Among the benefits of living at 58 East Gregory Drive, proud home of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity: easy access to Memorial Stadium and the arena formerly known as the Assembly Hall.
Then again, Vetgate chairman/CEO and 1960s house resident Jay Brown says from St. Louis: “My freshman year, in the fall of 1966, was not very good timing for being a sports fan as the Slush Fund scandal occurred and both football and basketball were decimated for many years to come.
“After I spent eight years on campus — four at the College of Agriculture, four at the College of Veterinary Medicine — I went to practice in western Nebraska. My rancher clients would complain about Tom Osborne when the Huskers went 8-3.
“When I’d ask why, they would say: ‘They didn’t win the national championship.’ Then, I would relate to them that I spent eight losing season at the U of I and two of them were win-less seasons.”
Brown’s Illini sports experience wasn’t all bad, though.
“I was fortunate enough to make the freshman baseball team as a walk-on catcher and one of my joys was being able to warm up (former Cub) Ken Holtzman, who came back to campus during winter workout sessions in the old Armory building. Even though I was and still am a lifelong Cardinals fan, it was still a real thrill for this young farm boy.”
Other memorable places and moments for Brown, who earned his BS (’70, animal science), DVM (’74, veterinary medicine) and MS (’86, veterinary medicine) all from the UI:
— The AGR house. “My time there helped a young farm boy from a very small high school in south central Illinois learn about how to survive the big U. Even after a slow start, I was able to learn how to study, learn how to take tests and, after getting my BS in animal science, I was able to go on to Veterinary School and get my DVM in 1974.”
— Vet Med. “My four years as a student at the College of Veterinary Medicine was highlighted the most by being part of our class IM touch football team. We won the Vet School League every year and went quite deep every year in the Grad Student League.
"Unlike today, where 80-plus percent of veterinary students are female, my class was 90-plus percent male. Why we were so good at touch football is that we had several classmates who had played Division I, II and III — these guys had given up starting positions to be able to attend the UI’s veterinary school, at the time one of the most respected in the U.S.”
— The return to campus. “After eight years of practice, I came back to our great university to get my post-DVM master’s and become a faculty member in the College of Veterinary Medicine. One of the great thrills during this time was to watch the resurgent Illini football program under coach Mike White and to be able to attend the Rose Bowl in 1983.”
— The Chief. “Of course, the most memorable events of my 12 years on campus was any time I got to see Chief Illinwek. It is hard to be able to describe how the the hair on the back of my neck and forearms actually stood on end when Chief Illiniwek and the Marching Illini performed. Whether it was football or basketball halftimes, it made no difference.
“I can’t imagine discussing the 150 years of U of I history without putting the heart and soul of every Illini — The Chief — in the correct perspective. Without restoring him to his prominent position as the symbol and spirit of the University of Illinois, I doubt the next 150 years will be as momentous as the first 150."