Those Who Served: New chairman of UI's Army officer program knows how to adapt

CHAMPAIGN — Lt. Col. Randall Smith has learned to move fast. He was pulled out of embattled Kosovo in 2001 to move on to Afghanistan in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, then to war in Iraq after only a few days at home.

He flew Chinook helicopters and commanded crews after becoming an officer in 1997.

From lowest low to highest high

CHAMPAIGN — On Aug. 30, 1998, Dennis Millage got the telephone call no father ever wants to get.

His 21-year-old daughter, Nichole, had lost part of her left leg in a boating accident at Clinton Lake.

"It was one of the saddest days of my life," said Dennis Millage, who now lives in Bourbonnais.

Area history, Sept. 18, 2016

Today is Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. Here are news reports from this date 100, 50 and 15 years ago:

In 1916, David Watson, a prominent auctioneer from Ludlow, narrowly escaped death when his big Hupmobile touring car plunged off a grade near Sharpe's Crossing near Thomasboro. Watson was thrown through the windshield, sustaining a big gash in his head and other cuts.

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Sept. 18, 2016

What's it like to be a lifelong Cubs fan these days? With a playoff berth already in the bag and no recent Steve Bartman sighting in Wrigleyville, we rounded up 10 locals who've stuck by baseball's lovable losers through thin and thinner.

Champaign resident worked as Wrigley Field usher from 1963-68

The Relucant Townie: Hot takes on free speech, training videos

Everybody keeps asking me for my hot take on the guy from Tolono who would rather get fired than sit through an LGBT diversity training video at his workplace.

Letters from Birdland: Starting to feel a chill in the air

Birdland has been kissed with a blessed coolness following the previous day's terrific storms. It is welcome after the humid days that seemed to stretch forever, and today I flung open the windows to bring the fresh air into the house. I had forgotten what it was like to hear birdsong in the kitchen as I chopped vegetables for my dinner.

Monticello youth is a pilot prodigy

MONTICELLO — He's years away from a learner's permit but has flown planes up to 200 miles an hour.

Radio-controlled planes. And helicopters.

On a sunny day, among sweat bees and butterflies at Eli Field north of Monticello, Zavi Machinchy is having fun with World War II-era planes.

To say Zavi, 11, is a good flier is an understatement.

Studio Visit: Dennis Rowan

Dennis Rowan, 78, of Sidney is an artist and University of Illinois emeritus professor of art, having retired 10 years ago after teaching there for 41 years. His collages are on view through Oct. 15 at the Cinema Gallery, Urbana, in the exhibition "Animals, Insects, Amphibians and Ancestors."

A friend wanted to know where you get your materials for your collages.

Kacich: Kirk lagging behind in fundraising locally

There's not a lot of local enthusiasm for the incumbent U.S. senator from Illinois in the place of his birth.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, born in Champaign but now a resident of Highland Park, has raised just $4,179 locally in this two-year cycle, according to the website

Wired In: Paul Couston

On Sundays, staff writer Paul Wood spotlights a high-tech difference maker. This week, PAUL COUSTON, 19, who's working on green energy projects. He's a sophomore in industrial engineering, but also planning to get a dual degree in innovation leadership and engineering entrepreneurship. Couston is in the first cohort of the new program.