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Bob Work

Bob Work

Dep. Sec. of Defense, 2014-17 | Navy Under Secretary, 2009-13 | Class of 1974

The campus that awaited Bob Work in 1970 — one year after the tragedy at Kent State — was not a welcoming one. 

Not for a career military man, anyway. 

“As a member of the NROTC unit, I remember getting things thrown at me whenever I was in uniform," says Work, who'd go on to be deputy secretary of the Navy. "My sanctuary was the Armory.

"I vividly remember a night my freshman year when there was a major student anti-war protest that ended at the old domed building. It was pretty wild. I went to the Armory to help protect the national colors from the large crowd of student protestors. It was a tense and memorable experience.

“Two things made up for all the craziness.

"Every Friday, at 4 p.m., there were reruns of ‘Star Trek’ on TV, and the campus shut down to watch them. Perhaps a slight exaggeration but having been in Spain for five years, cut off from American TV, I had never seen the show. But a good number of students had, and the comments while we watched were absolutely hilarious.

“And the second thing was Whitt’s End in Champaign. That was one great watering hole, made all the more attractive because the drinking age in Illinois throughout my college days was 18. When joining my friends for a drink, my short hair didn’t seem to bother anyone. I was just another student.

"As a result, I spent a lot of time — perhaps way too much time — contemplating life at the old bar. And drowning my sorrows whenever we lost a football or basketball game. Which, I am sorry to say, contributed greatly to my time spent at Whitt’s End.”