The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Oct. 1, 2017

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Oct. 1, 2017

Continuing our run-up to Oct. 16 — when our special Illini memories website goes live — here's chapter 52 of our yearlong series commemorating the UI's 150th birthday. We asked movers and shakers with Illini ties to tell us about the places and spaces they still daydream about.


BOB WORK ('74)
Deputy Secretary of Defense, 2014-17; Under Secretary of the Navy, 2009-13

"During my five years in Spain, I was completely disconnected from the wracking national experience of the late 1960s. When I arrived on campus in 1970, one year after Kent State, it was like stepping onto another planet.

"As a member of the NROTC unit, I remember getting things thrown at me whenever I was in uniform. My sanctuary was the Armory. I vividly remember a night my freshman year when there was a major student anti-war protest that ended at the old domed building. It was pretty wild. I went to the Armory to help protect the national colors from the large crowd of student protestors. It was a tense and memorable experience.

"Two things made up for all the craziness. Every Friday, at 4 p.m., there were reruns of 'Star Trek' on TV, and the campus shut down to watch them. Perhaps a slight exaggeration but having been in Spain, cut off from American TV, I had never seen the show. But a good number of students had, and the comments while we watched were absolutely hilarious.

"And the second thing was Whitt's End in Champaign. That was one great watering hole, made all the more attractive because the drinking age in Illinois throughout my college days was 18. When joining my friends for a drink, my short hair didn't seem to bother anyone. I was just another student. As a result, I spent a lot of time — perhaps way too much time — contemplating life at the old bar. And drowning my sorrows whenever we lost a football or basketball game. Which, I am sorry to say, contributed greatly to my time spent at Whitt's End."

Illinois' 37th governor (1977-91)

"I attended the University of Illinois at Navy Pier — Harvard on the Rocks — but my favorite campus spots were Memorial Stadium and the Assembly Hall. I signed the 21-year-old drinking bill on the field at the stadium — very unpopular reception — but, along with Willie Nelson, I brought the first Farm Aid there.

"I would fly from Springfield to the Assembly Hall, don the warpaint and cheer on the Illini as governor. Used to get complaints from other Midwestern governors whose students wanted to know why they didn't wear their school colors."

Software engineer, Google

"It's 12 p.m. The intersection of Green and South Wright Street is bustling with activity — students running between classes, squirrels hopping in snow and cold winds gusting through Green Street.

"All of a sudden, the majestic bell tower next to the Alma Mater commences its noontime chime — 'Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee' — and orchestrates chaos into music.

"I have crossed this intersection several times, and even today I can replay this scene before my eyes."

VP/Marketing Director, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

"Dear Barnett's Liquor Store, thank you for selling me those $3.99 cases of long-neck Schlitz every week without ever asking for my frankly fake ID.

"The parking lot of the main library also springs to mind. That's where I parked illegally and unsuccessfully far too many times trying to make it to 8 a.m. journalism labs. In this surrounding, I learned what it meant to beg.

"I hope my first-born child forgives me for offering to donate her — repeatedly — to the tow truck driver in exchange for leaving my car alone. Thankfully, they turned me down every time."

Directed 'Hoop Dreams,' Roger Ebert's pick for the best film of 2004

"My freshman year, I lived in a basement apartment at Fourth and Green, in a house next to Abe's Red Hots, the place to be to satisfy late night munchies.

"Their aptly named Garbage Truck was a hot dog with everything on it — not only the usual mustard, ketchup and relish trio but chopped onions, jalapeno and banana peppers, sauerkraut and other items gratefully forgotten.

"It not only satisfied any hunger, it was suitable punishment for a night of revelry. The feeling the next morning was unforgettable."

Former NASA engineer now with Sierra Nevada Corp.

"September 1998. Memorial Stadium. Illinois vs. Middle Tennessee State. I was with my future wife, my brother and a few good friends, sitting in the horseshoe. Our beloved Illini football team was in the midst of an 18-game losing streak spanning three seasons but ... we won.

"A few hundred — or dozen — of us rushed the field and made a beeline to the goal post. My brother and I — both 6-3 and north of 200 pounds — found ourselves under the crossbar. He gave me a hoist and the next thing I know, I'm standing on it and others are following our lead.

"Try as we might, it wouldn't budge; it would barely sway. Seems like we tried for an hour before the extremely understanding and accommodating security crew informed us our attempt was over. The rumors that followed were that the posts were reinforced with concrete. I'll stick with that.

"From that day on, we concluded that you won't be successful taking down the posts at a school known for engineering."

Google alum now assistant controller of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

"Fall of 1993. It was my freshman year and first introduction to the glamorous world of accountancy. I found myself in Foellinger Auditorium, a majestic academic lecture hall seating hundreds for my first accounting course, Accountancy 101.

"As an 18-year-old, I wasn't entirely convinced I fit the mold of a stereotypical accountant. I wanted to be creative, think outside of the box. Then, one day, our accounting professor brought on stage two of her new pet ducks. She needed names for the ducks and solicited the help of the accounting students.

"We ended up naming them Accy and Quacky. It was in this moment I realized that accountants are creative and fun."

Former UI chancellor, now retired in Wyoming

"The place I think of is the Hallene Gateway, which was constructed using materials from a facade of Old Main.

"If I recall correctly, it was stored at Allerton for many years until Al Hallene, now deceased but a devoted and loyal alumnus of the university from Moline, donated the funds to construct the gateway.

"For me, the gateway represents historical continuity and the greatness of the University of Illinois. Further, it serves to welcome students, alums and friends to the University of Illinois. Each time I return to Champaign-Urbana, I never fail to visit."

Reporter/Anchor, CBS Chicago

"I should say my most memorable spot was the wood-paneled, small study lounge on the east side of the Student Union. It's where I preferred to study. I liked the hushed, crowded solitude.

"But the place that still makes me smile in recollection is, yes, a bar. O'Malleys. I not only hung out there but worked there until I was 'fired' days before finishing college. I was literally lifted from behind the bar and over to the patron side by bouncer Big Walt. It's where I spent time with my favorite people, including my still-best friend in the world and other strangers turned friends.

"And every time I hear 'American Pie,' I am taken right back to a campus experience and education that shaped my adult life."

President/CEO, University of Iowa Foundation

"I love the Morrow Plots' historic significance, the consecutive years of agriculture research and demonstration in the very heart of our campus, and just how they made this farm girl feel at home. I loved seeing the seasons change in that tiny little historic field — the tilling of the soil in the spring and the young green shoots that signaled growth to come.

"And, of course, my favorite Other Guys' lyrics were: 'You don't throw shade on the corn, it'll die as sure as you're born, no sir-ee, we don't mess around, our library's underground, you don't throw shade on the corn.'"

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