Long before he began working toward any of the three civil and environmental engineering degrees he’d earn from Illinois, Jess Brown knew his way around campus.
For that, the Peoria product has an Urbana cousin — and the Lou Henson basketball camp — to thank.
“As a youngster, I would take the Illini Swallow chatter bus alone from Peoria to Champaign several times a year,” Brown says from Orange County, Calif., where he’s senior VP and R&D practice director at Carollo Engineers.
“So, my experiences on the UIUC campus stretch back to some of the earliest years I can remember — so many vivid sights, sounds, smells, people, places, stories, emotions.”
These are a few of his favorite things:
1. C.O. Daniels. “I visited C.O. Daniels exactly one time in my life, but it turned out to be one of the most important evenings of my life. My buddy convinced me to check out ‘Time Warp Tuesday’ to listen to ’80s music and meet his cousin’s best friend. Long story short, two years later, his cousin’s best friend and I were married at Allerton Park Sunken Gardens, and we just celebrated our 20th anniversary. My lovely wife, Richelle, is also an Illinois alumna.”
2. Fourth floor of the Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory. “My original plan at the university was to wrap up an environmental engineering master’s degree and get out into the work force. And then I met Professor Vern Snoeyink — one of the luckiest encounters in my life. That meeting turned into seven years at the university, thousands of hours hunched over biologically active carbon columns in the Newmark Civil Engineering Lab, an amazing network of friends and colleagues, and research experience that continues to be a big part of my professional life today.”
3. Illini Union Bowling Alley. “During my childhood visits to Champaign-Urbana, most Saturday evenings included bowling at the Illini Union. That tradition continued with my wife throughout grad school, and continues to this day with my boys when we’re in town visiting Nana and Papa.”
4. Memorial Stadium. “If my cousin and I weren’t at the bowling alley or playing pickup hoops at Leal Elementary School, we were likely sitting in the stands at Memorial Stadium. As a high school sophomore at Peoria Richwoods, it was surreal to practice on Zuppke Field in preparation for the 1988 Class 5A State Championship in Normal. Throughout grad school, home-game weekends meant tailgating, sausage bread, caramel brownies — aka Illini bars, and perfect fall weather.
5. Jarling’s Custard Cup. “Cold fudge sundae, tortoise sundae, cherry chocolate chip snowstorm. What else is there to say? My kids are now also addicted.”