What went wrong?

By Elinor Lynch

I’m Class of ’47 when Gene Shalit was on the Daily Illini staff, so you do the math! How the icon of Chief Illiniwek ever became the issue it has I will never understand. Fortunately I was able to scan a photo of the 1947 Illiniwek, featured in the Illio yearbook, doing a spirited dance in war bonnet and beaded moccasins. I have it framed under my Illinois pennant. At that time, it was an honor for a young male student to represent the University of Illinois in this role, and the whole thing was taken very seriously. Incidentally, I do not recall Chief Illiniwek ever being called “mascot.” Whether the ideals behind the original idea were lost over the years I do not know, but nothing, nothing, will ever replace the thrill we spectators all got at game half-time when the Chief suddenly appeared from within the ranks of the Illinois band to do his dance. What went wrong?

Elinor Lynch

Palm Desert, CA