Illini mom, alumna reminisces about campus, notices changes

Tashio Martinez

Tashio Martinez

By Ann Linehan

When I graduated from the University of Illinois in May 1979 I wondered what the world had in store for me.

What exactly was I going to do with a degree in Human Resources and Family Services from the College of Agriculture?

I knew I had the key necessary to unlock a great future. I had a degree from U of I and the confidence that all would turn out OK.

It did. And now I return to celebrate moms’ weekend at U of I for the eighth time.

My mom and I celebrated moms’ weekends together – usually my dad came along too – and I have kept the out-to-eat-and-shopping tradition going with my daughter, Courtney.

But things in Champaign have certainly changed since I went to school here.

I may be a bit biased, but I believe the University is a great place full of traditions.

My earliest memories are of my parents bringing me to Fighting Illini football games.

The beginning of my love of Illini football games was the fun of tailgating, and the excitement of the band marching across the field before the game playing the state song.

When I arrived as a freshman in 1975, I joined the Block I and will admit that I was “passed up” to the top of the west side.

Those football games are still loads of fun and yes, I was the crazy mom in the student section at the last home game this season dancing, cheering, singing the fight songs and of course thrilled to see the Chief.

When Courtney paid her visit to the campus as a junior in high school I walked down Wright Street with a group of people I had never seen before in my life and proclaimed to all “How could anyone want to go anyplace but here for college? This is the best university anywhere!”

Both Courtney and her 12-year-old sister, Cara, were shocked at my behavior. The memories were flowing.

Some things never change, like the hike from FAR to the Quad each day. Are the green houses still there? I’m sure The Morrow Plots still stand, but what about the tunnel connecting the libraries? Do Psych 101 students still have to participate in “studies” to get credit for the class? Bevier Hall, the Child Development Lab and most of the Quad buildings don’t look like they have changed. (Please tell me they have been updated and the asbestos removed). And the apartments in Champaign! I believe I sat on the same couch when I was a junior that was in Courtney’s apartment last year.

I am absolutely sure it was the same carpeting.

However, some things have really changed.

When was that new Engineering Quad built?

There were only a few buildings North of Green Street in May of 1979.

Some exciting things must have been happening over there.

Many of my friends spent late nights keypunching cards for their CS105 classes. Now we all enjoy the fruits of their labor in our Wi-Fi world each day.

The names of some favorite campus and campustown buildings have changed, but the activities that took place in the buildings remain the same.

My friends and I saw “Gone With the Wind” and “Tommy” at The Auditorium (now called Foellinger) and attended Classical Civilization classes with Professor Scanlon who packed the place with his theatrical lecture.

What happened to “The” in Assembly Hall? The drinking age was 19 and we went to T-Bird – now Canopy Club – for bucket night, Bonis, Red Lion,Second Chance, Mabels and White Horse on Fridays after we watched “Dallas” on TV.

Every once in a while I will hear a Billy Joel song and I just smile, remembering having so much fun with great friends.

Once I took a tour of The Plaster Cast Museum that was in either Greg Hall or the English building.

Why travel the world when one could see so many great works of art at Illinois?

I saw my first performance of The Nutcracker at Krannert and gave my mom the best gift ever when we attended a concert of opera singer Leyontyne Price.

Uncle John’s Pancake House turned into Aunt Sonya’s and was recently demolished. What happened to the memorabilia?

And I was a very proud alumna when the basketball team made it to the final game of the NCAA playoffs two years ago.

Now I am waiting for the football team’s exciting season next fall.

The University was founded to educate students from Illinois.

I was from the small town of Robinson in the southern part of the state when I arrived in 1975; Courtney arrived as a graduate of one of the largest high schools in the Chicago metropolitan area in 2003 yet we both met people from all over the country who have become fast friends that will last a lifetime.

One of the great things about U of I is students can be themselves. If the Greek system is for you, great! If not, that’s great too!

There are plenty of majors and friends for all.

While our daughter Claire has decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and attend Western Illinois University, I hope that Cara or our son Jack come to Champaign so I can come back to celebrate another moms’ weekend.