Easter honored by top officials, faculty at reception

A drizzle earlier in the day did not dampen spirits Tuesday evening at a reception honoring Robert Easter, interim vice president and “chancellor”:https://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2011/08/chancellor_search_costs_revealed.

University president Michael Hogan told the crowd of nearly 400, which was mainly composed of students, faculty, staff and retirees, that Easter rose to the occasion to take on a very difficult job.

“We made sure those were difficult jobs,” he joked, while also referring to the interim provost position he held for a short time. “We didn’t take it easy on him.”

He added that he knows how beloved Easter is and will be remembered down the line as one of the greatest chancellors this University has had.

Tanya Gallagher, dean of the College of Applied Health Sciences, praised Easter “for saying yes when the job needed to be done.”

She said he always followed the mantra: “Don’t worry about being an interim, just do the job.” Easter’s position, therefore, was filled with authenticity and integrity, Gallagher said, on behalf of all deans.

In one of the lighter moments during the series of speeches given at the event, Matthew Wheeler, Urbana-Champaign senate chair and professor of animal sciences, presented Easter with coveralls, boots, a shovel and some corn to add to the “new guy’s locker,” welcoming him back to animal sciences.

“He’s not going to smell like an administrator anymore,” Wheeler said, referring to work on the farm. “We’re getting (him) back.”

During his remarks, Wheeler spoke of Easter not as a colleague but as a friend. He told a story of a time when Easter and his wife, Cheryl, who were friends at the time, picked up “complete strangers” and their kids on the interstate due to car failure.

“These are the people that are our friends,” Wheeler said, speaking of the couple.

Easter called Hogan a “gracious person” to work with and said his time in this position was a “humbling experience.”

Also in attendance at the event were Laurel Prussing, Urbana mayor, Don Gerard, Champaign mayor and Ron Zook, Illini head football coach.

David Olsen, University alumnus and former student body president, said earlier that Easter has his utmost respect and considers him a personal friend.

“When I met Easter, I knew I was in the presence of somebody great who could capture attention without (raising his voice),” he said. “(I’ve) never had a conversation where he got heated.”

In addition, Joyce Tolliver, senate vice chair, and Kim Graber, University Senates Conference representative, praised Easter for his ability to “run a senate meeting”:https://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2011/09/board_of_trustees_honors_easter_at_his_final_meeting_0909, even when a problem came up.

“There’s nobody that can run a senate meeting like Bob,” Graber said.

Easter has been a faculty member in animal sciences since 1976. Since then, he has served as the head of the animal sciences department from 1996 to 2001 and as a dean of the college of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences from 2002 to 2009.

In the wake of the “Category I” admissions scandal in 2009, Easter was asked to fill an interim role as chancellor. Easter is “set to retire”:https://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2011/08/hogan_announces_new_ui_chancellor on Oct. 15.