Illini alumni to be honored during Homecoming

By Emily Herbick

Two distinguished alumni will be honored during Homecoming this weekend through the Illini Comebacks program.

The program, hosted by the Student Alumni Ambassadors and sponsored by the University Alumni Association, will be hosting this year’s guests, Dr. Scott Atlas and Dr. Barry Sabath.

According to the Alumni Association’s Web site, Atlas graduated in 1977 from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He is a professor of radiology and the chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. Atlas is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies and serves on the Nominating Committee for the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology.

Sabath graduated in 1974 from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He is a senior lecturer and senior mentor at the American Film Institute Conservatory and teaches “Approaches to World Cinema, Feature Development” to producers and directors. Sabath used to run the film division of Robin Williams’s Blue Wolf Productions and worked with Williams on films such as “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Patch Adams.” Sabath also served as a senior vice president of production for Paul Schiff Productions at 20th Century Fox and executive story editor and vice president of productions at Columbia Pictures. Currently, he is working on a horror film at MGM Studios.

“I know as a student, it’s incredibly encouraging to see what they (alumni) can accomplish,” said Kelly Stonebock, Student Alumni Ambassadors co-chair and senior in Media. “A lot of times when you have such distinguished alumni come back, it’s really intimidating for students. You think that there’s a huge gap between where you are now in your life and where they are. (The Illini Comebacks program) fights down the barriers we put between ourselves and the people we are looking up to.”

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Each year students, faculty and alumni are allowed to nominate prominent alumni for this honor. The Student Alumni Ambassadors co-chairs select nominees to return for Homecoming. Co-chair Katy Steele, senior in LAS, said there were many impressive candidates to choose from, but Sabath’s and Atlas’s impressive resumes and interest in the University played a role in their selection.

Stonebock said choosing two alumni from different backgrounds, such as medicine and cinema, would be interesting.

“We thought we would be appealing to a wider array of students that way,” she said.

According to Steele, the guests arrive on Thursday evening for a welcoming session. On Friday, Atlas will speak to a psychology class about the brain, while Sabath meets with Cinema Studies students. Sabath will also be honored for his donation of scripts to the Rare Book Collection at the Main Library.

“There really is a connection with this University that you don’t realize exists until you see someone come back after being away for a while,” Steele said. “The students really have a lot to learn from these alumni. It’s the kind of knowledge that you can’t just hear in the classroom.”

On Saturday, the guests will participate in the Homecoming parade and pep rally. They will be honored at the Homecoming game and will walk on the field.

Atlas and Sabath are both assigned two student hosts from the Student Alumni Ambassadors to help them navigate their busy schedules.

“It’s part inspiration to students, part recognition that they (Atlas and Sabath) have done great work, because a lot of times people do amazing things, and it’s not fully recognized for what it is,” said Jennifer Manfredo, junior in LAS and Sabath’s student host. “My role as a host is to help them get to the places they need to be on time at the right place.”

She said the guests are excited to talk to students and see how the school has changed. Manfredo said Sabath hasn’t been back to the campus in a long time.

“There is always a connection to the school,” Steele said.