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Sheldon Siegel

Sheldon Siegel

Author | 2012 Illini Comeback Award | Class of 1980

Back in the 1970s, when Foellinger Auditorium was just the Auditorium, you were likely to find almost as many students stuffed inside a lecture hall listening to Professor Richard Scanlan tell stories of ancient Greece and Rome, occasionally while dressed as a toga-clad priest of Apollo.

“It was the most interesting and entertaining class on campus,” says Sheldon Siegel (’80), who went on to become a New York Times best-selling novelist and a 2012 recipient of the Illini Comeback Award.

“It was also hard to get into — they had to cut off enrollment at 1,000.”

It became an even greater challenge after People magazine popped in for a 1978 profile with the headline: “A Professor with a Funny Bone Has to Turn Students Away from His Classics Courses at Illinois.”