Armory celebrates 100th Anniversary


Four University ROTC alumni being awarded their medals at the 2014 Hall of Fame ceremony.

By Estefania Florez

The historic Armory building celebrated its 100th year anniversary Friday with a luncheon and the induction of eight University alumni into the Army ROTC Fighting Illini Battalion Hall of Fame.

The inductees actively participated in the armed forces and gave their services to this country. The Armory has served as a home to several campus departments, athletics, clubs and organizations.

Lt. Col. Erik Stetson, professor of military science, spoke to a crowd of about 200 students, staff and alumni, recognizing the Armory’s 100 years of service. He began by giving the audience historical facts about the Armory building, which was officially completed in 1914 and the Illini cadets began to use the facility later in 1915.

“When construction was finished, the building was considered the largest structure in the world without a center support,” Stetson said.

One of the most significant things about the University, Stetson said,  is its history and relationship with the military, dating back to 1868. He added that more than 2,000 soldiers used the Armory as a dormitory during World War I.

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“This University has a long legacy of producing leaders for our armed forces,” Stetson said. “It’s one of the icons and landmarks on campus and personal landmarks for people who are alumni of the university.”

Along with celebrating the Armory’s 100th anniversary, the Fighting Illini Battalion inducted eight members into its Hall of Fame, five of which were in attendance and the remaining three posthumously.

Retired Major General of the U.S. Army Michael Symanski was one of those inductees. He graduated in 1969 with a masters in history and went on to serve in the Army, National Guard and National Reserve for a total of 37 years, retiring in November 2007.

Symanski said he felt honored to be recognized as one of the Hall of Fame inductees and was also happy to be back celebrating his achievements with the University. He added that his experience in the Army was a positive one.

“My relationships with my society, my government, my fellow Americans, has been set by my Army commission,” Symanski said.

He added that it was remarkable that the Armory has stood for as long as it has.

“I think it’s good stewardship on the part of the University to make good use of this building, to give it a legacy that ties the students of today to the experience of the students that have been here, in the case of this building, for at least 100 years,” Symanski said.

Samuel Chubb, senior in LAS and public affairs officer for the ROTC, said his time in the ROTC program has been demanding but very rewarding.

“It’s a great way to learn leadership, make friends, network and you learn a lot from people who are experts in their field,” Chubb said. “My experience has been pretty fantastic and I think that a lot of the other cadets would say the same.”

Estefania can be reached at [email protected]