Double Huskie Athletics Alumni Michael and Amy Hartke Reflect On NIU's Impact
By Tony Scott
Michael, '96, and Amy, '95, Hartke with their three sons, Luke, Gabriel and Cole.
As Double Huskies, Michael, ’96, and Amy (Foulke), ’95, Hartke have wonderful memories of their time as NIU students, including meeting each other through their experiences with athletics.
The two met shortly after they began attending NIU. While Amy played volleyball, Michael played basketball, and both attended NIU on athletics scholarships. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences, while Amy earned a bachelor's degree in physical education.
“We met because of athletics – in the training room before practice – and married shortly after finishing at NIU,” Michael recalled. “We have been married for nearly 27 years and have three amazing sons. We have been truly blessed in our lives.”
The couple has three sons: Gabriel, 22, Luke, 20, and Cole, 17. Gabriel is a graduate of Penn State with a degree in biomedical engineering, Luke is a junior at Illinois Wesleyan University studying business and Spanish, and Cole has committed to playing volleyball at Pepperdine University this fall.
Amy had a remarkable athletics career while at NIU, earning her way into the Athletics Hall of Fame both as an individual athlete and as a member of the 1993 Volleyball Team that made it into the second round of the NCAA tournament that year. Like their mother, all three of the Hartkes sons have played or are planning to play volleyball at the collegiate level.
The middle child with two sisters and two brothers, Michael grew up in Heyworth, Illinois, a small town south of Bloomington. His mom was a teacher and his dad worked for Ciba Seeds. Growing up, Michael played a variety of sports, ultimately focusing on basketball.
Amy grew up with an older sister in Brighton, Wisconsin, located between Kenosha and Lake Geneva in southeastern Wisconsin. Her mom was a homemaker before returning to the workforce as a teacher’s aide for special needs students, while her dad was a building contractor. Like Michael, she grew up playing a number of sports, but settled on volleyball.
“Amy and I chose Northern because we felt we could get an excellent education and continue to play sports that we loved,” Michael said. “The location allowed our parents to come to many of our games. It was the right place for both of us.”
While at NIU, they experienced dorm life during their freshman year– Michael in Neptune Hall and Amy in Douglas Hall, stayed at University Plaza during their sophomore year and then rented an off-campus apartment.
Both of them enjoyed having impactful mentors guide them while student-athletes at NIU.
“There are so many people at NIU that provided us with tremendous guidance and support,” Michael said. “Obviously the coaching staffs for each of our teams were a profound influence on us as individuals: Pete Waite and Lori Dailey for volleyball and Brian Hammel and Jeff Strohm for basketball were influential to both of us. Additionally, the training staff for both teams led by Phil Voorhis provided amazing support for us both mentally and physically. Also, Amy and I were both influenced by some amazing teammates that remain friends to this day.”
Michael currently serves as president of Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, part of the NorthShore-Edward Elmhurst Health System. Amy has been a stay-at-home mom since the couple’s first son was born, and has also worked as a fitness instructor, coach, currently working part-time for the local park district.
“Working in healthcare, there is no shortage of challenges each day,” he said. “We work in a fast-paced and difficult environment within an industry that is increasingly complex, highly regulated and involves the health and wellbeing of people. However, our organization makes a profoundly positive impact on the patients that we serve and the communities that we work in. It never ceases to amaze me to see our physicians, nurses and staff work together to take on very complex medical issues and genuinely improve people’s lives for the better. Healthcare is a tough industry but is also consistently rewarding based on the outcomes that we help create for people.”
Amy added, “Staying home to raise three boys, I’d say challenges and rewards were experienced daily but overall, the most rewarding part for me has been seeing the amazing young men all three have turned out to be.”
Since the Hartkes graduated from NIU, they have continued to give back to their alma mater, supporting the athletics programs and student-athletes. They encourage fellow alumni to give back to NIU in any way they can.
“We owe so much to Northern and certainly feel an obligation to give back to a place and people that gave us so much,” Michael said. “We give gratefully and hope it helps to give others the start that NIU gave us. We think philanthropy is so important. Supporting institutions, organizations and causes that you believe in and believe to be important is a way to help others and create a positive impact.”
The Hartkes continue to be loyal Huskies and are grateful for their time as students, a time that impacted them in both personal and professional ways.
“Without NIU it is very likely there would be no ‘us,’” Michael said. “Without what we learned in the classroom, on the court or just growing up at NIU we wouldn’t be who and what we are today. Knowing everything that we know today, if we both had to do it again, we would both choose NIU again. Go Huskies!”