Colletti with NIU Alumni Association President
Pete Garrity, ‘71, M.B.A. ‘76.

Ned Colletti, ’76, never would have dreamed that he would spend one season in Major League Baseball, let alone nearly 40 years.

That first step towards his career as a baseball executive began when he received his journalism degree from Northern Illinois University in 1976 and culminated in 2005 when he was named the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In recognition of his hard work and accomplishments, the NIU Alumni Association chose Colletti as the recipient of the 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Not bad for someone who wasn’t sure if he would even be able to attend college.

“I was not a good high school student, and I didn’t really have the financial footing to venture out into the collegiate world,” Colletti said. “But it was a dream of my parents that their sons would attend and graduate from college.”

“I went to Triton first, spent a semester at Illinois State and then I was accepted at Northern,” Colletti continued. “I spent the last half of my college career at Northern and received a degree in journalism.”

That journalism degree led Colletti to four different jobs as a sportswriter, including a stop at the Philadelphia Journal. One of Colletti’s co-workers at the Philadelphia Journal introduced him to former Phillies manager and then-Chicago Cubs General Manager Dallas Green.

The Cubs were hiring and the Franklin Park, Illinois, native jumped at the chance to pursue a career in baseball with his favorite team. This change came at an important moment in Colletti’s personal life, as he was able to move back home as his dad was dying of lung cancer.

“One thing always leads to another in life and in careers,” Colletti said. “Without having a journalism degree, I wouldn’t have been in Philadelphia nor would I have known the people who would help me find my way into baseball.”

Colletti with NIU President Dr. Lisa Freeman and Mission.

Colletti was hired as the Cubs assistant media relations director and worked his way to the media relations director position during his tenure. His job responsibilities, however, were not limited to media relations.

“I wanted the extra opportunities,” Colletti said. “Dallas Green gave me more opportunities, and I took every opportunity with me. I wanted my standing in the organization to be stronger and stronger,” Colletti continued. “It’s like playing golf. If all you have in your bag is a driver, it can be tough playing. I looked at every opportunity as adding another club to my bag.”

After 13 years with the Cubs, Colletti’s golf bag was full and he parlayed those extra opportunities into a job as the assistant general manager for the San Francisco Giants. Colletti served in that role for 11 seasons.

That’s when the dream Colletti thought might be unreachable became a little more real.

“It was probably 10-15 years into my baseball career that I thought why not? Let’s give it a shot. Let’s stay on that path and continue to take on more responsibility,” Colletti said.

Colletti was given that shot on Nov. 15, 2005, as he was named the general manager of the Dodgers. He proudly recalls this as his greatest professional moment.

“There’s 30 jobs like that in the world (as a Major League Baseball general manager),” Colletti said. “I lived in a garage until I was five, and then I moved into a four-room house. Nobody went to college in my family until I did. Having gone through all those little challenges and trials, and to have it culminate in that moment was probably the greatest.”

That moment, which expanded into a role that lasted for nearly a decade, started with a journalism degree from Northern Illinois University.

“Northern gave me a chance,” Colletti said.

Distinguished Alumni Award

The NIU Alumni Association’s most prestigious honor is awarded to an alumnus or alumna who has achieved outstanding success or recognition professionally.


1964

Harlan Hagman ‘30

1965

James E. Ackert ‘03

1966

Lester B. Ball ‘34

1967

Paul R. Ritzman ‘27

1968

Winifred Sawtell Cameron ‘40

1969

Walter E. Martin ‘30

1970

Joseph C. Vitek ‘59

1971

Martha E. Schreiner ‘36

Ivan C. Nicholas ‘29

1972

Louise J. Kishkunas ‘51

1973

Donald P. Blasch ‘37

1974

Pierre Guibor ‘62

1975

Edward R. Arquilla ‘47

1976

Joseph O. Baylen ‘41

1977

Grover J. Hansen ‘49

1978

Carl Selin ‘49

1979

Franklin M. Osanka ‘60, ’61

1980

Alene Halvorson Moris ‘70

1981

V. Webster Johnson ‘22

1982

Peter L. Johnson ‘47


1983

Rosemary Likey Hake ‘58

1984

Joseph M. McFadden ‘68

Martha Harris Fair ‘73

Bruce Churchill ‘43

1985

Suzanne Kaufman ‘68

1986

Gene L. Hoffman ‘62, ’81

1987

Everett D. Greinke ‘51, ’56

1988

E. Edward Harris ‘65

1989

Paul Jung ‘59, ’67, ’80

1990

Gaylen N. Larson ‘62

1991

Ted Kimbrough ‘56

1992

Anne Barrett Swanson ‘70

1993

Garry Kvistad ‘77

1994

Helen Gum Westlake ‘49

1996

John Nickels ‘58

1997

Gary Watson ‘67

1998

Mary Abbott Hess ‘71

1999

Herb Eldean ‘64

Christopher John Chiaverina ’68, ’72

2000

Robert Reed ‘76


2001

Kenneth Chessick ‘84

Anna Werner ‘87

2002

Joan Allen ‘89

2003

Dr. John P. McKearn ‘75

2004

Juan Andrade, Jr. ’95, ‘98

2005

Ronald L. Ream ‘64

2006

Dennis Barsema ‘77

2007

Jeffrey M. Yordon ‘70

2008

John P. Sall ‘73

2009

Thomas R. Karl ‘73

2010

Cherilyn G. Murer ‘78

2011

Linda Smerge ’72, ’73, ‘80

2012

Michael McGrath ’70

2013

Ralph M. Strozza ’81

2014

David A. Nelson ’69, ’72

2015

John C. Landgraf  ’74, ’75

2016

John P. Larson ’84

2017

Frank M. Drendel ‘70

2018

Andrew Traver ‘85

2019

Ned Colletti ‘76