If you ever lived in C-U, I bet you can close your eyes right now and look south from the Illini Union and let the broad green expanse of the Quad lead your vision straight to Foellinger Auditorium.
The first time I saw REO Speedwagon was there, just before the 1972 presidential election. Kevin Cronin announced, "This is our political rap for the evening," and the band launched into "Golden Country." I saw Harry Chapin there on a magical night, when he got a standing ovation after every song.
I went to a midnight showing of "Night of the Living Dead" there. Big mistake. Spookiest walk home ever.
I had an all-too-brief conversation with the late, great Steve Goodman there.
Phil Strang has run the place for almost 10 years now. A 1972 Illinois grad, he's the facility manager for Foellinger Auditorium, Lincoln Hall Theatre and Gregory Hall Theatre. I asked him for three things you might not know about Foellinger:
— Helene Foellinger donated $3.8 million in 1983 and in April 1985 the remodeling was completed. The name Foellinger is German and is pronounced with a hard "G". Her father was named Oscar Foellinger...a good German name. 85 percent of people here say the name wrong...with a soft "G" as if the name were French.
— Before the remodeling the university was seriously considering closing down the auditorium. It had limited use at that time. Now Foellinger Auditorium is the number one classroom for student hours and has over 65 events and 40 exams every year as well as 6 commencement ceremonies every spring.
— The truss lighting over the front of the stage was created by two students (2000-2001) using an old radio antenna cut down and placed sideways along with an AC frame from the roof of Newman Hall, a discarded wooden cable spool and a hand-made electrical cable. We replaced the truss in 2012 with an actual industry standard truss for safety reasons.
Our gallery has photos from over the years of the building, plus we have a little something extra: the booklet issued by the UI when the Foellinger Auditorium was dedicated in April 1985.