A digital special section of | Subscribe

Joe DiPietro

Joe DiPietro

Former president (2011-18) | University of Tennessee | Class of 1980

Among the five former Illini running Southeastern Conference schools for parts of this decade: recently retired University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro, who earned three degrees at the UI and was a tenured professor of veterinary clinical medicine and pathobiology here.

“Champaign-Urbana has a special place in my heart, but there are three places that really stand out — the Florida Avenue Residence Hall, the auditorium and Papa Del’s,” DiPietro says.

“I met my lovely wife, Deb, on the first day of new student week in the Florida Avenue Residence Hall. She was a freshman and I was a sophomore and it’s where we fell in love.

“The auditorium on campus brings back great memories of Friday night movies for a buck and throwing paper airplanes at the stage before the movie started, hoping they got stuck in the light fixtures.

“Papa Del’s has the best Chicago deep dish in the world, and it’s still our all-time favorite. Deb and our daughter, Rose, both worked there.”