Ever since Mom and Dad became an item here in the '60s, it’s been a Washington family tradition: Graduate from high school and head directly to Champaign-Urbana.
“My mother, Leatha, and late father, Edward, met here as she was leaving a U of I knitting class. I’m not sure if his highlight was playing with Dick Butkus on the championship 1964 Rose Bowl team, or meeting his future wife,” says Adrienne Washington, who three decades later earned both her bachelor’s (accounting) and master’s (HR management) from Illinois.
“All of their five daughters graduated from U of I with our undergraduate degrees. We all received advanced degrees — three of those were from U of I, as well.”
Now a self-employed D.C.-area leadership coach/consultant, Washington parlayed her two degrees into a 23-year career at Lockheed Martin, where she served as senior HR manager until last summer.
These days, she sits on the 10-grad alumni board at the School of Labor and Employment Relations, a role that comes with occasional trips back to C-U.
“I was recently back on campus to attend the Labor and Employment Relations Building Celebration," she says. "I looked up some of my old haunts like LER, of course, and the beautiful Quad.
“I liked to study in the Grainger Library on the engineering side of campus, which was so amazing and new to me — as an undergraduate business major, I felt like I was crashing their party. I loved frequenting Krannert for culture, the Illini Union ballroom on weekends for parties, and walking down Lincoln Avenue to the Idea Garden to enjoy nature and clear my mind.
“I want to recognize my leader at the city of Champaign who gave me my first HR internship, Ann Maloney. U of I and that experience paved my way to a great 23-year career with Lockheed Martin before becoming a leadership coach.
“I enjoyed all of my academic clubs, living on and off campus — PAR, the Six-Pack, LAR — and the whole experience at the University of Illinois. I had a fun summer horticulture class that I took with my sister Alison (BA ’92, M.Ed. ’94).
“I liked recruiting on campus for Lockheed Martin and visiting my younger sisters, Alexis (BS ’03; MA ’05) and Christina (BA ’04). I also give my oldest sister, Lori (BA ’86), credit for recommending my undergrad major of accounting and forging the path for our generation.
“Two generations ago, a wonderful woman who could not complete her education moved from Alabama to be with her husband and raise their 10 children in Illinois, to secure better opportunities. She instilled in us the mantra of ‘get your education.’
"My grandma would have been so proud to see that her granddaughters made it happen through this great campus, the University of Illinois.”