Among the lasting life lessons that’s stuck with Fil Agusti for five decades and counting was one that went something like this:
There’s no downside to hearing from all sides.
It’s something he picked up in the early ’70s, between stops at Danville Schlarman and Harvard Law School, while studying under political science Professor Bob Byars as a UI undergrad.
“I don’t and didn’t agree with 100 percent of what Bob Byars believed,” Agusti says from Washington, D.C., where he’s a law partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP. “But he demonstrated an openness to different views that I have never forgotten.
“He also was interested in how political systems actually worked in practice, not the self-images that they tried to sell. This insistence on knowing the facts and passing on the fantasy is an analytical approach I use every day as a lawyer.
“After I left, Bob had a controversial tenure battle and left the school. But he later founded a scholarship at Illinois for first-generation students. That is a class act.”
When Agusti wasn’t in a UI classroom, the Bronze Tablet-winning scholar could often be found studying in a library carrel — with a set of headphones covering his ears.
“In the 1971-74 time frame, the system had only the capacity to play about 10 albums,” Agusti says. “While studying, I listened to the same albums endlessly.
“To this day, I know every lyric of every song in Rod Stewart’s ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ and Cat Stevens’ ‘Tea for the Tillerman.’”