The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, June 3, 2018

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, June 3, 2018

The memories from A-list Illini continue to flood in at Among the 1,255 stories about favorite places and people that former UI students and staff shared with us are these 10, set to debut this week at our special sesquicentennial website.

Served in U.S. Congress, 1995-2012

"As a college freshman, I used to go to class dressed up because I wanted to be a lawyer. After I graduated from the UI College of Law, I decided not to take the bar, and I did not become one. In fact, I broke the law, accepted responsibility for my behavior and I paid for it.

"At Illinois, I stopped dressing up and began eating from my favorite restaurant — La Bamba, which used to advertise a burrito 'as big as your head.' I would wear my sweatsuits to class to save money on dry cleaning. At the conclusion of law school, I realized that I could no longer wear the suits that were perfectly tailored because with sweats on, I couldn't judge when I was gaining weight.

"I made many lasting friends as a law student. I met my wife, who ultimately bore the two most amazing people in my life — Jessica and Jesse Jackson III. The quality instruction was — and is — amongst the finest in the country.

"After leaving, I went on to serve 17 years in Congress. I decided in Champaign-Urbana that writing laws with specificity was better than interpreting them."

Retiree served as president of Gannett Florida, National Association of Minority Media Executives

"Before we fretted over calories and fat content and before our bodies started succumbing to gravity, there was Papa Del's pizza — at all hours, but especially the middle of the night during finals week. Just thinking of that gooey, doughy, greasy concoction makes me smile, as does recalling a buddy inhaling whole pieces without chewing.

"And after yet another all-nighter, Dutch Babies at the Original Pancake House were the perfect luscious reward: gigantic, but oh so light and fluffy.

"My first real Christmas tree was in the dorm at Weston Hall in 1977. Being an immigrant, we learned holiday traditions from relatives. My aunt and uncle, who sponsored us to America, had a fake white tree that was mounted each year. I thought it was the epitome of style.

"But 10 years later, my roommate — Sue Lottes — introduced me to the wondrous magic of a fresh-cut tree, adorned with strung popcorn and handmade ornaments.

"I've had a real tree ever since."

Former first lady of Illinois

"My favorite UI memory is of Classic Civ class, taught by Professor Richard Scanlan — especially his taking the stage on the Fridays before football games dressed as the Oracle of Delphi to predict the score that weekend."

D.C. attorney

"Dr. John Pruitt had perfect diction, grammar and delivery. He was meticulous, brilliant and proper in every respect.

"In 1979, he taught a large early American history survey course. Over a thousand students filled Lincoln Hall for his class.

"One morning, in the middle of Dr. Pruitt's lecture, a student without a stitch on — what we then called a streaker — jogged across the stage in front of him. Dr. Pruitt was unflappable. While the audience variously broke into laughter, Dr. Pruitt did not miss a beat, continuing his lecture without the slightest alteration in his perfect delivery, as if nothing had occurred.

"The audience, largely riveted by his presentations, rapidly returned to decorum to avoid missing his content. The attempt at disruption backfired, and Dr. Pruitt remained triumphantly in control of his class."

Former Illini lineman; founder/CEO, Credit Honor

"In 2006, I was fresh on campus and living in a fourth-floor dorm room at Hopkins Hall with (the late) Jerry Brown, the former defensive end with the Colts.

"All of my dorm mates had video games in their rooms. It was heaven for me. We'd have tournaments every night playing Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers on Nintendo 64. We'd come back every night with lots of snacks and burgers.

"I would give anything to experience it all over again."

Named CFO of Atlanta Braves in March

"I have vivid memories of going to O'Malley's for the nightly midnight rendition of 'American Pie.' We would sometimes wait up to an hour to make sure we were in the bar in time for the sing-a-long.

"Everyone was your friend when you were singing 'American Pie.'"

Engineering professor, Notre Dame

"My education was north of Green Street on the engineering campus, but my heart was often on the South Farms, having grown up on a corn and soybean farm near Wapella.

"When I needed a breath of fresh air, I would either put on my running shoes or hop on my Schwinn and head for the prairie. My favorite spot was a tree at the top of a hillock on Windsor Road. I have a picture of it in my dining room today.

"When I needed to think hard about decisions or directions for life, I would head to this point and sit and think. It did a lot of good, and I would return to campus stronger."

Software engineer, Google

"I spent most of my time at Siebel Center — when I wasn't attending classes in the first floor, I was working on research projects in my fourth-floor office.

"The most memorable moments are the few times I stayed up until 6 a.m. working on research papers with Professor Darko Marinov and his other students.

"Paper submission deadlines for software engineering conferences are usually Anywhere On Earth, which is 6 a.m. CST or 7 CDT, and we always worked on papers until the very last minute. After submitting our papers, Professor Marinov would usually take us all to an Einstein Brothers nearby for some bagels before we all went home to catch up on sleep."

Brooklyn architect

"Perhaps the most memorable, or at least one of the most symbolic (experiences), would have to be the days of my first architecture design studio classes in Flagg Hall.

"At the time, it felt like some sort of condemned bunker of a university past, or perhaps in its most extreme, an abandoned facility in Chernobyl or something equally surreal. We were placed on the third or fourth floor, even though the rest of the building was empty. A legion of new young architects were tasked with figuring out what it meant to be an architect, at least in a very rudimentary form.

"It was the place I met one of my best lifelong friends, where I had my first truly meaningful relationship and where I found what I would devote the rest of my life to. I often think of the brutally unadorned hallways and taskless rooms in that building and how they hosted the creative impulses that would see me into my life's direction.

"From what I've heard, the place has had a bit of a facelift and returned to its previous functions. Bittersweet, actually."

President, University of Hawaii

"I was fortunate as a freshman to be one of the early inhabitants of Unit One in Allen Hall.

"I was introduced to yoga, developed my darkroom skills and treasured the suite down the hall that musicians playing in town could occupy for free if they just put up with us pesky dorm residents.

"The place that ended up having the most impact on my professional life turned out to be the PLATO Lab. I wandered in early during my first semester, the fall of 1972, and was seduced by highly-interactive, graphics-intensive advanced networked computing and what it could do. I spent many a night there, programming for I think $1.80 an hour and fooling around.

"PLATO ended up being my ticket for a one-year trip to the University of Hawaii in 1977 that hasn't ended."

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