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Alumni Stories: How Alumni Have Made A Difference

Generations of Alumni, who make a difference in their communities, nation, and the world, form the core of the University of Illinois Alumni Association.

  The Seal of the University of Illinois, 1895  

  From http://www.uillinois.edu/president/history/

For over 140 years, thousands of people have traveled paths that led to the University of Illinois, one of the largest state universities in the nation with campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.

The University was one of 37 public land-grant institutions established after the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act was signed by Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862. Illinois was one of seven commonwealths that had not formed a state university. Eligible for a grant of 480,000 acres of public scrip land valued at $600,000, in 1867 the state established a university for the purpose of fostering access to higher education for the working people.

Today, the Urbana campus is a world leader in research, teaching and public engagement. Distinguished by the breadth and quality of its curriculum and programs, the campus attracts faculty who conduct world-class interdisciplinary research and scholarship in an environment that enables creative thinking and promotes academic excellence. Urbana boasts Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and faculty whose research is among the most cited in their fields. The Urbana campus is a comprehensive research institution that ranks in the top 50 universities nationally for research and development dollars spent in science and engineering.

In 1982, the Medical Center and Circle Campus consolidated to form the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). The merger strengthened the University's potential for scholarly excellence and pushed UIC to Carnegie Research 1 institution status in 1987. The Chicago campus is a comprehensive research institution that ranks in the top 50 universities nationally for research and development dollars spent in science and engineering. In 2000, UIC expanded with the development of South Campus, providing increased residential student living space and research facilities. Through its history, UIC has been a leader in the creation of a new model of higher education: the comprehensive urban research university.

The University of Illinois at Springfield provides an intellectually rich, collaborative and intimate learning environment while serving local, regional, state, national and international communities. Students who attend the Springfield campus seek the outstanding liberal arts education. Students benefit from individual attention in small classes taught by faculty who are dedicated to teaching excellence, scholarship and service as well as innovative approaches to learning. Making a difference in the world is a tenet of the UIS educational philosophy. Faculty and students enrich the life of the city of Springfield, and graduates assume leadership positions in government, media and communications.

The Alumni of the University of Illinois reflect the rich intellectual, social, and professional experiences of their University of Illinois. They carry forward the spirit of creativity, innovation and excellence to their own lives, their communities, their nations, and the world.

These are some of their stories.

Alumni Stories:

Oceanic Administration

Two of the world’s top leaders in oceanographic research—both UI alumnae—talk about how they landed at their respective scientific institutions and the concerns each has about the future of our largest bodies of water.
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Big Leaguer

New York Mets centerfielder. Three-time All-Star. Baseball stadium named in his honor. There isn’t much that Curtis Granderson hasn’t accomplished.
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Go-Getter

How did Mike Delfini progress from being a graphic designer for The Field Museum to Shedd Aquarium’s chief operating officer? By never being afraid to accept the next big challenge.
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Volunteer Spirit: Space Saver

Gwen Zabicki turns vacant storefronts into studio space for artists.
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Franchise Player

As creative director of the best-selling video game Madden NFL, Mike Young is part of something that’s highly anticipated, beloved by millions and devoted to the nation’s favorite sport. It’s no wonder he loves his work.
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Alumni Profile: UFO Tracker

As director of the Center for UFO Studies, Mark Rodeghier keeps a close watch for close encounters
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Mountain Mover

Nina Pritikin Zale helps disabled Israeli veterans learn to ski.
[ read more ]

Farmer's Daughter

For winemaker Janet Myers, the journey from family orchard to high-end vineyard has been a ferment of scientific study, world travel and unexpected opportunities. And, of course, the joy of wine itself.
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Network Provider

Dr. Lee Francis, president and CEO of Erie Health Center, has helped the community-based organization expand its reach by cultivating relationships with staff, neighborhood leaders and partnering hospitals.
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Transition Specialist

Iraq War veteran Robert Malnik helps returning military personnel readjust to civilian life.
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Digital Educator

Alice Diec Zhao on teaching children new languages and her new app, Gus on the Go.
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Bar Raiser

Bored by the world of high finance, Anne Shaeffer launched a gourmet confectionery brand, Sulpice Chocolat. It’s a move that has made her happy and keeps her busy 24/7.
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Shape-Shifter

Actress Janina Gavankar transforms herself into all creatures great and small for the HBO series True Blood.
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Game On

A passion for the hidden stories motivates Michael Osacky’s world-class trade in baseball memorabilia
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Arms for the world

For Jonathan Naber ’11 ENG, the idea for the arm came when he was a sophomore, in a rush of altruism.
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Sword Play

As emcee in Roman-era extravaganza, Joseph Steven Klus made life-and-death calls on gladiators in combat
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Pitch man

As superintendent of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Arnold Randall hopes to lure urbanites into the extraordinary wilderness that’s in their backyard
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Rules of the Game

How Kim Vandenbroucke got to be a top player in the challenging world of game invention
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Community Partner

Pharmacist Mary Ann Kaminski does far more than simply fill prescriptions for West Town’s underserved—and she likes it that way
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Lost

In her quest to link cultural collapse and climate change, Lisa Lucero has pursued the secrets of the Maya – all the way to mysterious pools in the Belizean jungle.
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The Candy Man

For David Levine, owner of Illinois Nut & Candy, it’s all about the brand
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Good Neighbor

Community developer Joel Bookman empowers neighborhoods to invest in themselves
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Field Mentor

Pediatrician Alvin Miller helps launch Project NEWSTART and improves the odds for infants
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Infrastructure Builder

Dr. Basil Taylor Bennett revamps UIC’s Research Resources Center and helps elevate the campus’ stature.
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Toolmaker

Dr. Michael Gordon’s Harvey, a life-sized mannequin, breathes new life into health care- provider training.
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Mutations Interpreter

Barry Ganetzky’s fruit fly research expands world’s comprehension of neural function.
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Fine Tuner

Rebecca McFadden ensures that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra doesn’t miss a beat.
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Dead-on

Founding editor of the website Deadspin, Will Leitch helped pioneer the postmodern world of sportswriting – all the news that’s fit to print, plus all the stuff that maybe isn’t.
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Odds Beater

Don Bielinski tells how UIC sharpened his competitive edge and why the upper walkways were great.
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‘A Sucker For Fun’


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Across The Water

Making it to the NBA is the ultimate goal for lots of talented college players. But as numerous past Fighting Illini hard-court greats can tell you, playing professional basketball overseas is also a supreme experience – though not without its challenge
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A Gift for the Ages

The renovation of majestic Lincoln Hall, constructed a century ago on the University of Illinois Quad, will modernize the facility but still retain much of its character.
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How to Grow a Human Network

Sue Bostrom sits high atop the corporate ladder at Cisco, but she also touts the merits of down-to-earth Midwestern values.
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Body and Soul

Students continue to thrive at one of the nation's most accessible college campuses
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Illinois Homecoming

In its 100-year history, Homecoming at the University of Illinois has held many special moments – such as the four touchdowns within 12 minutes made by Red Grange during the 1924 game.
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Illini Spirit

Button Up For Homecoming
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In The Time Of PLATO

How students at Illinois created today’s computer technology 50 years ago
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The Unsilent World

For more than two decades, Susan Schiefelbein enjoyed a remarkable working relationship with the underwater adventurer Jacques Cousteau in helping to bring his beliefs to the written page.
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Physician, Educate Thyself

At Illinois, students inject the study of medicine with other disciplines
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O Brave New Web

As the Internet colonizes more and more space in our world, what will be the conveniences and challenges of life in the cyber-dimension?
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Labors Of Love

Lorado Taft – the sculptor behind the ‘Alma Mater’ – embraced both his art and his University
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Special Game Plan

Nothing that you will read here disputes the fact that the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics, a worldwide organization that provides sports training and competition for people who have cognitive disabilities.
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News Worthy

At the Freedom Forum and the Newseum, alumni Ken Paulson and Joe Urschel help document news – right up to the very moment you’re reading this.
[ read more ]



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