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 Larry Fahnestock, who earned all four of his degrees in Pennsylvania (two at Drexel, two at Lehigh) and joined the UI’s Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty in 2006.
“I am the oldest of three children, so my departure for college was a major event for the entire family. I remember all five of us standing in a circle in my parents’ garage, arms around each other and tears streaming down our faces.
“Although the drive to Drexel University in Philadelphia was only about one hour, the distance felt enormous to us.
“My dorm had seen better days — to put it mildly — so my mom felt like she was leaving me in a dungeon. We borrowed the dorm vacuum to clean my room, but much to our chagrin could not find the power switch.
"My calm and composed dad half-jokingly kicked the vacuum out of our collective frustration, which caused the handle to tip down. It turned out that this was the correct method for starting the vacuum — there was no switch ‚ and as the old beast of a machine brayed to life, we roared with much-needed laughter.
“It was a light-hearted moment in an otherwise heavy day.
“I also recall being encouraged by the kind front desk attendant in my dorm when he mentioned his faith in Jesus. The whole experience felt very traumatic at the time, but in hindsight I can see how it was the start of a major season of challenge and growth for me.
“I had a great college experience, met my beautiful wife in my senior year, and my undergraduate engineering studies started me on the path that led me to my current faculty position at Illinois.”