ organizer, facilitator and fearless leader.
“I look forward to seeing the 50th reunions grow bigger and better each year,” Mullen said.
Mullen grew up in Denver, Colorado, and then moved to Arlington Heights, Illinois, in eighth grade. After high school graduation, it was only natural that she enrolled at NIU.
“Both of my parents were graduates! NIU was Northern Illinois State Teachers College at the time, and my dad attended on a football scholarship. They loved it, and it filtered down to me,” she said. “DeKalb was far enough to feel away, but close enough to get home for a weekend if I wanted.”
Being on campus during the early 1970s made an impression on Mullen.
“I was at NIU from 1967-72, and it was a very interesting time to be there,” she said. “I was in Stevenson South my freshman year, just a year after the building opened. There were ‘hours’ for women in the dorms, which meant we had to be in the dorms by a certain time. Yes, that's how it was. Thankfully, that policy was dropped in the spring of 1968. While most students lived relatively close to NIU, with the exception of holidays, we stayed in DeKalb. I was at NIU for peace marches and demonstrations of that time. Huskie football and basketball games were part of it, too, and were well-attended by NIU fans.”
Reflecting on what this time did for her life and career, Mullen credits NIU with her closest network of friends.
“I met my husband, Mike “Moon” Mullen at NIU, and we were married in DeKalb. We celebrated our 50th anniversary in May 2022,” she said. “I also made friends at NIU who are truly friends for the rest of my life. My roommates, Mary Ann Rasnak and Michele Fricke, live outside of Illinois, and we are grateful for COVID-19 bringing us Zoom. There’s a group of 14 of us, including John and Cathy Blozis, Greg and Anita Flanagan, Michael and Barb Montes, Tony and Stephanie Scantlan and Tom and Linda Thunder, who have been friends for over 40 years due to our NIU connection.”
In her professional life, Mullen said that NIU prepared her for her career serving adults with disabilities and seniors.
“I loved my career! I spent many years as an at-home mom and worked part-time jobs during that time. Then I had two career paths. One was working in a vocational program for adults with developmental disabilities, and it was so rewarding teaching people job skills and helping them to be successful in their careers,” Mullen said. “The last part of my career was working in a senior community as director of resident services. I loved being able to help solve problems, connect folks with needed services and most of all get to know my residents and their families.”
In this role, Mullen was privileged to serve a Pearl Harbor survivor, as well as a man who was liberated from a WWII concentration camp.
“There was a lady who danced in the Ziegfield Follies and another who, at age 16, ran away to join a circus,” she said. “All my residents had such interesting stories to tell. However, I often say being retired is my best job ever!”
Now that Mullen is retired, she is happy to have more time to serve her community, including NIU.
“I believe giving back should be part of all our plans. To give back to a place that helped mold our future is a natural,” she said. “Enthusiasm is contagious, and alumni can help spread that feeling for NIU. Participation in an alumni project doesn’t mean a huge time commitment. People can choose how involved they want to be. We all have knowledge and experiences to share that would help NIU students, and I would encourage all alumni to see how they can be part of giving back to NIU.”