Part 61: The great outdoors

Part 61: The great outdoors

This being the year the UI celebrates birthday No. 150, we caught up with graduates from across the globe who have gone on to big things. Every Tuesday throughout 2017, Editor JEFF D'ALESSIO will tell their tales. Today, in Part 61: Natural beauty.

With apologies to RASHID BASIR and TAHER SAIF, whose labs helped land her a spot on Forbes' 30-under-30 in Science list this month, RITU RAMAN's most memorable campus spot isn't inside an engineering building.

Or inside at all, for that matter.

"My favorite campus spot is the Arboretum," says the 26-year-old MIT postdoctoral fellow, who earned her master's (2013) and Ph.D. ('16) from the UI. "I spent four wonderful years at Illinois, and the natural beauty and calmness of the Arboretum was the perfect setting for self-reflection, regardless of the season.

"Initially, it was a place for me to run away from the rest of campus and the people in it, but as I formed and grew strong bonds with my new friends, I started dragging them along with me.

"I have very fond memories of rambling walks, badminton games and birthday picnics at the Arboretum, and it will always be the first place I return to when I visit Chambana."

Among the other favorite outdoor activities of former Illini:

Strawberries on the Quad

That's what was on the menu for future newlyweds CATHY and MIKE BUSHMAN's long-time-coming first date in the mid '80s.

It was "a beautiful, starlit night," as Cathy (Class of '86), now the senior director at Tiffany & Co., remembers the first of many fun times with Mike, now an author.

"The story behind it," she says, "is that he would not ask me on a date because he was editor of The Daily Illini and I was running for student body president.

"I, of course, was interested in getting the endorsement by the DI and Mike did not mix business with pleasure.

"Our first date was the week after the election — we all won."

Studying in the old South Farms

The unforgettable scent that made the Chicago kids plug their noses had the opposite effect on smalltown south-central Illinois native DOUG DOSSEY.

"To me, it smelled like home," says the former Illini track star (Class of '95), who went on to co-found a San Francisco hedge fund. "And it was more than the smell of those farms that provided me some comfort — before my first round of mid-term tests, I drove my pickup out into the waterways of the university's corn fields and did my studying far from the distractions of campus.

"My tests went well, so this became habit and, before I knew it, a strategy I shared with a few of my teammates. Eventually, we perfected it — loading a couch and a well-filled cooler into the back of the truck so we could comfortably spend long 'study' sessions out among the corn.

"You won't see this strategy recommended in any how-to-study guides, but it worked for us. Those farms so near to campus served as the perfect bridge, for me, between where I was from and where I was headed."

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