Seamus Reilly’s field of dreams didn’t come with the bright lights of Memorial Stadium or the state-of-the-art video board that keeps score at Illini baseball games.
But as for the action itself, the pitch at the corner of Lincoln and Florida was as competitive as they came on campus.
“I played pickup soccer there most afternoons along with the Nieto brothers; Tim Irish, who recruited me as coach at Centennial High School; and scores of wonderful graduate students from all over the world,” Reilly says.
“I won a couple of intramural championships there and played on every single adult park district team. I even shared the center midfield spot on the Gentlemen team with a former graduate student, Rafael Correa, who went on to become president of Ecuador.”
The former IM soccer star now goes by the title of president himself. After two-plus decades in higher ed — acting director of business and technical writing and a post-grad fellow at the UI, then 18 years at Parkland, where he was VP for institutional advancement — Reilly in 2018 was named president of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg.
But he hasn’t forgotten where it all started — on the UI campus, where he earned his Ph.D. in English in 1997.
“Dr. James Hurt was my Ph.D. advisor. My dissertation was titled ‘James Joyce, Music, and Narrative.’ I credited him in my acknowledgements as being the Bloom to my wandering Stephen — a Ulysses joke!
“I was the first doctoral student he hooded on a sweltering May afternoon in 1997. Jim encouraged me to stay and join the Parkland faculty so that I could remain in town.
“Jack Stillinger, the legendary romantic scholar, was part of my committee, as was Peter Garrett. Peter went on to become a perennial art student at Parkland, which was a nice circumlocution of our paths."