Opinion | Illinois alumni should inspire students


Photo Courtesy of Lionel Hahn/Abaca Press/MCT

Roger Ebert attends the IFP Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California, on March 22, 2003. Columnist Noah stresses the successes of famous Illinois alumni like Ebert.

By Noah Nelson, Senior Columnist

Benjamin Franklin once said: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” 

Each year, hundreds of thousands of college students participate in higher education to earn a degree and take the next step in their careers. While some universities may be more difficult than others, there is no doubt that each college student struggles at some point during that time.

Although it may seem like a struggle now, countless people have graduated from the University of Illinois and continued on with successful careers. This long list of accomplished alumni should inspire every current student to take on the world and do what they love to do.

Since its inception in 1867, University alumni have made their mark on the world, cementing the school’s legacy. Over the years, 10 alumni have won the Nobel Prize and 29 have earned the Pulitzer Prize. But the success did not stop there.

University alumni have gone on to design well-known structures such as the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, the Willis Tower in Chicago and the United Nations Building in New York. Companies founded by University alumni include the National Football League, Yelp, PayPal, YouTube, the Weather Channel, Tesla and Oracle, just to name a few. Alumni have also traveled to outer space, worked in federal government, won Tony, Grammy and Emmy awards, played in the NFL, NBA and MLB, earned Olympic medals, made science breakthroughs and so much more.

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Who can forget the legacies of well-known alumni like Roger Ebert, Dick Butkus, Red Grange, Hugh Hefner and Suze Orman? Without many other alumni, the world wouldn’t have the board game Operation, the red solo cup, Baskin Robbins ice cream, the Harlem Globetrotters or Disney Channel.

Over the years, the University has continued to live up to its reputation as being one of the best public research facilities and venues to earn a degree across the country. Alumni have made their mark on the world in fields like engineering, science, art, journalism, music, agriculture and so much more. Current students are carrying on that legacy as this is being written. It is no wonder why so many students choose to become an Illini. It is why I did.

While most college students love participating in higher education, many question why they attend college and long for graduation day. From speaking with many friends at the University over the last several months, those thoughts have come to mind. Most of them agree college is even more difficult and stressful now dealing with remote learning due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But at the end of the day, we are attending a Big Ten university with a rich history and a great list of accomplished alumni.

Instead of stressing over the next test, whether or not Zoom will work and the career search after college, take a step back and breathe. It is all going to be okay. Just look at the thousands of alumni who have come before you; they have all been in your spot at one point too.

Their success should be motivation that you too can take on the world and do whatever it is you love to do. Wherever life takes you, it is always a great day to be an Illini. 

Noah is a junior in the College of Media.

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