Single out one favorite place on campus? That's asking the impossible, says Larry Eppley.
“I have pretty deep ties to the university. As a high school student, I was a frequent visitor to campus — my sister was a student. I was an undergraduate, graduate and law student. I spent eight years as a member of the board of trustees, six as chairman. So as one might imagine, I have many fond memories to choose from.
“Perhaps something from my days as a student — my first class, graduation day, teaching accounting as a TA, or hiking across the Quad for an 8 a.m. calc class at Altgeld.
“Or maybe something sports-related — playing water polo for the Illini club team, going to Pasadena for the 2008 Rose Bowl or going to St. Louis for the 2005 men’s NCAA basketball championship game.
“Or perhaps a memory from my days on the board – celebrating the accomplishments of our Nobel and Crawford Prize winners — three in one year; hiring presidents, chancellors, provosts and deans; expanding the campus with standard-setting academic facilities — the Woese Institute for Genomics Biology, Blue Waters, the Siebel Computer Science building; the Lincoln Hall renovation ..." and on and on.
“But the memory that sticks with me most is not connected to any of those experiences," Eppley says. "Instead, it came on a weekend when my wife and I and our two daughters — then very young — were on campus.
"We came down for a game and we decided to spend the night at the Union. It’s sort of like staying at your great aunt’s house, but without the gum drops. We went bowling in the basement of the Union, and when we were done we decided to go for a walk on the Quad. We were walking south toward Foellinger, and there were enough leaves on the ground to remind us that it was fall. The lights on the Quad had just come on, and the breeze was cooling. It was a perfect fall night on the campus.
“Anyway, my wife and I were accustomed to talking to our older daughter about college — where did she want to go? what would she study? what were her aspirations? — but we never really had the same conversation with our younger daughter.
"So while we were walking, I asked her: 'Where do you want to go to college?'
"Without hesitation she said: 'Well, here, of course.'
"When I asked her why she said, with equal speed, 'It’s so awesome, who wouldn’t?'
"Out of the mouths of babes, right? I shared that story many times with friends, alums, the president, the chancellor, even our PR folks. I always thought what a great tagline that would be. For me, this speaks to the essence of my affection for the university and how it transformed my life and how it will continue to transform lives and society."