URBANA — Phyllis Wise has had plenty of surprises as University of Illinois chancellor, but not all came with flowers.
Hurrying between meetings Wednesday, Wise was presented with dozens of appropriately orange roses and serenaded by students to honor her one-year anniversary as chancellor.
The flowers were a gift from Uniting Illini, a student group formed last spring that partnered with the social movement "Do Something Amazing for Someone Amazing" to surprise the chancellor.
"It was so beautiful," Wise said later. "I've never experienced anything like this, and I'm sure I never will again."
Around 12:55 p.m., as Wise left a meeting with the Council of Deans at the Illini Union, individual students lined up to offer thanks and hand her five dozen roses in shades of apricot and white — all the way back to her office at the Swanlund Administration Building.
Outside Swanlund, members of the "Rip Chords," an all-female a cappella group, sang "Yesterday" as the chancellor looked on.
"I was just floored," Wise said. "It's unheard of for students to really even know what a chancellor is, much less what she does, and then to take the time to celebrate with me and thank me for things I'm doing ... I really still am speechless."
Uniting Illini, made up of student leaders from across campus, is intended to bring the student body together and present a unified student voice, said UI senior David Pileski, co-founder of Uniting Illini and student trustee from the Urbana campus.
He said students appreciated Wise's calming presence this past year and her effort to reach out through her "listening and learning" tour.
"We wanted to thank her for being part of the Illinois family, for recognizing that we are a family, and taking time to get to know the university," Pileski said.
Wise previously was executive vice president and provost at the University of Washington.
Do Something Amazing for Someone Amazing is a social movement and web series to recognize deserving people in creative and artistic ways, said Esteban Gast, founder and senior in LAS.
"We seek to recognize people who are amazing, and her impact has really been felt in one year," Gast said in a release.
Also joining Wednesday's celebration were representatives from the Student Alumni Ambassadors, Illini Union Board, 1867 Society, the Civic Leadership Program and other student organizations.