Homecoming activities picking up at UI

Homecoming activities picking up at UI

Homecoming activities are in full swing at the University of Illinois, with the parade, pep rally and football game scheduled for this weekend.

Homecoming week kicked off Friday with "iHelp," an annual volunteer project that asks students and alumni around the world to volunteer in their communities. Created in 2006 by the Student Alumni Ambassadors, the event dovetailed with a UI student service day in Champaign-Urbana.

About 1,700 students signed up to volunteer for projects in Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding area, and almost 75 percent of them ended up participating, said Lynn Chaney, associate director of the UI Alumni Association. Those numbers have grown each year, she said.

The largest project involved 300 to 400 students who packaged 30,000 pounds of food for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, she said. University Housing donated space at Ikenberry Commons for the project and provided trucks to transport the food, she said.

Alumni have until Oct. 27 to complete projects. Some recent UI graduates are working on Teach for America projects at their schools, regional alumni clubs have pledged to take part, and at least one international alumnus, in London, was planning a project, she said.

"The goal is to take the success of iHelp on campus and use it to help motivate alumni to reflect on the spirit of service, which is part of the university's mission," Chaney said.

On Monday, students gathered on the Quad for a free lunch, courtesy of the Illini Union Board, and a pumpkin carving contest. Illinois Spirit Day is Wednesday, with activities and food specials throughout campus, hosted by Student Alumni Ambassadors.

The big public events are Friday:

— Illini Block Party, 4 to 6 p.m., Wright Street in Campustown: Games, entertainment and more, open to students, alumni and the community.

— Homecoming parade, 6 p.m., Campustown. The parade route starts at Sixth Street and Taft Drive, runs through Campustown and then turns south on Mathews Avenue in Urbana to end at the Quad. The grand marshal is Judi Ford Nash of Geneseo, a world-class trampolinist and Miss America 1969. She is a 1973 graduate of the UI College of Applied Health Sciences.

— Homecoming pep rally: 7 p.m., Quad: It will feature the Marching Illini, head football coach Tim Beckman and the Illini football team, the homecoming court, Illini Comeback guests and the recipient of the UI Alumni Association's Lou Liay Spirit Award.

— Campus Observatory open house, 8-10 p.m., Campus Observatory, south end of Quad: View the heavens through the recently restored historic 12-inch telescope.

For details on other events during homecoming week, including an art exhibit, entertainment and Illini women's soccer, visit: http://admin.illinois.edu/homecoming/schedule.html.

The Alumni Association's "Comeback" guests this year are:

— Jeffrey Breslow, a 1965 graduate in industrial design and former president and CEO of Big Monster Toys, one of the world's largest independent toy design studios. Now a sculptor, Breslow has created a granite and steel sculpture in honor of his mentor, Edward Zagorski, a professor emeritus of industrial design. The sculpture will be dedicated on campus Saturday.

— Col. Michael S. McBride, a 1984 graduate in political science and a 27-year-veteran of the U.S. Army infantry. He was in the Army ROTC program at the university. He has served in Afghanistan and Iraq and received the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster and the Bronze Star. Retired since 2011, McBride is working on a master's degree in education at the UI.

— Tonise Paul, president and CEO of Energy BBDO and a director of BBDO Worldwide, who earned a bachelor's degree in 1979 and a master's degree in 1980, both in advertising. Winner of numerous honors, including Advertising Woman of the Year from the Women's Advertising Club of Chicago, Paul serves on the James Webb Young executive board in the UI College of Media.

The winner of the Lou Liay Spirit Award is Edwin Lennox III, who earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the UI in 1990, a master's in general engineering in 1992 and a master's in electrical engineering in 1997. Lennox has served as chairman of the Alumni Association's Campus Alumni Advisory Board as well as president of the Chicago Illini Club.