David W. Tretter


​David W. Tretter, the fourth President of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities, assumed that position on January 1, 2004, following his selection by the Federations Board of Directors. As the Federation President, Tretter is responsible for coordinating the state and federal public policy advocacy efforts of 55 Illinois private, non-profit, independent institutions of higher education. In addition, he serves as the key liaison to the Illinois General Assembly, K-12 and higher education agencies, and the media.

Tretter completed undergraduate work at Illinois State University and earned a graduate degree in public administration and a certificate in public budgeting and finance from the University of Illinois. He has lectured on lobbying and state finances and has taught as an adjunct professor of public policy at the University of Illinois. Outside the field of higher education policy, he has published numerous journal articles on the Illinois property tax system. He serves on the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and University State Executives.

He can be reached at

Joan E. Knox

Vice President of Government Relations

​Joan E. Knox is Vice President of Government Relations for the Federation. Knox has close to 20 years’ experience in a variety of roles including legislation, policy, and advocacy at both the local and state levels, including 10 years in private higher education. Her extensive political campaign and government experience includes having served as Alderman for the City of Palos Hills for 17 years.

Knox assists the President in coordinating state and federal public policy advocacy efforts for Federation members. Previously, Ms. Knox served as Associate Vice President of Government and Community Relations at Saint Xavier University. Her primary responsibilities included a focus on state policy issues affecting higher education, community relations issues, and general state and federal government relations.

Throughout her career, Knox has served on a number of boards involved in education and community. Professional memberships have included the Executive Committee of America’s Urban Campus – a higher education consortium representing Chicago’s universities and colleges, the Board of Directors of the Southland Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Planned Giving Association, the Irish American Partnership and District 230 Board of Education.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and master’s degree in business administration from Saint Xavier University and is an Edgar Fellow, class of ’13.

She can be reached at

George V. Niehaus

Director of Operations

​George V. Niehaus is Director of Operations for the Federation. He manages the operational needs and structure of the agency, handles internal and external communications, and is responsible for all areas of Human Resources. As a member of the agency’s management team, Niehaus is also responsible for providing input that guides the agency’s organizational strategic action.

With a background as a Human Resources professional, Niehaus brings experience in recruitment, staffing, compensation, benefits, employee relations, organizational design, training and development, human resource information systems (H.R.I.S.), and payroll to the Federation. Certified in Organizational Leadership, Niehaus also has the knowledge and skills to streamline processes and procedures throughout the Federation.

Throughout his career, Niehaus has been involved with many professional and community-focused organizations. These organizations include Society for Human Resources Management, Central Illinois Society for Human Resource Management, Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Big Brothers Big Sisters, United Way of Central Illinois, and Land of Lincoln Goodwill.

A native of Illinois, Niehaus has completed courses at Greenville University, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and Millikin University. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Leadership.

He can be reached at