A digital special section of | Subscribe

Frankie Sturm

Frankie Sturm

Foreign service officer | U.S. State Department | Class of 2003

No matter how much time passes, the Illini Union will always be near and dear to Frankie Sturm.

“I studied the Cuban Missile Crisis" there, says the U.S. State Department's foreign service officer (Class of 2003). "It was the spring semester of my freshman year and I’d signed up for a class on U.S. foreign policy. One afternoon, I decamped to the Union to read up on the letters that Kennedy and Khrushchev sent each other during those tense October days. 

“It wasn’t my first time at the Union. I’d previously known it as a concert hall. As a senior in high school, I traveled from central Illinois to see At the Drive-In open for the Get Up Kids. I’d also seen Peoria stalwarts Planes Mistaken for Stars and Laura’s Agent there as well. Good shows. I didn’t anticipate a bookish future for my life in the Union, but that’s what I got.

“I can’t claim to remember every detail from those readings, but one item stuck with me to this day. During the crisis, President Kennedy received a conciliatory telegram from Premier Khrushchev on a Friday. Then he got a much more aggressive letter the next day.

"Rather than respond to that second missive, Kennedy and his team chose to respond to the Friday letter instead. Clever. It probably helped prevent a nuclear war. I’ll be keeping that one in mind — along with the shows. They were outstanding.”