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Omer G. Voss, Jr.

Omer G. Voss, Jr., came to NIU in January 1973 to study for an MBA after graduating from the University of Michigan and serving in the US Navy. As a Vietnam veteran, Omer augmented his savings with his GI Bill benefits in order to attend NIU. However, he still needed additional funds and considered a position as a graduate Teaching Assistant (TA). Little did he know how valuable that choice would be financially and developmentally, while at NIU and for years beyond.

As a TA for Dr. Richard Brown, professor and future Dean of NIU’s College of Business, Omer and his TA teammates were given the opportunity to learn skillsets for team-building and leadership. The modest income from the assistantship reminded him of the value of a scholarship, just as the one he received at Michigan had done. But it came with a price – balancing his own MBA classes and deadlines with the daily demands of teaching students and with being part of a course’s TA team.

Dr. Brown was a good coach and mentor who instilled trust and team-building into his TAs and urged them to take ownership, an essential quality for standing in front of a class of students, leading and teaching them. Under Dr. Brown’s tutelage and guidance,
his TA team learned mechanical skills and behaviors for the classroom and for future work experiences. In addition to the obligations of teamwork and enjoying the camaraderie of the team, they also learned to reach down deep and have the courage to talk, to lead, and to instruct – which is, in part, the purpose of this endowment.

While a TA, Omer was also a member of the College’s Curriculum Committee. He wrote “A Manual for Teaching Assistants,” and had an internship at DeKalb AgResearch. He was an Instructor of Business briefly after receiving his MBA. He then joined Continental Bank in Chicago that later became Bank of America, and he was transferred west. Before retiring from Bank of America in 2012, Omer earned his Certified Cash Manager and Certified Treasury Professional certificates. He is a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma, Sigma Iota Epsilon, and Triangle honor societies.

Borrowing from Neale Walsch who said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”, Omer would say, “Leading begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Dr. Brown encouraged him to push beyond his comfort zone, to dig down for courage and for unknown talents, and to share them with his teammates and his students. And to come back for more advice and coaching.

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