Homecoming awards honor dedicated, passionate alumni


Tyler Courtney | The Daily Illin

Past and current members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon celebrate Block at Grange Grove before a Homecoming football game.

By Rabia Ilyas, Staff writer

To many University students, Homecoming is just another Saturday for college football. However, for the thousands of alumni, the term “homecoming” literally means “coming home.”

The significance of  Homecoming Weekend, then, comes from the act of welcoming back this part of the Illinois family that has shown great pride and commitment to the University. Honoring these alumni that bleed orange and blue is now a historical tradition and continues to play an important role on campus.

The alumni of the University stay loyal to the school by donating money to the University of Illinois Foundation, attending sporting events and concerts and acting as networking connections for other graduates of the University.

Alumni who have gone above and beyond and shown incredible Illini spirit are honored with awards each year at Homecoming. One of these, the Lou Liay Spirit Award, is given each year to an alumnus who exemplifies great dedication and pride to the University.

This year’s Lou Liay Spirit Award is being given to Dr. Kenneth Schmidt, a member of the University class of 1965 and the College of Medicine class of 1967.

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He is a Golden Life member of the University of Illinois Alumni Association, the President’s Council, the University’s donor recognition program and the University of Illinois Foundation. From 1999 to 2011, he was a member of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

In addition to the Lou Liay Spirit Award, the Alumni Association also names Comeback Guests and a Parade Marshall each year. For the University, these awards are important because they bring about a greater connection with the alumni.

“The Lou Liay Spirit Award and countless other awards celebrate alumni achievement and success. It’s important because it connects and inspires alumni to give back to UIUC,” said Matt Wilson, associate vice president for alumni community development of the UI Alumni Association.

Many of the recipients that receive this honorary award have been active within the University by serving on councils and planning events. They carry pride for their alma mater with them for life.  Homecoming honors this loyalty and pride.

“The alumni that come back to the campus are able to relive their college days, meet with faculty and participate in activities. It’s a way to keep the alumni connected,” Wilson said.

Of course, many University students may still see this week just as a time to see some great concerts at the State Farm Center, grab a free lunch on the Quad and watch the Fighting Illini take on Minnesota. However, just a few years down the road when these students are given the honorary title of University of Illinois alumni themselves, Homecoming will allow them to relive their college lives and share their pride for the University.

Gale Bickel, executive university relations coordinator of the UI Alumni Association, said that honoring the alumni that have shown great spirit on and off the field is a way for alumni to connect with current students. The main quality connecting these people is their love for the University.

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