Chris Beard’s happy place could be summed up in four letters.
“The IMP! Or its government name — the Intramural Physical Education building — was, and will always be where my college experience began and will forever remain,” says the 1998 advertising grad, now Nike’s global integrated media director.
“It’s where my first and lasting memories live. We went from young black teens to black men. Evolved from ‘brothers’ to brothers. It’s where D got the nickname ‘Magic,’ Cory became known as ‘Coley Cole,’ the tall tales of the Dresta will live on in perpetuity, ‘Cocky P’ was ‘The Sock,’ and where no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t escape ‘Big J.’
“IMPE represented competition. It was our Friday Night Lights because we could actually play ball against cats on the squad. I’ll forever remember when I stole the ball and yelled, ‘Where you at, Note?’ to Bryant Notree, and he reciprocated the trash talk. It was on a Friday night I realized I would never play in the NBA, after playing against (Indiana Hoosier) Michael Hermon.
“It was on that same court where Simeon Rice dunked a basketball with me and two friends draped on his back. Twenty years later, we still talk about how, as seniors and having played six previous games, we played and beat the cocky freshman crew with the cheering section. That lives in infamy and happened at the IMP.
“IMPE was more than where we hooped, it’s where we bonded with friends. We congregated and fellowshiped within those walls. Outside of Soul Ingredient, it’s the one spot you could find other black students gathering in one place. Busey-Evans not withstanding, it’s where we were guaranteed to run into other black men.
“All week, we yearned for those Friday nights. Alas, college days have swiftly passed. It is the IMP — not the beautiful Quad, not the Alma Mater with her welcoming outstretched arms, not some epic party — that has sentimental longing and wistful affection for my years at the great U of I.”