State budget impasse shrinks University’s 150th celebration


The Daily Illini Archive Photo

Students gather to listen to a protestor outside of the Illini Union in 1984.

By Megan Jones, Staff Writer

Plans for the University’s 150-year celebration have been scaled back due to the state budget impasse, but planners hope commissioned projects will fill the void.

Started in 1867 as a land grant institution, the University is planning a 15 month celebration to highlight its 150 years of accomplishments.

Various major projects ranging from books, music pieces and exhibits are currently being commissioned for the Sesquicentennial Celebration for the Urbana campus.

Pradeep Khanna, associate vice chancellor for corporate relations and economic development, is tasked with planning the celebration and all the coordination.

Planning began three years ago by starting to commission projects that took a long to complete, such as a book highlighting University achievements that will be published in March. A music composition for the Altgeld Hall bell towers was also commissioned three years ago.

Plans for the 150th celebration were scaled back from the original ideas pitched three years ago due to budget cuts.

The University was planning on hosting large conferences and inviting a large number of speakers, Khanna said. Instead of hosting and creating new events to celebrate the anniversary, the campuses are instead incorporating the Sesquicentennial into pre-existing annual events, such as homecoming.

The 2017 and 2018 commencements and all New Student Programs for incoming freshmen and transfer students will have a “Sesquicentennial twist” on them.

For some events, they have looked for alternate funding. Khanna said they are not trying to fundraise for the Sesquicentennial because they do not want to compete with other colleges and fundraising efforts of the campus.

The campus plans to spend an estimated $400,000 on the projects and events planned for the Sesquicentennial.

“We are managing with the resources that we have by being more creative and by redesigning activities so that they can still have substantial impact even when they are done with a smaller budget,” he said.

For example, the University was planning a large campus-wide event in October and would invite high-profile alumni to attend a program about the global impact of the University. That program has been redesigned and instead will be a symposium focused on the different areas the University has had a lot of impact.

Khanna said he hopes that within the next 15 months, there will be a series of discussions that celebrate what the University has done and what it could have done better in its history.

“It has been an introspection to see what we have done well and not done well and how do we move forward as a land grant university,” Khanna said.


The following projects have been commissioned for the celebration.


— The University of Illinois: Engine of Innovation

The book catalogs major University achievements and its impact on the state, nation and world, featuring over one hundred images. Experts and students tell stories of campus legends and overlooked game-changes, along with incubators like Beckman Institute and Ebertfest.

Anticipated publication: March 2017

— History of Athletics

In conjunction with the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, the third installment of Legends, Lists and Lore, will chronicle Fighting Illini varsity athletics since 1895. Former Sports Information Director Mike Pearson produced the first and second editions in 1995 and 2002, and will update the third installment to include the last 15 years of athletics.

Anticipated publication: Fall 2017

— An Illini Place: Building the University of Illinois Campus

How did the campus come to look as it does today? This book will trace UI’s evolution through buildings, including oral histories, official reports, dedication programs and developmental plans.

Anticipated publication: May 2017


— Archaea

Composed by Stephen A. Taylor, a conductor at the School of Music, Archaea is a new musical piece to be played on the Altgeld Chimes and McFarland Carillon, the bell tower on the South Quad.

Archaea is a domain of life of single-celled organisms, and biologist Carl Woese discovered M. Jannaschii, a domain of life that belongs to the Archaea, at the University.

The entire piece plays for 16 minutes. There are two sets of microorganisms with small circular chromosomes with extra genes on them. The piece has been divided into two versions: one will play at McFarland Carillon with 48 bells. It is played automatically because the notes are too fast to be played by a person. The other piece will play at the Altgeld Chimes by a bellringer.

— Gathering

The band and choral divisions of the School of Music put together a new song, “Gathering,” which combines the stories of three U of I alums, a downstate Catholic farm boy, a jewish New Yorker and a Muslim immigrant. It tells the story of education and inclusivity.

The piece will be performed in the spring of 2018 at the Orchestra Hall in Chicago, New York City and at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.


— Spurlock Museum

The museum will host the sesquicentennial exhibit. Its curator researched three time periods of the first century of U of I’s history and is working with campus units to identify artifacts that document these stories.

— Siebel Center for Design

The design center will break ground during 2017 and be celebrated as part of the 150th celebration. The building, located on the west end of Military Axis south of Huff Hall, will bring together students from all majors to explore ideas in a collaborative space.

— Alice Campbell Alumni Center

The Alice Campbell Alumni Center’s first floor will be transformed into a welcome center for alumni and visitors to campus. The floor will include interactive exhibits and maps.


— Distributed Museum

An online distributed museum will tie markers, exhibits, documents and information into a virtual map to help highlight historical impacts.

— A Campus Home of Our Own

A video project will show the story of African American students who attended in the 1940’s and were not allowed to live on campus. Many local black families and community members stepped up to help the students by providing meals, housing and a community.

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