Jonathan Webber likes passing the microphone.
Standing in front of the crowd at a notoriously long ASG funding meeting, Webber greeted students and staff, kept a smile on his face and made the audience laugh, all in less than thirty seconds. After saying he was glad he didn’t have to lead the meeting, Webber took his seat, giving the spotlight to his vice presidents.
This easy-going behavior is typical of Webber, a Weinberg junior and Northwestern’s newest ASG president. Uninvolved in student government before college, Webber has taken on roles over the past three years that demonstrate his ability to lead students.
Webber began his career as a senator for Allison Hall and worked his way up through the ASG executive board as secretary and speaker of the Senate before becoming President. This progression to leader of ASG didn’t surprise some of his friends and colleagues.
“Jon being president is not that much of a change,” said friend Steve Gorodetskiy, a Weinberg junior. “He was already extremely involved.”
Webber’s involvement in ASG didn’t stop at his elected positions. During his freshman year, he involved himself in the ASG’s presidential election in a different way: as a campaign manager. Patrick Keenan-Devlin, Weinberg and Music ‘06 and former ASG president, met Webber on the President Leadership Committee.
“I was always so impressed by how much he had to contribute as a freshman,” Keenan-Devlin said. “So when I ran for president, I led with my gut and asked Jon to be one of my campaign managers.”
Webber said he enjoyed his first taste of a Northwestern ASG presidential campaign.
“It was great, I learned a lot from Patrick,” Webber said. “He was a great example of good ethics, and we came up with some great campaign strategies.”
Though Keenan-Devlin said he depended on the then-freshman to be his “finisher,” Webber did not run the campaign alone. He was joined by Tasneem Chithiwala, who was then a Medill sophomore, and together the two organized Keenan-Devlin’s winning campaign.
Even after Keenan-Devlin’s term ended, the three stayed in touch, and consider themselves very close.
“I always call them my kids,” Keenan-Devlin said. “I’m so proud of them.”
When it was Webber’s turn to run for ASG president, he called upon Chithiwala to be one of his campaign managers. Chithiwala said she agreed to help run his election campaign because she’s close with Webber and believes in his abilities.
“He’s a man of his word — everything he has ever said to me has happened,” she said. “He says things, and then he gets them done.”
As the manager handling personnel, Chithiwala was in charge of the approximately 100 people helping out with Webber’s campaign in some way. Combined, Webber and Chithiwala knew everyone working on the team; most of their friends offered to help out when needed.
“Everyone [Webber] knows probably worked on his campaign in some capacity,” said Gorodetskiy.
Campaign staffers proved a huge help as Webber juggled working 18 hours a day, attending anywhere from four to eight meetings a night and keeping up with three classes. Staffers became especially involved during the last two weeks before the election, when Gorodetskiy said he worked long hours to do everything he could for the campaign.
“I didn’t see my roommates for two days,” he said. “I told Jon that if he lost, he’d have to pay me hourly wages.”
Luckily for Webber, his team was successful in winning him the presidency in the only contested race this election season. Chithiwala attributed Webber’s win to his visibility on campus during the campaign.
“Jon was very good about getting out to the people,” she said. “That’s what helped. We made it personal.”
Webber used campaign strategies that he helped devise for Keenan-Devlin two years ago, such as dorm liaisons. However, Keenan-Devlin said frequent conversations throughout Webber’s campaign were usually not related to ASG business.
“It’s very demoralizing [to campaign] at times,” Keenan-Devlin said. “You’re tired, worn out, and sometimes you need to talk to someone who’s been through it. He didn’t need my advice.”
Showing his support to the very end, Keenan-Devlin was with Webber when the election results came in. Chithiwala said she started screaming as soon as they found out, but others noticed that the weeks of hard work left Webber too tired to jump for joy.
“Jon’s reaction seemed so much less explosive than Tasneem’s,” Keenan-Devlin said. “Her reaction was tears of joy, she was so excited for him. It kind of overshadowed his reaction.”
Webber remembered having something else on his mind when he got the news.
“I was surprised; I thought there might be a runoff,” he said. “I was very excited for everyone who helped me. More than anything, it was them.”
Chithiwala’s enthusiasm reflects the confidence Webber’s supporters have for him. Jesse Garfinkel, a Weinberg freshman, agreed to be a campaign manager for Webber after working with him in the ASG Senate.
“Jon has a special energy, a special vantage point,” Garfinkel said. “I think he’ll devote all his energy to ASG.”
Many people said they see Webber as compassionate, demonstrated by his active involvement in charities like Family Focus, a support organization for families with young children. NUOnlineBooks.com, a Web site Webber helped start after his freshman year, helps students find inexpensive textbooks and donates 100% of its profits to charitable organizations.
Webber is also involved in the Northwestern Community Development Corps, a group promoting student service on campus, in Evanston and in the Chicago area. He served as the group’s treasurer until recently.
“Jonathan has a great heart,” said Becca Donaldson, a Communication junior and fellow NCDC member. “He really cares about Northwestern and its students.”
Even amidst all his activities, Webber maintains a mellow reputation. Keenan-Devlin praises his protégé for not seeking the spotlight, a sentiment echoed by others who know him well.
“He’s a low-key kind of president,” Gorodetskiy said. “Past presidents have been larger than life, and Jon is kind of scrawny.”
Body type aside, Webber said he will work toward a campus where students can feel comfortable and safe 24 hours a day. Those close to him said they believe he will have a large impact on Northwestern as a whole.
“What he can do is get students to have faith in our government,” Chithiwala said. “He’ll give tangible results. I really think he’s going to get stuff done.”
After his term as ASG president, Webber has an idea of what he will do after college. But the role he desires might come as a surprise.
“I want to go into politics or government. I’m fascinated by the political process in general,” he said. “But most people think I want to be a candidate. I don’t. I want to be behind the scenes.”
Until then, Webber will be leading ASG Executive Board meetings, meeting with student groups and trying to get legislation passed. Though it’s a large task, his predecessor said he has confidence in Webber.
“Jon has the smarts: He can process information very quickly and he’s good with students and administrators,” Keenan-Devlin said. “I know the school will be happy in its selection.”