Growing up as a child of first-generation Americans in Batavia, Illinois, Northern Illinois University alumnus Keith Liden developed a strong desire to give back.
"My parents met while serving in the U.S. Navy, and they deeply appreciated our country's freedom," he says. "The combination of their military service and background instilled in my sister, Constance, and me the importance of education and the responsibility to use it to make a difference."
In keeping with this philosophy, Keith has arranged a gift to Northern in his estate plans. He hopes it will ensure that future graduates of NIU's biology program have the same value-added kinds of experiences he did.
Keith and his wife, Linda, share that same sense of responsibility to make the world a better place. Nurturing is in their nature—whether it means planting flowers, trees, and shrubs to beautify the environment; rescuing and rehabilitating abused or neglected dogs; or supporting future students and faculty at NIU.
FROM NIU TO RETIREMENT
Keith earned his master's degree in biology from NIU in 1979 and recalls fondly the many experiences that shaped his education and career path.
"I will never forget the first time I viewed the ultra structure of a cell through the electron microscope," Keith says. "It gave me an awe and appreciation for the complexity of life that I still vividly remember."
After graduating, Keith was technical director for Fleischmann's Yeast, a role that was "a very practical application of biology and chemistry that tested skill and creative thinking when problems occurred." In his next position at Eli Lilly, he established product safety controls along with processes to prevent problems, a role in which he once again drew heavily upon the skills he developed at NIU.
Now retired, Keith has earned a master's degree in criminal justice, obtained a private investigator's license, and formed his own consulting company, Liden, LLC, which addresses counterfeiting concerns and product protection issues in pharmaceutical companies. This new endeavor places him at the junction of the pharmaceutical industry and the criminal justice system in helping to thwart or identify and prosecute counterfeit drug product operations.
"WATER TO STEAM" ANALOGY
When asked what he might say to someone considering making an estate gift to NIU, Keith says, "I like to use the ‘water to steam' analogy: Water boils between 211 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit. At 212 degrees, it becomes steam… which can power a locomotive. So, you see, one degree—or just one person—can certainly make a difference. But if we want to generate the power to really move the locomotive, we need many inputs of energy and many people. Let that one person who makes a difference and adds to the power of the NIU ‘locomotive' be you!"