By David Heinzmann and Stacy St. Clair
The Chicago Tribune
DEKALB — Just two years ago, Northern Illinois University honored Stephen Kazmierczak, whom authorities identified as the gunman in Thursday's classroom shooting, with a dean's award for his sociology work.
Kazmierczak had established himself as an authority on prison systems, having co-authored a manuscript on self-injury in prison and the role of religion in the formation of early prisons in the United States. Both papers were written under the guidance of Jim Thomas, a professor emeritus at NIU and a nationally renowned criminal-justice expert.
NIU President John G. Peters said Kazmierczak, who was accused of killing five people before taking his own life, had "a very good academic record, no record of trouble," while studying at the university.
A source identified Kazmierczak as a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
He also served as vice president of NIU's Academic Criminal Justice Association chapter.
The student group aims to educate the DeKalb community "about and promote knowledge and understanding of all areas of the criminal justice system, especially corrections and juvenile justice," its Web site states.
The organization's president worked on a paper with Kazmierczak and Thomas dealing with self-injury in prison.
School officials say Kazmierczak was enrolled at NIU in the spring of 2007 but left to attend graduate school. According to the U. of I., he was a graduate student in the school of social work. (The spelling of Kazmierczak's first name was supplied by an NIU official. Other references list him as Steven.)
Kazmierczak grew up in Elk Grove Village, but records show his parents moved to Florida shortly before his mother's death in 2004.
Copyright 2008 The Chicago Tribune
Profile of the NIU murderer