No shortage of Illini in this family

No shortage of Illini in this family

There’s lots of orange and blue in the McMorrow house.

More than 150 shirts, to be specific, plus an array of hats, shot glasses, decorations — and seven diplomas. And counting.Blog Photo

Starting with patriarch Tom, the East Peoria family is now on its third generation of Illini, with youngest son Ryan graduating on Saturday, grandson Andrew about to start his senior year and granddaughter Katie entering as a freshman next fall.

In between, five of the other eight McMorrow children earned UI degrees — Jeff (’89 architecture), Amy (’04 business administration), Marty (’04 business administration), Molly (’05 molecular & cellular biology) and Thomas James, or “T.J.” (’12 molecular and & cellular biology).

“I think I always knew I would want to go here,” Ryan McMorrow said Friday, hours before the UI’s commencement. “Obviously, my family’s got the history here. We’ve been Illini fans forever.”

It all started with Tom McMorrow, who earned his degree in architecture in 1967 and was on campus “during some good sports years” on campus.

He made sure the family had season tickets in football and regularly took in basketball games over the years. Tailgating became a family affair — “we like to get together and party,” he said.Blog Photo

Illini fever spread. With somebody enrolled at Illinois most years, there was no shortage of Illini merchandise at Christmas. Birthday parties were often Illini-themed. And both T.J. and Ryan were ball boys for Illini basketball in the years leading up to the 2004-05 Final Four season, mom Annette McMorrow said.

In fact, head coach Bill Self called 12-year-old T.J. in 2003 to leave a birthday message on his answering machine — right after Self had announced he was leaving Illinois for the head coaching job at Kansas.

“Somehow, he was still making calls for Illinois,” said T.J. McMorrow, now 27. “He said, ‘I know I disappointed a lot of the Illini fans, but I just wanted to call and say Happy Birthday.’ He was a great guy. We were distraught when he left.”

While there was no parental edict about where to go to college, the Illini legacy got handed down, sibling by sibling.

Jeff, the eldest, wanted to be an architect and go to Illinois just like his dad, Annette McMorrow said. All but three of the other kids followed suit.

“I don’t think growing up I even realized other colleges even existed,” T.J. McMorrow said. “It was always, ‘Meet up and watch the Illini,’ or ‘Meet up and go to an Illini game.’”

Most of the Illini graduates completed their first two years of college at Illinois Central College, where they got free tuition. Tom McMorrow has taught architecture there for 50 years, since the school opened in 1968 — part time while he worked in private practice and later full time. In fact, Friday was his last day before retirement.

Jeff McMorrow eventually taught alongside his dad at ICC. And Ryan McMorrow, who was “always building things” as a youngster and followed his dad and older brother into architecture, had his father as a teacher for a couple of classes there.

“It was interesting,” Ryan McMorrow said. “He probably was hardest on me, honestly, in those classes. I had to try extra hard. I think he was trying to make an example out of me.”

Tom McMorrow said he never pressured his kids to go to the UI, allowing them to make their own choices.

Son Matt, in fact, chose Southern Illinois University and is now a contractor, but he’s “the biggest Illini fan in the family,” Tom McMorrow said. “We gave him an honorary U of I degree in leisure studies.”

The family has also produced two doctors — Molly McMorrow-Lundy, a pediatrician at OSF in Morton, and T.J. McMorrow, who just received his medical degree from a university in Puerto Rico, learning medicine in Spanish and English. He will be starting a residency in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore in June. Tom McMorrow’s dad, as it turns out, was also a pediatrician.

As for the other two Illini graduates, Amy McMorrow-Hunter is a computer programmer at SIU and Marty is an account manager at a lumber company.

Meanwhile, daughter Meghann McMorrow just finished her first year at the ICC College of Nursing. Michele McMorrow received an associate degree in criminal justice and a cosmetology degree and is working at a Peoria salon.

Tom McMorrow said he’s proud of all nine children.

“They’re just good kids,” he said. “We’re very joyful.”

Family members will celebrate with a combined graduation party for Ryan and T.J. later this month, with some of them flying to Puerto Rico for the medical school graduation ceremony.Blog Photo

While Annette and Tom McMorrow have made the trip to Champaign for graduation six times now, they’d never attended a campuswide commencement at Memorial Stadium until Saturday.

“It never gets old,” Tom McMorrow said.

Afterward, the family gathered for lunch, as usual, at Murphy’s Pub on Green Street to celebrate.

“It’s always a huge honor, it’s always a huge party,” Annette McMorrow said.

Ryan McMorrow, who roomed with his nephew Andrew for one year at the UI, said his mom was a little sad driving to Champaign for the last time.

“In a way, it’s sad for all of us. We have been coming back and forth for so many years,” he said.

But there’s still the next generation, with “many more coming down the pipeline,” he said.

“There won’t be a shortage of Illini in the family.”


Julie Wurth blogs about kids and families and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. You can contact her at 217-351-5226, or on Twitter @jawurth.


Top: Ryan McMorrow, center, the latest member of the McMorrow family to graduate from the University of Illinois, gathers with relatives for a group photo outside Memorial Stadium after the May 11 commencement. From left to right are his nephew, Andrew, now a UI senior; his oldest brother Jeff, a 1989 UI architecture graduate;  brother Matt; his father Tom, a 1967 UI architecture graduate; and brother T.J., a 2012 UI graduate in molecular and cellular biology. Three other siblings (Amy, Marty and Molly), also hold UI degrees.

Middle: The McMorrow family attends a recent Illini game at the State Farm Center. Back row, left to right, are Marty, Jeff, Matt, dad Tom, T.J. and Ryan McMorrow; front, left to right, are Amy, Molly, Michele and Meggie McMorrow.

Bottom: The McMorrow family celebrates at Murphy's Pub in Champaign after the May 12 UI commencement. From left to right, front row, are T.J., Meghann, Ryan, Jeff and Michele McMorrow; back row, left to right, are Tom and Matt McMorrow.

Photos courtesy McMorrow family

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