When Aran Hegarty needed to get away from it all and just enjoy the day, there’s one spot that never failed him.
"The one location that I recall with fondness as unique to my Illinois experience was the inner courtyard of the Illini Union," says the president-elect of the UI Alumni Board and past president of the UI Alumni Club of Greater Washington, D.C.
"The brick, masonry and concrete retained and re-radiated the sun’s warmth while also acting as a barrier against the howling winds of the central Illinois prairie. It was not just the place, but the time of year, that made this such a special hidden gem.
"During the long and cold Illinois winters, the courtyard was an ideal spot to spend a moment of quite reflection away from the high stress of never-ending academic challenges, problem set due dates and dreaded exam curves. After passing through the doors to the inner courtyard, it was just me and a few others that were quietly relaxing outside, unzipping our winter coats, and soaking up a few rays of sunshine during those short, bright and cold winter days.
"The courtyard was just a short walk across Green Street from the Electrical Engineering Building, since renamed Everitt Lab, and right next to the infamous Illini Union vending lounge that served as the unofficial home, study hall and gathering place for EE undergraduates.
"While the courtyard will live on in my memory and in U of I history books, the last decade or so of Illini have never had the pleasure of sitting down and relaxing in that warm and cozy winter resting place."
In 2006, Hegarty founded a D.C.-based research company that provides acquisition and engineering services to the U.S. Department of Defense and intelligence community.