My Alma Mater: A Good Fit

For this German émigré, the U of I was a dream come true

For this German émigré, the U of I was a dream come true

A current color image of Morris Beschloss and and image of Morris in college seated in front of a typewriter with 5 male colleagues standing behind him.

Beschloss (shown at typewriter) cut his teeth as a journalist on The Daily Illini. After a decades-long career in the pipe, valves and fittings industry, he picked up where he left off, serving as a columnist for the Palm Springs Desert Sun on a wide range of topics.

I am 93 years old and have had a long and varied career, first as an executive in the pipe, valves and fittings industry, and later as a radio personality and a columnist for newspapers and trade magazines. When people ask me how I came to have such as colorful career, I always tell them: “My five years at the U of I.” It was such a small percentage of my life, but those five years provided a foundation that I’ve been building on ever since.

Back in 1947, when I was a high school senior in Taylorville, Ill., I thought it was unlikely that I would get accepted to  the U of I. With so many World War II veterans taking advantage of the GI Bill, I was worried that there wouldn’t be room for a kid like me: a German refugee with a heavy accent, eight years removed from fleeing the Nazis. I was so convinced that I would not get into Illinois that I enrolled at Millikin University in Decatur.

Then, good fortune struck: I won a four-year scholarship to the U of I. Back then, all 102 Illinois counties participated in an essay contest that awarded a full scholarship to one person per county. I later found out that I had earned the highest score in Christian County’s history.

During the next five years, I made the most of my time on campus. I majored in journalism, served as president of Alpha Phi Omega and learned the newspaper business at The Daily Illini. As a senior, I was even the DI’s sports editor—and again, good fortune struck.

That academic year, 1951–52, the U of I recorded some of its greatest seasons in school history. The football team went undefeated, won the Rose Bowl and took a share of the national championship. And in the spring, the basketball team went to its second Final Four in a row. My staff and I were there to report on it all. To cap things off, at the end of the year, I graduated with high honors from the College of Communications [now the College of Media].

Seventy years later, I recognize the U of I as the key to my fabulous life. It gave me the tools I needed to succeed in my career and allowed me to explore my passions. It also led to my 68-year marriage. My wife, Ruth, and I never met when we were students, but when fate finally brought us together, she recognized me from my Daily Illini column!

The “Orange and Blue” University prepared me for real life. I’m proud to know, after all this time, that it continues to prepare the next generation of students for what lies ahead. Edited by Ryan A. Ross

A 2007 inductee into the Illini Media Hall of Fame, Morris R. Beschloss writes columns on economics, foreign policy, domestic politics, and the pipe, valves and fittings industry.

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