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Athletic director gifts $100,000 in honor of football alumni

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Athletic director gifts $100,000 in honor of football alumni

Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman (left), and head football coach Lovie Smith (right), walking inside Memorial Stadium.

Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman (left), and head football coach Lovie Smith (right), walking inside Memorial Stadium.

Photo Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman (left), and head football coach Lovie Smith (right), walking inside Memorial Stadium.

Photo Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Photo Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman (left), and head football coach Lovie Smith (right), walking inside Memorial Stadium.

By Sports Staff

Illinois’ new 107,650-square-foot, $79.2 million Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Performance Center will add a corridor recognizing athletic director Josh Whitman and his wife Hope, made possible by the family’s $100,000 gift.

“Hope and I are making this gift to solidify our personal commitment, both financially and emotionally, to this transformative project and the benefits it will provide for our student-athletes and our program,” Whitman said in a press release. “As a former player, I feel especially committed to ensuring all letterwinners feel welcome and connected to this program. As with every college football team, bridging the gap between generations can be a challenge, and it was a priority for me in designing and building the Smith Center.”

On Wednesday, Illinois Athletics announced the additional construction of Josh and Hope Whitman Alumni Hall, a corridor in the building that will commemorate every former letterwinner. The hall will have an interactive screen with former Illinois football players, photos, videos and key accomplishments.

Whitman, who was a four-year starting tight end for the Illini from 1997 to 2000 and two-time First Team Academic All-American, joins a slew of other program alumni with his gift. Among the largest donations include a $5 million sum given by former offensive lineman Stu Levenick along with gifts from the family of former offensive lineman Kai Anderson, former offensive linemen Bill Castonzo and Bob Noelke, and former wide receiver Chad Ruskey and former quarterback Rich Erickson.

“We are extremely excited that the Smith Center Alumni Hall will bear the Whitman name,” said Lee Zerrusen, director of student-athlete engagement program Varsity “I,” in a press release. “While he currently serves as the Director of Athletics, the foundation of Josh’s Illinois experience was built during his time as a student-athlete. Through this gift, our student-athletes will better understand the legacy of those that came before them and the history that they are now a part of.”

According to the press release, Whitman’s donation is part of the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics’ $300 million fundraising goal. The overall goal, according to Illinois Athletics, is included in the “With Illinois” initiative — the $2.25 billion University-wide fundraising campaign.

“To date, former Illinois football players have pledged more than $6.5 million to this project, demonstrating their commitment to the current generation of Illini and providing them the opportunity to compete at the highest level,” Zerrusen said in the release. “We are very grateful to Josh and Hope, and our other alumni, who have embraced our bold vision for the future of Illinois Football.”

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