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a collage of drawings representing the University of Illinois

A milestone birthday deserves a special gift. This is ours.

Over the past two years, Editor Jeff D’Alessio has tracked down 1,524 former students, faculty and staff who’ve done the University of Illinois proud. The mission: to get them to share personal stories about the places, spaces, people and programs that had the most profound impact on them.

You’ll find the memories of astronauts and ambassadors, color barrier breakers and history makers, Olympians and Paralympians, those who’ve been honored with prestigious prizes — Nobels, Pulitzers, Oscars — and many more.

You’ll find 100 special video messages we received from alumni across the globe. Among them: singing judges, a Red Cross worker in hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico and the CEO who became the first African-American billionaire.

You’ll see some of the most famous and favorite spots on campus, as hand-drawn by Lyncoln Delporte, accompanied by more stories.

And we’re just getting started. We’ll be adding to the site throughout the year — and beyond — so let us know what you think, or would like to see, by emailing jdalessio@news-gazette.com.