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Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson

Billionaire businessman | BET founder | Class of 1968

It doesn't draw the crowds that Alma and Abe Lincoln's bust do but the modest bronze tablet tucked between Altgeld Hall and the Henry Administration Building ought to be a must-stop on any campus tour, says one of the UI's most influential alums. 

Robert Johnson (Class of '68), who'd go on to become the country's first African-American billionaire, happened upon the gravestone of the UI's first president — John Milton Gregory — on his way to class one day in the fall of 1964.

Fifty-plus years later, he can still recite the words.

"The inscription engraved on a plaque on his headstone reads 'If you seek his monument, look about you,'" says Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television. "As an African-American freshman from Freeport, Illinois, who was the ninth of 10 children and the first among them to go to college, I found this commemorative statement to be both inspiring and motivating."