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James Stukel

James Stukel

UI’s 15th president (1995-2005) | MS, Ph.D. in mechanical engineering | Class of 1963

The names change. The buildings change. From time to time, even the names of the buildings change.

But the important stuff? Not so much, James Stukel has come to realize in his post-UI president years.

“During my 44 years with the university, I witnessed enormous changes in the campus, student body and faculty. Every time I return to Urbana, I have flashbacks, comparing the changes I experienced over those 44 years with current conditions,” says Stukel, who earned two mechanical engineering degrees and worked as a researcher and faculty member on the Urbana campus and served as chancellor of UIC before being named Stan Ikenberry’s successor as president in 1995.

“As one might expect, the physical conditions continue to change, the faculty is more diversified, and the student body is more diversified and highly qualified. The one constant, however, is the quality of the faculty, as documented by the many top prizes awarded to the faculty in all academic disciplines.

“Those prizes include Nobel Prizes. I was privileged to have had a small role in maintaining an environment that allowed the continued pursuit of such excellence during my administrative tenure.

“On a personal note, I remember arriving in Champaign-Urbana in 1961 with my wife to begin my graduate studies. We stopped for lunch at the Steak ’n Shake on University Avenue.

“Forty-four years later, we chose Steak ’n Shake for dinner as we left Urbana after retiring from the presidency in 2005.”

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