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Marc Williams

Marc Williams

Principal product manager | Walmart Labs | Class of 1988

You’ve probably heard the one about the college basketball star on a full ride who partied hard, studied little and left campus without as much as a diploma.

This is not that story.

Doug Altenberger inspired me with his work ethic and integrity,” Marc Williams says. “At the time I was at the U of I, Doug was a star basketball player, of course. I knew Doug from high school a little bit from baseball workouts, but I really did not know him very well as he was a couple years older than me.

“I was studying at the main library one time around 5 p.m. and came across Doug studying. There was a basketball game that evening against Big Ten rival Wisconsin, and I was just leaving to go get some pizza at Pap’s and then watch the game on TV.

“Doug was buried in his book. I said ‘Doug, what are you doing here? You’ve got a big game to get ready for!’ He said he had important work to finish now, and he assured me he’d be ready to play.

“As much as student-athletes get a bad name for not really being good students, here was our star basketball player, one of the best ever, truly living up to the ‘student’ part of ‘student-athlete.’ 

“That inspired my to be the best student I could be. After all, that is what we were all there for.

“And then there was that NCAA tournament game against Georgia Tech, where Doug was unstoppable and carried the team. Best and most memorable individual performance ever. Anyone who saw that game will know what I’m talking about. Unforgettable.”

It’s been three decades since Williams — now Walmart Labs’ principal product manager — called C-U home but he still has vivid memories about many of the spots he frequented in the mid-1980s.

“There are so many places that I cherish on the U of I campus that it is hard to just name one,” he says.

“First of all, there is the old Papa Del’s. Best pizza ever. The original location on Wright Street was a classic, but they outgrew that. Then the location on Green was awesome, too.

“When I was a student, I always took dates there or went with friends every chance. Whenever I get back to campus for football games, etc., Pap’s was always on the agenda. It is sad that the new generation does not have the same taste for great pizza, and now they are located off campus.  Glad they are still around.

“Next, my favorite and most inspiring place on campus is Altgeld Hall. Its classic Gothic castle structure is amazing and awe-inspiring. There are many interesting spots within that building. I used to go there to study every chance as you could always find a quiet spot somewhere.

“My favorite place to study was in the library, but when that closed later on, we’d find an open classroom. I studied for a Differential Equations final in the big lecture hall with a friend, and we filled the blackboard with equations.

“Once, we arrived really late and found ourselves locked out. A friend and I scaled up on one of those robust metal downspouts and found an open window to get into the building on the second floor. That was a dangerous climb that I would not recommend — it is a very high up second floor. We were not there to cause trouble, just to find a quiet place to study.

“A third memorable place is Harker Hall, next to the Union. There was a fire escape ladder that was easy to access from the ground.  My friend and I climbed up that ladder and onto the roof several times to get a great view of the campus.”