Jeff Wiener, ’99 BUS, still recalls catching a glimpse of the grin on his mother’s face when he dressed up as the Wicked Witch of the West. He went all witchy during his freshman year as part of a variety show, staged by the Atius-Sachem society, for the Moms Association weekend.
“I enjoyed those weekends tremendously,” says the Chicago-area native, a systems engineer for Optum Rx, who now lives in Cincinnati. “And so did my parents. They came every year. It was a great opportunity for them to meet my friends and their parents.”
The tradition started informally in 1920 when a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity floated the idea that fathers of University of Illinois students be invited to visit campus during football season. The notion took hold, and more than 2,000 dads took part in several activities and events, including a welcoming pep rally, an open house to attend Friday classes and an ROTC parade.
In 1922, the Illini Dads Association was officially formed, and a year later, the University approved the founding of the Illini Moms Association. Today, the two groups stand as the oldest known university parents organizations in the nation. The current academic year is special because both groups are observing their centennials (Dads, Nov. 4–6; Moms, April 14–16).
Steve Raquel, ’92 MEDIA, MS ’93 MEDIA, a clinical assistant professor at the Gies College of Business and father of third-generation Illini Katherine “Kayt” Raquel, ’22 BUS, serves as communications chair for the Dads Association. “The weekends are an opportunity for parents to see their kids beginning their transition into adulthood. You can see the pride on everyone’s faces as they tour the campus. They leave with a sense that ‘my kid is going to be OK.’”
Raquel points out that all parents, parental figures, guardians and family members are welcome and encouraged to attend both weekends. “We complement each other,” he says, noting that selling tickets to their weekend events enables the associations to provide thousands of dollars annually to support scholarship and student organizations.
While the Moms Association board is still making preparations for its special weekend next April, the Dads Association’s plan to mark its centennial already has been carved in stone—literally! On Friday, Nov. 4, the group will officially unveil and dedicate Illini Dads Centennial Plaza, located adjacent to the Alice Campbell Alumni Center.