The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, March 25, 2018

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, March 25, 2018

We're up to 1,175 stories — and adding more every day — at, our special Illini memories site. With the UI's extended 150th birthday party almost over, we asked accomplished alums to tell us about the places and people that come to mind first when they think back to their glory days.

Actress plays Mrs. Holland on the hit Netflix series 'Stranger Things'

"If you are familiar with the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, you probably know its beautiful lobby with marble walls and its state-of-the-art performance spaces.

"If you go three flights down to the basement and make your way through the maze of concrete hallways, you can find a room with a heavy door. This room has a high ceiling, walls of old white acoustic panels, a hardwood floor with a barely visible outline of the festival stage and lots of old tape marks.

"Along one wall are stacks of athletic mats, platforms and scenery flats. In the dead of winter, it can feel a bit dusty.

"This room is called Opera Rehearsal. It's where I learned to flip, to stage fight, to fall down safely, to speak Shakespeare, to breathe while acting, to be less afraid of failure, to fully commit vocally and physically, to rehearse, rehearse and rehearse some more.

"Opera Rehearsal remains my favorite theatrical space — not just at the U of I, but on the planet."

Urbana High grad, Climate Change Secretariat at United Nations' German campus

"Whether it is trudging along the crisscrossing walkways through the snow or lying down on its grass, when I think back on those days, I picture the Quad between Foellinger and the Union.

"When roller blades were all the craze, it was one false move in the herd and boom.

"My absolute favorite memories are those of Professor Richard Scanlan in his toga during Classic Civilization reenacting Caesar in Lincoln Hall and Professor Douglas Brewer's anecdotes of his Egyptian escapades.

"Originally a townie, I'm glad to hear that Zorba's is still around but am sorry to hear that Record Service has closed their doors. Green Street used to have character but now looks like a strip mall. As someone might say: sad."

Community Management Coordinator, Capitol Music Group

"My favorite spot was the Beef Stand on Green Street. I went on my first date there my freshman year.

"I was devastated when they closed down sophomore year. I can still taste the chili dog."

CEO, P.F. Chang's

"There's a lot I liked about my time in Champaign-Urbana, but I loved Timpone's Restaurant on South Goodwin Ave.

"It was my favorite restaurant and it was right around the corner from where I lived.

"I loved it so much, I worked there on weekends, either bartending or waiting on tables to help subsidize law school. Whenever I'm anywhere near Urbana, I go out of my way to visit.

"Everything they make is great, but I always leave with a sausage and green olive pizza. It's probably my favorite pizza in the world."

2018 College of Education Distinguished Alumni winner, now School of Education Dean at U. of Washington-Tacoma

"I first met Dr. Violet Harris, who later became my adviser, in the education building on the U of I campus.

"I was going through a difficult time, struggling to find a faculty member to take me on after my first adviser left the university for another position.

"The first time we met, Dr. Harris actually found me in the hallway crying. She invited me to her office, offered me a cup of tea and asked me what was going on. Then on the spot, agreed to work with me.

"Dr. Harris then showed me the room across from her office — a space filled with children's literature — thousands of titles, including classics, graphic novels, novels, poetry collections and much more.

"That special room was a space where Dr. Harris would allow her students to study, hang out and read. We fondly called it the Harris Library. I hope I can someday create a similar space for my own students."

Managing Director, Rocky Mountain Institute

"I was a mechanical engineering major, and was tremendously saddened when Jim Peters, one of my best professors, was killed tragically in a car crash a few years after I graduated.

"I remember him teaching us about the energy content of a DeLuxe fish fry sandwich in our introductory thermodynamics course.

"Coslow's was a great hangout to mix with the international community on campus due to the dark European beers — long before the age of microbrews.

"And I'm happy to see that Papa Del's is still serving up deep-dish on campus — and not surprised that Grog's pizza isn't, though I have to say that I ate way too many $4 delivered pizzas from there."

President, Entrepreneurs in Education

"I remember working in Room 10 in the College of Education and on Thursday afternoons the marching band would be practicing close by, getting ready for the home game on Saturday.

"While I couldn't see them practicing, I could certainly hear them, and the excitement for Saturday afternoon would begin. By the time the band had finished practice, I was so fired up I could hardly stand to wait for Saturday to come.

"After I left Illinois, I accepted an appointment at the University of Florida. Going to the games in Gainesville was fun, but I could never get as excited as I did when I was at Illinois, and then one day, it occurred to me that the difference was listening to the Marching Illini practicing on those fall Thursday afternoons."

World-renowned Irish composer

"One place that I always recall is Espresso Royale, the two-story coffee house right beside the music department in Urbana.

"It was like a second home and office for me. I wrote music there, hung out there day and night and, of course, developed my addiction for coffee there.

"Coming from Ireland, I was mainly a tea drinker before arriving in Champaign-Urbana. But every since those Espresso Royale days, I can't live without coffee.

"I understand now why Bach even wrote a cantata in its honor — coffee, that is; not specifically Espresso Royale."

Director of Retail Marketing, Skechers USA

"One of my fondest memories was going to the Canopy Club to watch live music.

"It was a really cool small venue that still maintained its history with red velvet curtains of old movie theaters.

"I lived on the Champaign side of campus so it was a bit of a trek over there, but well worth it. My favorite band to see was O.A.R. They weren't huge then, so it was cool to see them before they became really big.

"My roommate was also really into live music and even dated the trombonist from The Urge. We had them over to our apartment for a spaghetti dinner before one of their shows. Good times."

Senior Director, Oracle Data Cloud

"My spot on campus was 'Wimpe' gym. I spent a lot of time in between classes working out and playing basketball.

"The floors were always warped over the summer and into the fall due to the summer humidity each year because there was no air conditioning, if memory serves me right.

"Even as I write this, I can take a deep breath and smell the musty sweat of the gym."

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