Years before she had a personal stake in the results, Ruth Wyman — future two-term Urbana city council member, 2020 circuit judge candidate and relentless, door-to-door-while-on-crutches campaigner — did her part to get out the vote.
With clipboard in hand and answers at the ready, the then-senior political science major camped out on the Quad in the fall of 1994 and registered her fellow UI students — “reaching more than 500 before the election in November,” she proudly notes.
Anyone looking for Wyman back then knew to check the Quad first. “It was the place to go between classes, on weekends, and when I just wanted to chill,” says the two-degree grad (BA ’95, political science; JD ’04, law). “It was also the place to start all protests and rallies — of which I helped organize and participate in many.”
As much knowledge as she picked up from her favorite UI faculty members — Margareth Etienne, Francis Boyle and George Bell in the College of Law, Jim Barrett in U.S. History class — “I learned even more from the other students and the environment that was created by learning how to advocate for change, and work with others to do so,” says the Urbana attorney, who went on to help start a free legal clinic for immigrants and in 2018 was honored by peers in the Sixth Judicial Circuit for her pro bono work.
She gets some of that from another influential Illini: “Esther Patt, director of the University of Illinois Tenant Union when I was an undergrad, hired me, trained me and taught me so much about how to advocate for people’s rights, no matter how strong and powerful the opposition.”