Alumnae mothers reconnect with UI college days

By Sarah Small

Kim Rutledge went to her first University athletic event when she was only a few months old. As soon as the game began and the noise of the crowd rose, she started crying, scared.

Good thing she was accompanied by her mother, Nan Rutledge, the 2007-2008 president of the Mom’s Association.

“We didn’t go to any more games for a while after that,” Nan Rutledge said.

Rutledge is just one mom who graduated from the University and raised her children to love it. For her and other alumnae moms, the upcoming weekend will be a chance for them to spend time with their children and recall their days at the University.

When her children were young, Rutledge would take them to walk around campus. They would play on the Alma Mater and go into the old buildings on the Quad such as Lincoln Hall and the Natural History Building.

Rutledge said she and her husband, also a University graduate, wanted the school to be important to their children but were careful not to press their views too strongly on them.

“Our attitude was always to expose them to the University and share our love for the University with them,” she said.

Like her daughter, Rutledge grew up with the University because her dad attended after the end of World War II.

She remembers wearing the orange and blue. In high school she would go come to campus for sibling’s weekend at her cousin’s sorority.

“I always felt like this was where I wanted to go to school,” Rutledge said.

During Mom’s Weekend, Rutledge will resign her role as president of the Mom’s Association to Marj Freese who has two sons at the University.

“The University of Illinois has always been a part of their lives,” Freese said. “They’ve grown up with orange blood.”

Like Rutledge, Freese brought her sons to campus at every possible opportunity to introduce them to the University.

She and her husband took their sons to football and basketball games. They brought their sons’ friends to campus to allow them to get to know the University as well.

“When they were looking at colleges they knew there was only one place they wanted to go, and that was U of I,” Freese said.

Jodie Shield is a third generation graduate. Her parents both graduated from the University and two of her grandparents also attended. Her daughter is a freshman this year and her son will begin next fall.

“Growing up I didn’t know there was anything else,” Shield said. “Between the Illini and the Bears, I thought that every football team was orange and blue.”

Shield said her children grew up with a more neutral opinion of colleges than she did because her husband graduated from the University of Michigan, so she could not press her views too strongly.

“It’s a great university,” Shield said. “I’m very proud to have graduated from here and I’m very proud that my children chose to go here too.”

For alumnae moms, returning to campus with their children will be an opportunity to reconnect with their own college experiences.

“For me the most special place on campus that our family shares is the Quad,” Rutledge said. “It’s the memories of walking to classes and to me the Quad is the real heart of campus.”