Had he not been placed in Allen Hall, it’s safe to say Brett Coffee wouldn’t have enjoyed what he calls “the most unique experience of my entire life.”
Where else would he have bumped into the famed physician/activist/clown played by Robin Williams in a 1998 hit movie?
“During most of my time on campus, I lived in Allen Hall and loved the Unit One living-learning-honors program,” says Coffee (BA ’93, political science, international relations), COO and general counsel for Computer Systems Center Inc.
“The great benefit was being able to attend Psych 101 in your pajamas, but students were really exposed to a diverse set of ideas 24 hours a day. The highlight was the guest-in-residence program, where an artist, thinker, activist or person who was simply affecting communities in different ways would come and live in the dorms and teach workshops on different subjects.
“The highlight was going out for beers with Dr. Patch Adams, long before Robin Williams played his life story.
“I’ve always loved the Union, and while many probably spent more time there during school, the Union ties together my entire U of I history.
“When I was a child, my parents took me to campus and I remember running around and playing under the trees right outside. When I was in school, all the speakers would gather right outside and you could hear a wide range of debate. Discussion then was just as passionate, but more civil at the same time.
“Following graduation, having gotten involved with alumni activities, staying at the Union hotel rooms was always extremely convenient and magical. Many runs started right outside the Union, heading through the Quad, and then all over campus before we had our alumni meetings.
“Now, my kids are about the same age as I was the first time I went to the Quad, and I love watching them curl up on the sofas in the reading rooms, playing under the trees.
“My kids knew to respond ‘I-N-I’ long before they were able to read, so who knows what memories are being planted now in the next generation.”