Welcome to the UI Alumni Network

  “The books tell the story of our family,” says Louis Greco ’44 COM, MD ’45, a retired surgeon who began writing the first volume of his 12-book series in 1991.
Photo credit: Christopher Gannon

My Passion

Louis Greco discusses his efforts to chronicle his family’s history and what surgery and writing have in common.

As I grew older, I had many questions I wanted to ask my grandparents. I wanted to know what life was like in Italy. I wanted them to tell me about their experiences taking a boat to America and starting a new life in this country. But by the time I had my questions, it was too late. They died long before I thought to ask. 

Looking back on a life filled with the joys of raising five children and operating on more than 10,000 patients as a general surgeon in Boone, Iowa, I began to think about the questions my own children and grandchildren might ask one day. I didn’t want them to wait too long. I wanted to give them the story of their family.

I began my first book shortly after I retired in 1991 after practicing medicine for nearly 50 years. As a general surgeon, I knew what I was doing; but as a writer, I stumbled through telling what happened with words and pictures. One thing surgery and writing have in common, though—they’re both hard work.

I’ve written 12 books covering the years 1922–2009, beginning with the year I was born. Each chapter marks a year, telling the history of what happened and ending with photos taken that year. I’ve used many of the more than 100,000 pictures I have stored on my computer.

The books tell the story of our family, including important moments in the lives of my wife and myself, my parents and grandparents, my children and grandchildren. I obtained information in various ways from family members, uncles, cousins and friends.
An Italian genealogy researcher helped me track down birth and marriage documents, dating back six generations. I visited Italy in 1994 and 2005 to obtain information about the four small towns in the Campania and Calabria regions where my grandparents were born. It was great going back. There was an old water fountain in the town square in Oliveto Citra, where my maternal grandfather was born. As I stood there, I wondered if he ever drank from it. Sadly, I had no way of finding any living relatives, although many of the people I met had my grandparents’ last names.

One of the most valuable sources of information came from letters I wrote to my parents from 1940-81. I discovered the letters after my parents died; they kept them all that time. It was too expensive to phone, so I wrote letters at least once a week and told them down-to-earth things about my travels and common everyday happenings (such as a 35-cent, all-you-could-eat lunch at Prehn’s in Urbana when I was in school). Letter writing was our only form of communication for 40 years, except for emergencies. It was a great find. There were more than 2,000 pages of letters, which I copied and bound into two books that are each three inches thick.
I wish my wife, Helen, could have seen the books. We were married for 45 years; she died suddenly of a heart attack on May 11, 1993. I met her when I was an officer in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, assigned to the station hospital in Fort Douglas, Utah, in 1948. She was the secretary of the doctor in charge of the hospital. We had a great marriage—blessed with five children, 10 grandchildren and one great grandchild with another on the way. They all have copies of the books, which I hope one day they’ll treasure as great sources of information about themselves and their history.

I helped write a book about the history of Boone County (Iowa) medicine and plan to do one on genealogy, but the books I’ve written about our family life are the ones I value most. While I am alive and after I am gone from this world, this is my way to communicate about the past. The most important thing I’ve learned is to talk to your relatives; learn their stories before they die, because their history is yours.

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.
[ read more ]

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.
[ read more ]


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.
[ read more ]

Volunteer Spirit: Space Saver

Gwen Zabicki turns vacant storefronts into studio space for artists.
[ read more ]

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.
[ read more ]

Alumni Profile: UFO Tracker

As director of the Center for UFO Studies, Mark Rodeghier keeps a close watch for close encounters
[ read more ]

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.
[ read more ]

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.
[ read more ]

Transition Specialist

Iraq War veteran Robert Malnik helps returning military personnel readjust to civilian life.
[ read more ]

Digital Educator

Alice Diec Zhao on teaching children new languages and her new app, Gus on the Go.
[ read more ]

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.
[ read more ]


Actress Janina Gavankar transforms herself into all creatures great and small for the HBO series True Blood.
[ read more ]

‘A Sucker For Fun’

[ read more ]

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
[ read more ]

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.
[ read more ]

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.
[ read more ]

Body and Soul

Students continue to thrive at one of the nation's most accessible college campuses
[ read more ]

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.
[ read more ]

Illini Spirit

Button Up For Homecoming
[ read more ]

In The Time Of PLATO

How students at Illinois created today’s computer technology 50 years ago
[ read more ]

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.
[ read more ]

Physician, Educate Thyself

At Illinois, students inject the study of medicine with other disciplines
[ read more ]

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?
[ read more ]

Labors Of Love

Lorado Taft – the sculptor behind the ‘Alma Mater’ – embraced both his art and his University
[ read more ]

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.
[ read more ]

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 ]

© Copyright UI Alumni Network, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Alumni Development Software