During move-in week ’19, we asked UI faculty members to tell us a story about their own experience of leaving home for the first time. Here’s retired Gies College of Business lecturer and two-degree UI grad Kevin Waspi.
“It was August 18, 1973; hot, humid and the Saturday before New Student Week at the University of Illinois.
“With a bicycle, suitcase full of clothes and obligatory manual portable typewriter — Google it, millennials — now unloaded out of the family car, my parents were ready to return to the northern regions of Illinois.
“The campus and fraternity house were not totally new to me as I had visited both a few times in the spring of the year with two high school chums. We three had pledged the same fraternity and were looking forward to becoming college students for many reasons, including the continued issuance of ‘lottery numbers’ long before the Illinois lottery came into existence.
“For those born in the ’50s, we all knew the draft law was due to expire at the end of June 1971 but a president by the name of Nixon decided it needed to continue, and asked Congress to approve a two-year extension. In March 1973, 1974 and 1975, the Selective Service assigned draft priority numbers for all men born in 1954, 1955 and 1956, in case the draft was extended. How lucky we were.
“As we said our goodbyes, I felt excitement, anticipation and joy for what was ahead; and at the same time a fear that something very different, very happy, was ending. I’m sure I am not unique in this mix of sensations, and would assume that students even today have similar experience.
“Ahead of me: registration lines in the Armory; a roommate from Marshall, Illinois; class schedules that had me biking from Engineering Hall to DKH — all within the allotted 10 minutes; evenings at Kam’s, Dooley’s, Second Chance, Stan’s Gridiron and Whit’s End; with an occasional all-night euchre game at the house.
“Nearly 50 years later, my dad, then well into his 90s, fell into reminiscing often, and out of nowhere once said, ‘Do you remember when we took you to school? I never told you this before, but I felt sick to my stomach all the way home thinking that we abandoned you that day.’
“I had no idea that the man we all called ‘The Bear’ thought he was abandoning his youngest on that hot August day.”
© 2024 The News-Gazette, All Rights Reserved | 201 Devonshire, Champaign, IL | 217-351-5252 | www.news-gazette.com