The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Feb. 10, 2019

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Feb. 10, 2019

We're up to 1,587 alumni profiles at our special UI-at-150-and-beyond website (, with no end in sight. Just posted: campus memories from 10 women who've done Alma especially proud. Here are their stories about the people and places that had a profound impact on them.


2018 U.S. House hopeful, Lincoln Presidential Library development officer

"When I tell people I went to UIUC, most first reactions are, 'Great school, but it's so big. Didn't you feel lost there?'

"The short answer is 'no.' I found my place quickly within the Student Alumni Association, led by a man who had a big impact on my life, Bob Lumsden.

"Bob was the adviser to SAA and devoted countless hours to building and strengthening the organization. His devotion was matched only by his genuine kindness and enthusiasm for treating each day — and each person whose path he crossed — as if they were gifts. Bob's encouragement helped me reach my potential within SAA when I was elected to serve as president.

"I met amazing people through SAA and learned many life lessons along the way. It is the root of my best college memories. For that, I thank Bob Lumsden."

Six-term Washington state legislator

"Marianne Ferber was on the economics faculty with her husband, Robert Ferber. I ended up in her office for what I remember as a required meeting with an advisor.

"She said, with her awesome German accent, 'You are planning to be an economics major, is that correct? You simply must consider it. We need more women in economics.'

"That wasn't correct at all, as I had previously been discouraged by another faculty member, who, when I posed this as a possibility to him, had considered my gender, rather than my transcript, and said definitively: 'You don't want to be an economics major. Too much math.'

"Now here was Professor Ferber, assuming and encouraging the opposite. I went on to obtain a Ph.D. in economics and am so grateful to her for opening that door for me."

Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner

"I remember passing out quarter-sheet printed flyers in the middle of the Quad for a fundraiser for the costs to hold a medical marijuana awareness event around 2002.

"I remember saying 'Happy medical marijuana week' to everyone I gave a flyer to and getting mostly double takes and confusion with the occasional eye roll or look of disgust, or 'Are there free brownies?' with a smirk.

"But maybe one out of 50 times, I'd see a thoughtful look, and someone would stop to talk to me about it. Many of those people ended up being my best friends, and a few of them are national leaders and cannabis business owners now."

Co-founder, El Roble Home Care of San Francisco

"The Illini Union was where I spent most of my studying time.

"When I felt frustrated with tough questions or needed a break, I would stroll to the East Wing to look at the those Alumni Achievement Award recipients and imagine how they tackled challenges to achieve greatness.

"Looking at their dedicated facial expressions galvanized me to keep hammering on my problems. The energy still motivates me to not give up when I feel frustrated mitigating issues in the U.S. health care system.

"The South Lounge was another place I enjoyed visiting. I feel like I'm back in the Civil War era when I touched the old furniture, because it looked like furniture in Lincoln's home in Springfield."

Dating coach, YouTube talk show host

"Kam's. Need I say more?

"My two sorority sisters bartended there, and it was one of my favorite hangouts, sticky floors and all.

"Side note: I went there for Mom's Weekend with my son a few years ago and had a fight with the bouncer, who wouldn't let me in 'cause my name wasn't on his 'list.' He still refused, even though I told him my two sorority sisters worked there back in the '70s.

"I ended up giving Kam's a poor Yelp review. I heard they're moving now and hope it wasn't 'cause of the bad review."

Associate professor, Emory University

"There are two spots that just remind me of home. I was a townie, so C-U really was home.

"One of them is Garcia's Pizza. I probably had 1,000-plus lunches, dinners and get-togethers at Garcia's on the corner of Green Street because it was the place to get together, get some 'za and drinks, and get caught up.

"The second spot was Coslow's. I can still smell the fries. It was kind of a dive, but then what more did you need as an undergrad wanting a central location?"

Director, McNair Scholars Program, Saint Louis U

"Since graduation, my career trajectory has taken me to four different states. Two things that have traveled with me have been my love of working with college students and my fond memories of my UIUC mentor, Dr. James D. Anderson.

"Dr. Anderson was the voice of reason when I couldn't quite get it together on my own, but more importantly, he modeled for me ways to serve students that are effective and leave a lasting impact.

"One of my takeaways from my time with him was: Educate and empower. Know that when you look at a student, you may be looking at a future change agent of society. What an awesome opportunity you have to plant seeds of knowledge that will blossom in the years to come.

"The greatest gift I have received in my career has been the opportunity to pay forward the many lessons and blessings Dr. Anderson shared with me."

Associate professor, University of Memphis

"Professor Sylvia Stone is, without a doubt, the most influential person I encountered. What a formidable figure.

"As one of a few undergraduates in Professor Stone's studio, I learned to be impeccably prepared, and also open to others' input. Although I do not work as an opera singer, the lessons learned from Professor Stone and my peers remain relevant: know your stuff, set high expectations, demonstrate passion and, of course, practice makes better.

"Professor Stone once stopped me in the middle of the piece and demanded, 'Where is your temperament? A singer's temperament must come through.'

"I reflect on that moment as a crucial lesson. She taught methat it was OK to be me; indeed, it was welcome."

President, UI Alumni Alliance

"Those of us who grew up here and attended Illinois have a unique connection to Dan Fogelberg's song 'Same Auld Lang Syne.'

"Fogelberg, a Peoria native, attended Illinois, as we all know. The urban legend surrounding the song was that the encounter between Fogelberg and the keeper of his heart took place at Eisner's on Green Street. In fact, a colleague of mine — a bag boy there in the '70s — swears by it.

"Whenever I hear it around the holidays, it brings back so many memories of winter breaks when C-U became quiet, the friends who had gone away came home and we townies had the city to ourselves again.

"Music can engender such a visceral response, can't it? All I need to take me back in time is to hear those opening chords when I'm in my car.

"And in the blink of an eye and 'just for a moment I (am) back at school' pulling out of my parents' driveway in my '67 Mustang, heading south on Rose, east on Kirby, driving into the night, into the snow to enjoy my hometown with those who knew and loved it — and me — the best."

VP of marketing, Visit Champaign County

"There is a tree on the south end of the ARC parking lot, before the drive into Memorial Stadium, nicknamed the Baritone Tree.

"During my college years, I was a baritone player in the Marching Illini. At the time, our practices were held in what was then a grassy lot to the west of the ARC. Our section of 20-plus baritones, from undergrads to grad students, met under that tree every day during the fall semester.

"We'd commiserate on classes, complain about the heat, hope for a win so maybe we could get to a bowl game and take breaks underneath that tree and cool off during practice.

"Each year, we got to design a section T-shirt that we'd wear under our uniforms, and my senior year, it was a phenomenal drawing of the Baritone Tree. The friends made in that spot have been lifelong, with many friendships and even marriages as a result.

"The tree still stands, and I smile every time I pass underneath it."

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