It’s been almost 16 years since he graduated, five-plus since he visited. But Jered Thorp has so many memories about places and spaces on and off campus, he has to divvy them up into categories.
“To be completely honest, a lot of my time was spent between bars, class and the library, in drastic descending order based on hours spent,” he says. “However, if you could peel yourself away from the Flippy Cup tournament at Kam’s or pull yourself out of Joe’s quarter pitcher night, then Champaign and the surrounding areas really made the college experience a memorable one.”
Topping the Nike global communications director’s ‘by day’ list:
“The most fun I had on a warm summer day — and I recommend every U of I student do at least one summer of class study — was hanging out at the Gillespie Apartments, now Roland Realty, on First and Daniel. The combination of a private pool and the volleyball court made it the perfect setting to attempt to recreate our favorite epic scenes from the Grind on MTV.
“If you felt the itch to see nature and explore the outdoors, we would hop in our car and voyage down to the sprawling metropolis of Monticello and one of Illinois’ hidden gems, Allerton Park. You could get lost in there for hours. A great place for a first date or for a ‘think,’ because that is what college is all about, right?”
By night ...
“I cannot overstate how influential the bars were to the college experience, but that is the obvious response. Let’s hop in the car again and head to Gibson City for the Harvest Moon Drive-In Theater. A nice journey through the corn fields of central Illinois and a great place to stargaze. Again, a great place to take a date and map the constellations while trying to figure out how to balance your checkbook.
“Back on campus, if you were ‘studying’ late and wanted to get the ultimate view of your Alma Mater, there was only one place. Disclaimer: This probably isn’t legal and isn’t necessarily safe. The roof of the Armory is something that changed my entire perspective of campus. A buddy and exceptional ROTC leader showed me a secret hatch in a top floor classroom, which will remain unnamed for safety’s sake. Once through the hatch, a short scurry up the curved roof led to a flat lookout that was a 360-degree view of Illinois’ finest university.
“Coming down is more challenging.
“Nowadays, kids are climbing skyscrapers in Dubai for the perfect picture for Instagram; we just wanted to see what the Morrow Plots looked like from the air. This view is probably easier gained from a drone.
“All in all, the University of Illinois represents what a college experience should provide socially and educationally — a place to meet, share, explore and ultimately learn about the world around you.”