In Part 43 of our yearlong series commemorating the UI's 150th birthday, Editor Jeff D'Alessio asked 10 grads who've gone on to big things to tell us about the Campustown places and spaces that made the most indelible impressions on them.
"I am who I am because of the friends I keep and many of those friendships were realized within the walls of a 160-square-foot World War II bunker pretending to be a dorm room — the corner triple on the second floor at Garner Residence Hall. As a freshman, I lived there with two of my current best friends, Logan and Arjun.
"Much to the ire of our RA, who shared a wall with us, our room quickly became notorious for our constant open-door policy. Even when we were changing. Some could argue, especially when. But that didn't seem to deter people from stopping by. Passers-by always became welcomed distractions. They often spurred inane Seinfeld-Constanza-like debates, incessant and annoying cackling, as well as really dumb inside jokes that still make appearances at Christmas gatherings to everyone's delight.
"But out of that corner triple emerged an ethos — our open-door policy eventually became hard-fought tradition wherever we've moved, college and beyond. Apartments amongst our group of friends have now taken on a sort of town-square vibe. A place for anyone in the group to stop by, take a power nap, grab a snack, pet the dog, clog the toilet or just chat with whoever was willing to lend an ear. Even duplicate keys are made with little concern for security. We figure that's why renters insurance is a thing.
"But that tradition has been the glue of our group. It's what forged friendships that have prevailed through time and distance. And its lineage can be traced back to that musky corner triple at Garner."
"I worked at WICD-TV and WCIA-TV as a student to get my size 10 in the broadcasting door. I remember rushing to Garcia's Pizza before work to get that famed gutbuster slice, totally oblivious to traffic.
"As I crossed in the middle of the street, I was ever so slightly hit by a car. The driver was so upset and worried about me that she made me wait for the police officer to come.
"Guess what happened? I got a ticket for jaywalking and the driver was not cited. After that, I started paying better attention while walking around campus and learned to cross at the crosswalk."
"The University Library hallway housing the bronze tablets gave me a much-needed shot of confidence in 1964.
"As an impoverished, small-town guy with no exposure to college life, I was forced to work two jobs to pay college and living expenses. As my freshman year progressed, exhaustion and the need to send money home to the family were taking their toll. The University Library became a study haven for me, and that shot of confidence came when I saw my cousin's name on a bronze tablet in its hallway.
"My experience at Illinois, plus an MBA from Southern Illinois, gave me the confidence and foundation to become the chairman, CEO or board member of a number of energy companies plus chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Now, I'm back in that same small town working with my son to make the family farm successful and to help make the community a better place."
"The place I think of most is the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center. While the free printing they offered was great, what I remember most is the family-like atmosphere I experienced.
"My freshman year, I could walk in for a brief break between classes and witness classmates teaching staff the latest dance craze. Or when I interned there my fifth year and saw students comforting another student who lost his grandfather and was struggling to deal with it.
"That place was an old, run-down building, but man, did it feel like home for me. From the election night watch party of '08 to the end of the year BBQ of '13, my fondest memories usually had the 'Black House' — as we students called it — somewhere in the storyline."
"I remember he kept staring at me. I was dressed in a black lace top with a ribbon, Dancing and enjoying the night at The Clybourne. I thought maybe he looked Puerto Rican so as we were exiting the bar, I told my friend hold on one sec.
"I went up to him and asked if he was in fact that nationality. He said 'No, but I can be if you want me to be' and asked me if I'd go to dinner with him. I thought it was odd because we were at a college bar.
"Fast-forward 11 years and it's been an off-off-again romance that resembles Al Pacino's 'Scarface' and 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith.'"
"I was a bartender at C.O. Daniels for two years. I still tell stories about serving the red bucket of beer during happy hours.
"We literally filled mop buckets with the cheapest beer on tap and then handed it over with a stack of plastic cups for people to scoop out their share. Of course, when they got to the bottom, everyone switched to just tilting the bucket back and dumping it down their throats.
"I read an article about C.O.'s a few years ago, and the sticky floors were cited as both memorable and nasty. I'm sure those floors are a direct result of the buckets o' beer. RIP C.O.D.'s."
"I spent a lot of time working part-time as a hairdresser at Identity Hair Salon on East John Street, right underneath Bogart's, to finance my studies at the College of Communications.
"The salon's interior walls were painted a rather jarring purple and one of the stylists actually had purple hair. Nonetheless, I spent most of my days performing rather tame services like pale golden highlights and crew cuts. We had a wide range of clientele from the university — kids from the Chicago suburbs, international exchange students and engineering teaching assistants.
"It was a great place to experience the richly diverse student body of the U of I and to engage in real, albeit quick, conversation with a wide variety of students, cutting through stereotypes and unearthing the shared university experience — the stress, the self-discovery, romantic challenges, anxiety about post-graduation life — in the way that only your hairdresser can."
"One of my fondest moments is salsa dancing at Cowboy Monkey. Every Wednesday, you would see graduate students, post-docs and professors during the tutorial and then the results during the after-party.
"The thing about Illinois is that there was such a flat hierarchy in the lab and outside of the lab that I have yet to experience again in my academic career."
"In 2012, I launched my journalism career from a dank Champaign basement on the U of I's campus. During my senior year, I covered Illinois' club hockey team for the Daily Illini and interviewed players and coaches after each game in the Ice Arena's musky subterranean locker room.
"Having the opportunity to regularly interview and write about the team was the first step toward my dream career. Now as a Congressional reporter, my interview settings are decidedly more posh. But I first learned the fundamentals of the trade under the ice in Champaign."
"I spent more time than I should have at Kam's, but I never thought I'd make a business connection based on my favorite college bar.
"Just a few years ago when I was the VP of marketing for the Arizona Diamondbacks, I was reviewing the hundreds of resumes we received for our seasonal marketing internship. One in particular caught my eye because the applicant was from the U of I. When I saw his previous work experience included being a doorman at Kam's, I felt like I had to at least set up an interview.
"Long story short, I ended up hiring the young man, and when he briefly went back to campus for his U of I graduation, he brought me back the best gift I have ever received from an intern — a pint glass from Kam's. He has stayed in baseball and is now with the New York Yankees, so I guess it worked out well for both of us."