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The Historic Role of the Military at the University of Illinois

From its opening in 1868, the military has had a profound impact on the University of Illinois and the University, in turn, has had a lasting impact on the military. Once dubbed “the West Point of the West,” Illinois’ military training programs have provided the Armed Forces with “citizen soldier” leaders for a century and a half. UI President Edmund James (1904-20) was a leading advocate of a standardized, nationwide Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program at Land Grant universities. During World Wars I and II, the University of Illinois provided technical training to tens of thousands of soldiers and sailors in non-degree programs in aviation, diesel mechanics, and communications. Wartime defense research in digital computing, synthetic rubber, anti-malarial drugs, and Doppler radar set the stage for the University’s preeminence in scientific research. Join retired Alumni Association vice president, Naval ROTC alumnus and retired Navy commander Joe Rank for a presentation on this little known, but important, aspect of the University’s history.