Part 55: Hearing from a member of the Class of '55

Part 55: Hearing from a member of the Class of '55

With the UI celebrating birthday No. 150 this year, we caught up with hundreds of graduates who have gone on to big things. Every Tuesday, Editor JEFF D'ALESSIO will tell their tales. Today, in Part 55: A member of the Class of '55.

DICK THIES' spin down Illini memory lane begins at the Main Library.

"Not because I spent a lot of time there," which the Urbana attorney is quick to confess "I did not," but because it's where he first laid eyes on MARILYN WEBBER, who'd become his wife of 63-plus years.

"In those days," says Thies ('55), "students paid their tuition fees at the library, and we were each working as cashiers. Marilyn was the only girl working as a cashier, and I made a point of placing my station next to hers.

"The rest is history."

But there are at least three more must-mention stops for Thies, a member of the inaugural class of Champaign County Pillar of the Bar inductees:

— The University YMCA on Wright Street, "which was the center of international student activity and student activism on campus. It was there that we planned and carried out political speeches in front of the Y during the 1952 campaign, in violation of the university's prohibition against political speeches on campus. They helped break that barrier and encouraged a more enlightened student body.

"It was also there that the first Racial Equality Committee on campus was initiated, and because black students could not get haircuts on campus or in Champaign-Urbana, a barber chair was set up in the basement of the Y. The first and only customer was J.C. CAROLINE, an All-American football player, but it helped open campus barbershops to all students, regardless of race. Current Illinois Trustee JIM MONTGOMERY, a longtime friend, was instrumental in that effort."

— Next stop: "a basement apartment in a rooming house that existed on Daniel Street between Kam's and Kam's Annex. I lived there with three other graduate students who became lifelong friends. We called it the 'Mole Hole,' and if you had seen it, you would know why.

"The place was also a den of campus activism, for it was here that — among other things of similar nature — we planned the protest march from the summer band concert on the Quad to the president's mansion in protest to the trustees' firing of the president, GEORGE STODDARD. Over 1,000, including the band, participated in the march."

— Last but hardly least, Thies says, "I cannot forget to mention Altgeld Hall, where I was a member of the last law school class to graduate from that beautiful building. We have an original painting of the building done by JUDY IKENBERRY that hangs in our law office.

"Regrettably, the current law school building built on the site of the horse stables just doesn't have same character."

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