We say Illinois, Jim Schlueter says ... “basements.”
“Basement of Illini Hall, home of The Daily Illini, and basement of Gregory Hall, home of the photo darkroom in one corner, and design/graphic lab in another corner,” the 1980 College of Media grad says from northwest Iowa.
“In today’s world, I guess those locations wouldn’t be something to brag about to potential students, but they were the soul of the place to me back in the 1970s. Within such a big honking university, those basements were ours. And they were cool.
“Both of them had a smell of developer and fixer chemicals and other tools of the trade that marked our territory. We had our rites of passage that bonded us and they live on in Facebook remembrances.”
Picking a single-most impactful person is a tougher call for the longtime Boeing communications director and proud Illini, who endowed a scholarship in the College of Media and serves on its alumni leadership council.
“I had a huge mentor: my fellow students,” Schlueter says. “My education at Illinois really started when I took the long flight of steps at Illini Hall to the DI newsroom when I was a sophomore, and it continued when I got in the College of Communications my junior year.
“I jumped into the deep end, and I was an unabashed sponge, taking in everything I could from all of the smart kids that I worked with in the newsroom and studied with in the classroom.
“They came from all sorts of places that I’d never been and done things I’d never done. They were gifted, ambitious and confident — or at least they faked it well. I learned how fast I needed to run to keep up with them, and after a while — a great while — I figured if I was with them, I might not be too bad either. What a ride it was.”
Schlueter shows his gratitude in his giving, with the hope that “the smart kids who jump in the deep end in Illinois media today get the same chances that my pals and I had.
“In today’s world,” he says, “we sure as hell need them.”