Building Relationships for Life

The UIAA turns 150!

The UIAA turns 150!

Blue metal trident-shaped relief.

On June 5, 1873, Illinois’ original graduating class (1872) met in the campus’ Mechanic and Military Hall, with one objective: to create an alumni association, “in order to foster a spirit of fraternal feeling” and “preserve and perpetuate a profound interest in our Alma Mater.”

“Building Relationships for Life”—that’s our motto, and over the past 150 years, the University of Illinois Alumni Association has strived to achieve it in everything we do.

Simply put, the UIAA serves as an independent organization dedicated to the interests and concerns of Illinois alumni. We help to keep you informed about the comings and goings at the U of I, act as your voice in University affairs, and offer programs and services that, if we’re doing our jobs, give you a sense of pride in the orange and blue.

A lot has changed during the past 15 decades. Today, there are more than 500,000 Illinois alumni around the world. But when the UIAA was founded, there were fewer than 100. Our main purpose, in those early years, was to host a meeting and dinner every year during Commencement and, later, to organize class reunions. But as the U of I changed and grew, so did the UIAA. We adapted to the evolving needs of the University and its graduates, and as class reunions fell out of popularity, we developed programs that reflected alumni’s interests and the times in which they lived.

We’ve survived global and state economic crises, turnovers in University leadership, changes in taste and technology, and a host of other challenges.

In the face of all that change, one thing has remained constant for our organization: the UIAA is here to serve you and the University you love.

In the pages that follow, we’ll highlight just a few of the people, places, programs and services that have defined the UIAA throughout its history.

Thank you for being a part of our journey.


Alice Campbell Alumni Center

Alice Campbell and others cutting the ribbon with large scissors in front of the Alice Campbell Alumni Center.

Alice Campbell Alumni Center’s grand opening. Left to right: Then-Chancellor Richard Herman, then-University President B. Joseph White, Alice Campbell, then-UIAA President and CEO Loren R. Taylor, and Ed McMillan. (Image by Bill Wiegand/UIAA)

The UIAA has called many places home over the decades—a long list that includes Altgeld Hall, Engineering Hall, Illini Hall and the Illini Union—but in 2006, we finally got some permanent digs of our own: the Alice Campbell Alumni Center. It’s been the U of I’s living room, its Homecoming headquarters and the site of more University banquets, faculty celebrations, research symposia and weddings than we can count. But most of all, it’s the place where Illinois alumni come to gather; to reminisce; to feel connected to their Alma Mater and to each other.


Read All About It! A variety of Illinois Alumni magazine covers.

It’s gone by many names over the years: Alumni Quarterly, Alumni Quarterly and Fortnightly Notes, Illinois Alumni News, Illinois Quarterly and, for the past 26 years, Illinois Alumni. But whatever its name, the UIAA’s alumni publication has set out to inform and entertain generations of readers about the goings-on at our Alma Mater, from campus news and faculty research to sports and anything else that makes us proud to wave the orange and blue.



Animated students in front of fountain with water that's been dyed orange.

Fountain-dyeing ceremony. (Image by Fred Zwicky/UIAA)

Nothing says Illinois like the annual Homecoming celebration, and since 1979 the UIAA and its student organizations have been among the event’s main organizers, helping to preserve one of the University’s most cherished traditions and transforming it from a weekend to a weeklong event. Along the way, the UIAA has introduced a slew of new traditions, including the fountain-dyeing ceremony and pancake breakfast at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, the Homecoming 5K and a campus-wide Block I decorating contest.



1940s image of a male and female students wearing Block I college sweaters on a balcony over looking the entrance to the University of Illinois in Chicago.

For many years, the UIAA provided alumni services for all of the University of Illinois System. Today, we specifically serve the flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign.

U of I students at the Chicago campus, 1940s. (Image courtesy of the Office of the UIC Historian/UI Archives)


Richmond Family Welcome Gallery

People gathered for the Black Alumni Reunion check out interactive exhibits about University of Illinois history.

Part campus welcome center, part campus gateway, the Richmond Family Welcome Gallery brings U of I history to life through its interactive exhibits. (Image by Fred Zwicky)

One of the UIAA’s current hallmarks is the Richmond Family Welcome Gallery, the U of I’s interactive heritage museum, which opened in 2018. Located inside the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, the Welcome Gallery features physical and digital exhibits on more than 130 topics, covering everything from student life over the decades to world-changing faculty research, CampusTown bars to Illini sports. Every weekday, prospective and newly admitted students begin their campus admissions visits by soaking up the Welcome Gallery’s unique mix of past, present and future.


Illini Clubs and Groups

A group of alumni, wearing orange and blue colors, gathered in a bar to watch the game.

Football game-watches are among the most popular Illini club activities. (Image courtesy of UIAA)

Wherever you live, the orange and blue is never far away. That’s because of a vast network of Illini clubs and groups around the world, which give alumni the chance to come together, watch Illinois sports, enjoy cultural programs, sponsor scholarships and reconnect with others who once called Champaign-Urbana home. The UIAA has sponsored these groups and provided them with organizational support, programming and special events, since the founding of the Chicago Illini Club in 1885.


Bringing Alumni Together

Older individuals playing band instruments outside in a festive Homecoming environment

Medicare 7, 8 or 9 plays at Homecoming, 2001. (Image courtesy of UIAA)

Whether we’re sponsoring football and basketball game-watches in your city, organizing empowering events like our former Women’s Day program or taking over the State Fair for the annual Illinois Day, the UIAA has always found fun and interesting ways to bring alumni together. But few of our sponsorships have been as popular and enduring as the Medicare 7, 8 or 9 Dixieland Jazz Band. Headed by the iconic Student Affairs dean (and later UIAA employee) Dan Perrino, ’48 FAA, MS ’49 FAA, Medicare 7, 8 or 9  was a huge draw at alumni events all over the country, from the early 1970s to the early 2000s. In this world of uncertainty, they were one of those rare things: a guaranteed good time.


Alumni Awards

Gold, circular awards medal with an enamel orange I.

(Image by HollyBirch/UIAA)

Since 1957, the UIAA has honored hundreds of Illinois alumni and friends with annual awards in the following categories: Alumni Achievement (started 1957); Distinguished Service (1972); Illini Comeback (1980); Chicago Illini of the Year (1997); Lou Liay Spirit (1997); Diversity and Inclusion (2020); Honorary Alumni (2020); and Young Alumni (2020).


Spearheading Change

Images of the Alma Mater statue being move with a crane and a student sitting by the statue.

The Alma Mater relocates, 1962 (Images courtesy of UI Archives)

The Alumni Association has been a voice for positive change throughout the University’s history. Two of its most significant contributions: In 1885, the UIAA’s alumni leadership played a major role in changing the Illinois Industrial University’s name to the University of Illinois. And in 1962, the UIAA suggested, funded and organized the relocation of the Alma Mater statue from behind the Auditorium to its current place of prominence in front of Altgeld Hall.


Vintage radio isolated on white.Back in the early days of radio, the UIAA hosted a twice-weekly broadcast about campus news.


Educate and Entertain

One of the UIAA’s missions is to educate the public about the U of I, and one of the ways we’ve done that, for decades, is by creating entertaining and timely programs about faculty research and its impact on the world. In 1973, we started Alumni College, a long-running lecture series that sent all-star faculty around the country to meet and enthrall U of I alums, covering topics ranging from astronomy to zoology and everything in between. Today, thanks to Zoom, we’re able to bring Alumni College to a wider audience than ever before; along with it, we sponsor a U of I history series that’s all things Illinois, and a virtual Speaker Series, in which faculty and administrators address social issues and provide University updates.


Career Day Every Day

Aerial view of the career center which includes an individual occupying one of the many computer work stations.

The Lou Liay Career Center, shown here in 2003, offered alumni the use of computers, a fax machine and printer, and lots of books. (Image by Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIAA)

Back in the 1960s, the UIAA created a computer database called the Alumni Networking File, a conglomeration of Illini professionals who gave career advice and helped younger alumni find job opportunities. From that kernel, in 1975, the Alumni Association launched its Career Center, a Chicago-based effort that thrived for more than three decades. It helped alumni with career transitions, provided résumé assistance, staged mock interviews and maintained the CareerLine computer program, which allowed Illinois students to network with alumni in their fields of study. Today, the UIAA continues this career services tradition with IlliniLink, a social media platform that brings together alumni, students and friends in one virtual community.


Members Only

Leather and metal membership cards

Leather and metal membership cards. (Images courtesy of UIAA)

Wherever you live, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re a member of the Alumni Association. For more than a century, the UIAA has operated with a dues-based membership program that supports many of our activities and services. In fact, the membership program was created to fund the original version of this magazine, which debuted in 1907. In the decades since, we’ve offered a wide variety of perks for our members, including advance football ticket sales, discounted travel opportunities, access to special events and hundreds of other benefits that help our Illini family bleed orange and blue. So, we’d like to say thank you. We couldn’t do this without you!


Veterans Memorial Project

Gray stone tablets with names carved into it.

One of the tablets at Memorial Stadium, installed in 2002 to honor Illini veterans who died during military service. (Image courtesy of UIAA)

In 2002, the UIAA led an effort to extend the original dedication of Memorial Stadium, to honor all Illinois alumni, faculty and staff who died during military service. Ever since, we’ve maintained an online database of those 1,000-plus Illini, which is available through our website.


Student Alumni Ambassadors

Group of people

SAA reunion at Alice Campbell Alumni Center. (Image courtesy of UIAA)

Started in 1932 and revitalized in the 1970s under longtime UIAA staffer Bob Lumsden, ’53 BUS, Student Alumni Ambassadors has had an incredible impact on generations of Illinois students, providing leadership opportunities and a close-knit community for thousands of high-achieving undergrads. Originally two separate organizations—Student Alumni Ambassadors and the Student Alumni Association—today SAA is one united effort, and sponsors programs such as Homecoming; the Sights & Sounds freshman welcome night; and Commencement breakfast at the President’s House.


Ricker Logo

Black and white imag of Nathan Richer and gold pin of the 8-pointed, star-shaped Ricker logo.

Nathan Ricker, 1875. (Images courtesy of UIAA and UI Archives)

As part of our 125th anniversary celebration in 1998, the UIAA adopted a new logo. Originally designed in 1888 by the legendary architecture professor Nathan Ricker, the symbol represented the UIAA for more than two decades. But it has an even longer history around the Illinois campus, showing up everywhere from the front of Alma Mater’s gown to a beautiful mosaic in Engineering Hall.


In the 1960s, the UIAA created constituent alumni associations for the U of I’s colleges and departments. Today, those groups play an essential role in alumni relations across the campus.


Alumni Records and Information

For more than 140 years, the alumni records program was one of the UIAA’s chief responsibilities. Our offices were filled with tens of thousands of file folders, stuffed with biographical data, all collected with one goal: to keep tabs on the successes, hopes, dreams and life stories of our alumni. Over time, the data were computerized, giving the wider University community easier access to that knowledge and the ability to add new information. During 2010s, the UIAA ended its records program, as the University’s colleges and departments took on a larger role in alumni record-keeping. But we remain a bustling information bureau for all things Illinois alumni.


Establishing New Traditions

5K race runner running with hands victoriously in the air

Homecoming 5K, 2022 (Image by Michelle Hassel)

The UIAA not only preserves the U of I’s traditions—we also create new ones! From the freshman-year fun of Illini First Night (now called Sights & Sounds) to the Homecoming events of the 21st century, we’re always looking for novel ways to hail to the orange and hail to the blue.


Computer with Alma Market website on screen displaying alumni-related products.From Alma Mater Christmas ornaments and Block I flags to art works of campus landmarks, the UIAA has been selling University swag for as long as it’s existed. is a marketplace devoted to alumni-produced products and Urbana-Champaign businesses. (Image courtesy of UIAA)


Volunteer Alumni Board

For much of its history, the UIAA has been governed by a volunteer alumni board, representing a wide variety of the University’s colleges, departments and special interests. Once upon a time, more than 120 people were on the board, and it functioned like a kind of “alumni senate.” Today, we have a tighter, closer-knit group of 17, who meet three times per year to ensure the UIAA’s health and survival, now and in the future.


Celebrating Students

Male and female graduates in blue cap and gown surround "UI" 8-pointed, star-shaped Ricker logo ice sculpture.

Gradfest at Alice Campbell Alumni Center, 2006. (Image by L. Brian Stauffer/UI Public Affairs)

We’re not only here for Illinois alumni—the UIAA also celebrates students, with annual traditions like the orange-and-blue Commencement tassels we award to Bronze Tablet recipients, the former George Huff Awards for student-athletes, and the Senior 100 event that honors a hundred or so of the University’s most talented graduating seniors.


Zoom Zoom Zoom

Digital meeting computer icons.

Like everyone else, the UIAA adapted to life under COVID-19 and learned how to use Zoom. We moved our in-person programs online, and suddenly, we had alumni from all over the world attending our events, no matter where they lived, and meeting one another for the first time. And we’ve never looked back. Today, we do a mix of in-person and virtual programming, and we’re able to make our programs and services accessible to the widest possible audience.