Gallery of Excellence
Welcome to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Gallery of Excellence. While the advances in science, education, and cultural understanding that trace their roots to the college are too many to count, the gallery is an attempt to symbolize them by highlighting some of the most prominent names to emerge from LAS since it was formed 100 years ago.
From brilliant teachers and researchers who spent their careers on campus, to alumni who left to make their mark elsewhere, those who call LAS home are responsible for some of the most important ideas and discoveries in the 20th and 21st centuries.
The gallery will be updated with more names as this milestone year continues.
Alumni and Friends of the College | Nina Baym | David Blackwell | St. Elmo Brady | Robert Copeland | Joseph Leo Doob | Jean Driscoll | Robert Emerson | Ethnic and Women’s Studies | Herbert S. Gutowsky | Freeman Hrabowski | International Studies Centers | Carl Shipp “Speed” Marvel | Marie Hochmuth Nichols | Eugene Odum | Charles E. Osgood | Clifford Ladd Prosser | Proving the Four-Color Theorem | James G. Randall | Richard T. Scanlan | Carol Stack | Joel Stebbins | Michio Suzuki | John (“Jack”) F. Welch Jr. | Carl Woese
Roger Adams | Arnold O. Beckman | Maudelle Tanner Brown Bousfield | College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Staff | Jesse Delia | Robert Dietz | Larry Faulkner | Howard Griffith | Rolando Hinojosa-Smith | Insect Fear Film Festival | Henry R. Kahane | Richmond Lattimore | Luis Leal | Carol Lee | Lincoln Hall | Joseph L. Love | Edna Greene Medford | Molly Melching | Richard Powers | William Rutter | Phillip Sharp | Thomas Siebel | Ralph Wolfe | R. Tom Zuidema
Altgeld Hall | Lucius Barker | Thomas Burrill | George Lindenberg Clark | Roxanne Decyk | Faculty | Icko Iben Jr. | Donald C. Johanson | David Kinley | Philip Kolb | Paul C. Lauterbur | Nelson J. Leonard | Susan Lindquist | Susan Nagele | Spurlock Museum | Arvarh Strickland | Students | Florian Znaniecki
Roger Adams (1889-1971)
Organic Chemist Was One of the Most Influential Figures in LAS History
In 1916, Roger Adams arrived at the University of Illinois as a young chemistry professor with a salary of $2,800 per year. Little did he know that someday a major campus building would bear his name.
Adams spent the rest of his career at Illinois, becoming one of the most respected chemists in the world. As professor and department head, he pioneered important breakthroughs in organic chemistry, devoted his services to the country during two world wars, and, by 1930, guided the Department of Chemistry to be one of the best in the country.
Adams is remembered for the interest he took in his students. Graduate and undergraduate students alike were picked carefully for the program under Adams, who helped guide their research and found suitable positions for them after graduation. During the 1920s, Adams trained 3 percent of American PhDs in all fields of chemistry.
After World War II, Adams played a significant role in American efforts to rebuild German and Japanese science programs. At home, he played a key role in enlisting outside support for University research. He assisted young researchers immensely, and in 1954 he designed the program for the Sloan Foundation for unrestricted grants to young workers, many of whom benefitted greatly from the program for years to come.
Known for his outgoing and engaging style, Adams became a statesman for the field, and during his 56 years on campus he turned down many offers from other universities and industry to remain in the College of LAS. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1929, he went on to receive most medals and awards open to scientists, and he received honorary doctorates from 10 institutions. His list of honors and awards cover three pages.
Alumni and Friends of the College
New Partnerships Form as LAS Prepares Students for Changing Times
The reality facing many public universities today is that levels of state support are on the decline. The same is true at Illinois, but a silver lining to this tough situation is the growing number of alumni and friends who are stepping forward to help the University and College of LAS advance their mission.
In the College of LAS alone, thousands of alumni and other supporters have donated their time, talents, energy, and financial assistance to programs at the college and departmental levels. Such support has been crucial to the college’s ability to provide a rich and enduring education to students.
The contributions of time and energy come in countless ways. Many alumni have served on advisory boards to help steer the college forward. Others help students directly, by teaching a seminar on campus or by mentoring a student interested in their field. Alumni attend college events on and off campus, or share stories and advice from their days as a student, and otherwise display the lasting effect of their experience in LAS.
Alumni, foundations, corporations, and other friends of the LAS mission have donated many millions of dollars to various programs that advance the college, from the creation of over 100 endowed chairs to new programs, buildings, and equipment. The most prominent recent example is the campaign surrounding the renovation of Lincoln Hall, which, through various naming opportunities, has raised millions for scholarships. During its first year, the number of students in the Lincoln Scholars scholarship program tripled.
There are countless ways to make an impact, with each of them deeply appreciated. With an ever-present need to keep abreast of change in the 21st century, the College of LAS looks forward to continued partnerships with those who see the value in an education in the liberal arts and sciences.
Age-Old Building Is an Icon and an Anchor on the Quad
It’s been the backdrop of countless photographs. Its bells have regaled generations of students. Standing at the northwest corner of the Quad since 1896, the beautiful Altgeld Hall is an iconic representative of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Altgeld originally served as the University Library. In 1927, it became home to the College of Law, and in 1956 it was occupied by the Department of Mathematics, which remains there today. Most prominently, Altgeld possesses a 132-foot tower, topped with 15 bells that have provided the Westminster Chime and bell concerts since their dedication in 1920 (the bells are the memorial gift of the Classes of 1914 through 1921 and the United States School of Military Aeronautics).
Except for the Westminster Chime, which sounds every quarter-hour and is controlled automatically, the bells are played by hand from a performing room located five stories above ground and equipped with a system of pump-handle levers and steel cables, the longest of which is 68.5 feet. The performing room is open for tours every weekday that school is in session, where visitors are allowed to climb to the very top of the tower itself and stand among the bells.
Altgeld holds special concerts on a number of occasions throughout the year, including Quad Day, Homecoming, the Illini Union’s anniversary on February 8, Founders Day on March 2, and commencement weekend. The concerts are conducted by a staff of chimes players, including Sue Wood, chimes master, who has been playing since 1971.
Plans for a renovation of the historic building are currently underway.
Lucius Barker (1928-)
Alum Is Prominent in the Study and Understanding of Politics
Lucius Barker knows the difference a professor can make. In the 1940s, he was a pre-med major at Southern University-Baton Rouge (La.) when he took a course in American politics. The professor, Rodney Higgins, was so good, and the formaldehyde in his comparative anatomy course was so bad, as he recalled to an interviewer, that soon he was majoring in political science.
It was a momentous decision. Barker, the William Bennett Munro Professor Emeritus and former chair of the Department of Political Science at Stanford University, went on to earn his master’s and PhD at Illinois (in 1950 and 1954, respectively) before becoming one of the most prominent political scientists in the country, specializing in judicial politics, Constitutional law, and African American politics.
In 1970, Barker collaborated with his brother, Twiley (who earned a PhD in political science from Illinois in 1955 and went on to teach at the University of Illinois-Chicago) on the first of eight editions of Civil Liberties and the Constitution: Cases and Commentaries, still used in upper-level political science courses nationwide. It was just one of several influential publications by Barker.
Besides at Illinois, he also taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Washington University, earning awards for his teaching before landing at Stanford in 1990. Barker has also been active in politics, serving as a participant and analyst in the campaigns of President John Kennedy, President Barack Obama, and Jesse Jackson.
Among his many achievements is his service as president of the American Political Science Association (only the second African American to do so) and, in 1994, his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Nina Baym (1936-)
Professor, Literary Critic Recovered Work of Women Writers Who Might Otherwise Have Been Lost
Who are the writers who make up the tradition of American literature? It used to be that students were only taught about the men. That was before the work of Nina Baym, the professor emerita of English who changed the face of American literature by expanding the field to include female writers.
In addition to writing dozens of articles and essays, Baym, a leading American literary critic and historian who spent more than four decades in LAS, has edited and authored several groundbreaking books that have shed new light on American literature. Some of her best-known works include Women’s Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America, 1820-1870 (1978); American Women Writers and the Work of History, 1790-1860 (1995); and Women Writers of the American West, 1833-1927 (2011).
Baym began her career as an English professor at the University of Illinois in the 1960s, and by the time she retired in 2004, she had been named a Swanlund Endowed Chair, a Jubilee Professor in the College of LAS, and a Center for Advanced Study Professor of English. She was a tireless advocate for the University through her teaching, mentoring, service on countless committees and campaigns, and her leadership as director of the College of LAS’s School of Humanities.
Baym’s many prizes include the 2000 Jay B. Hubbell Award for lifetime achievement in American literary studies, and many fellowships from prominent foundations, endowments, and associations. In 1991, she became general editor of the Norton Anthology of American Literature until its ninth edition. She has served on panels for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Fulbright Foundation.
Arnold O. Beckman (1900-2004)
A Giant in Chemistry and Philanthropy Revolutionized Scientific Instruments
Arnold Beckman studied at the University of Illinois under some of the biggest names in chemistry. Then he left to add his own name to the ranks of the giants who have passed through the College of LAS.
Beckman (BS ’22; MS ’23, chemistry) studied under the likes of Carl “Speed” Marvel, William Albert Noyes, Roger Adams, and Samuel Parr, who revealed to him the link between chemistry and industrial innovation. Beckman took this to heart, and his later discoveries were at the root of a scientific revolution in instrumentation, from the pH meter to an oxygen analyzer, originally for submarines but also used to improve the health of premature babies.
Beckman joined the California Institute of Technology as a professor in the late 1920s, but the spirit of industry he learned at Illinois often led his efforts elsewhere. In 1935 he founded National Technical Laboratories (later Beckman Instruments and then Beckman Coulter) in California, where he and his staff worked on instruments that improved military radar on the eve of World War II, and produced spectrophotometers critical to the production of synthetic rubber, explosives, and aviation fuel during the war.
He and his wife later formed the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation to promote philanthropy. The Beckmans donated some $350 million to the advancement of science, medicine, and engineering education, including $40 million to the U of I for the Beckman Institute.
“No living philanthropist can match the impact of Arnold Beckman on scientific life in American higher education,” former U of I President Stanley Ikenberry once said. “He is a man of extraordinary vision and talent.”
David Blackwell (1919-2010)
Brilliance and Perseverance Paved the Way for a Groundbreaking Career in Mathematics
Growing up the son of an African American rail worker in the 1920s, David Blackwell would have faced slim hopes for college if not for his unmistakable brilliance with numbers. By age 16 he had entered the University of Illinois, and by age 22 he earned a PhD in mathematics, launching a stellar career.
Once he left the College of LAS (where he studied under the renowned Joseph Doob), Blackwell’s abilities—with numbers and in dealing with people—were put to the test, because so many mathematicians were unaccustomed to working with African Americans. By 1954, however, after working at several historically black universities (including 10 years at Howard University), he became a mathematics professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
He would become the first African American tenured professor at Berkeley, and also the first African American scholar inducted into the National Academy of Sciences (in 1965). Blackwell was chairman of the Department of Statistics at Berkeley from 1964 to 1968, and would later serve as assistant dean of Berkeley’s College of Letters and Sciences.
Blackwell is known for fundamental contributions to many fields in mathematics, including statistics, sequential analysis, and game theory. His 1954 book, Theory of Games and Statistical Decisions, coauthored with M.A. Girshick, is considered a classic. He was also known for being an outstanding lecturer, receiving the Berkeley Citation in 1988 for extraordinary contributions to the life of the university.
“Basically, I’m not interested in doing research, and I never have been,” Blackwell once said. “I’m interested in understanding, which is quite a different thing. And often to understand something you have to work it out yourself because no one else has done it.”
Maudelle Tanner Brown Bousfield (1885-1971)
A Pioneer in Education Had Her Roots in LAS
You could say that it took a certain amount of heroism for an African American female to attend the University of Illinois in the early 20th century. Many boarding houses wouldn’t accept African Americans (there were no dorms), and it could be lonely—from 1903 to 1905, Maudelle Tanner Brown Bousfield was the only black woman on campus.
Perhaps she decided that she would set an example—not only did she stay long enough to earn her degree, but she double-majored in mathematics and astronomy, and, in 1906, became the first African American woman to graduate from Illinois. She finished her undergraduate degree in three years and graduated with honors.
Her experience at Illinois was among many “firsts” in her life, including her time as the first black female to attend the Charles Kunkel Conservatory of Music in St. Louis. After leaving the University of Illinois, Bousfield became the first black dean of girls at the Wendell Phillips Academy High School in Chicago, and in 1927 she earned her first principal’s position.
She worked as principal at several schools, and Bousfield earned a reputation for her devotion to students and expanding programs in music, art, sports, and other areas.
She kept pursuing her own studies, earning her master’s degree in education from the University of Chicago, where she studied the impact of poverty and environment on black children. She served as the sixth national president of Alpha Kappa Alpha, and upon retirement she lectured at Fisk University and worked for the United Negro College Fund.
In 2013, the University of Illinois honored her by opening Bousfield Hall, a residence hall that’s part of the new Ikenberry Commons complex.
St. Elmo Brady (1884-1966)
A Pioneer in Chemistry Opened the Door for Others to Enter the Field
Being the first to do something is hard. Inspiring others to follow you, however, can be a lifelong calling, as it was for St. Elmo Brady.
In the early 1900s, American chemists were predominantly white. Brady, an African American teacher in Alabama, dreamed of obtaining an advanced degree in chemistry. In 1912, he was accepted into one of the best programs in the country at the University of Illinois.
Four years and several publications later, Brady emerged from the College of LAS as the first African American in the nation to be awarded a doctoral degree in chemistry. During his studies at Illinois, he was the first African American admitted to Phi Lambda Upsilon, the chemistry honor society, and also the first to be inducted into Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. In 1916, NAACP’s magazine, The Crisis, named him Man of the Month.
The University of Illinois, Brady said, had “all the modern advantages of a great university, contact with great minds, and the use of all modern equipment.”
For the next 30 years, Brady advanced chemistry education for African Americans and inspired others to enter the field. He served as a faculty member at four historically black universities, including Tuskegee Institute, Howard University (where he also served as department chair), and Fisk University.
At his last post, Tougaloo College, Brady showed that he considered his work to be more than just a job. He came out of retirement for nine years to help recruit faculty and develop the chemistry program.
Thomas Burrill (1839-1916)
A Pioneer in Botany Was also Critical to the Growth of Illinois
Born in Pittsfield, Mass., Thomas J. Burrill is remembered in the world of botany as a “pioneer in plant pathology.” On campus, he is also remembered for helping to steer the University of Illinois through some of its earliest growth.
In 1865, Burrill was appointed superintendent of public schools in Urbana. He spent much of his spare time studying the local plant life, however, and he later accompanied Major John Powell as a botanist to explore the Grand Canyon. In 1868, he came to Illinois (then called the Illinois Industrial University) to teach algebra, and by 1870 he was appointed professor of botany and horticulture.
Burrill served the University of Illinois for 44 years as professor, dean of the College of Science (1878-1884), dean of the Graduate School (1894-1905), and acting president of the University (1891-1894 and 1904). During this time, he grappled with questions of student discipline, how to boost research funding, and elevating the University in the face of wavering support for public education.
Known for working sunrise to sundown, Burrill studied the plants of Illinois exhaustively and became known as a patient mentor. He became interested in pear-blight and theorized that it was caused by bacteria—unheard of at the time, but his research confirmed that the blight was caused by Micrococcus amylovorus. His finding was greeted with skepticism, particularly by botanists in Europe, but he was eventually proven correct, sealing his legacy.
“Were I a heathen, not knowing the true God, I would not worship the sun,” he was quoted as saying, “but would bow in adoration to the trees and herbs of the fields.”
George Lindenberg Clark (1882-1969)
Chemist Pioneered X-ray Analysis
Every important discovery needs someone with the vision to put it into practical use. George Lindenberg Clark was one of those people, as he pioneered many aspects of X-ray analysis.
Clark served as a professor of chemistry at Illinois from 1927-1960. He was ahead of his time in recognizing the connection between instrumentation and analysis, and he was among the very first to introduce several new instrumentation methods into university laboratories.
He was the first to think of and apply the use of X-rays in spectroscopy, radiography, X-ray therapy, photochemistry, radiobiology, and X-ray crystallography. Clark’s research included chemical, industrial, and medicinal uses for X-rays, and in 1945 he developed an X-ray tube that could withstand the heat generated by 50,000 volts for long periods of time. The new tube allowed researchers to gather data in seconds rather than minutes, and allowed for significant growth in the medical use of X-rays.
Clark made important discoveries regarding the crystallization of rubber, polymers, and metal stress analysis. On one occasion he X-rayed the faulty propellers of an aircraft in Champaign, Ill., and helped prevent a crash. He was a pioneer in electron microscopy, and established the first electron microscope service laboratory on campus.
He received many awards for his teaching and research. He was also a faithful public servant, serving in World War I and World War II, and acting as a consultant for many industries and government agencies, including the Illinois State Highway Commission. Clark was also a noted concert cellist, with his quartet once featured in Life magazine.
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Staff
Many Help the College of LAS Achieve its Core Mission
For a century, the goal of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has been to expand our boundaries of knowledge and prepare students for productive and meaningful lives. Crucial to the success of that mission has been the staff that supports the operations of the college.
The college currently has some 233 staff and 365 academic professionals. There are the individuals who:
• Support the college’s teaching mission through scheduling, advising, and providing academic advice to students with questions about their education.
• Support and expand the college’s technological capabilities, from classroom learning tools to office computers and server maintenance.
• Help drive the college’s research mission through grant processing, caring for lab animals, preparing research equipment, and helping to maintain and oversee buildings and other facilities.
• Support the college’s missions of service and outreach through the coordination of events on and off campus, maintaining websites, writing and editing mailings and other publications, and staying in touch with alumni.
• Staff departmental and college offices to ensure that operations run smoothly, efficiently, and in a well-organized manner, from the conduct of day-to-day activity to large-scale events such as graduation celebrations.
• Pay bills and keeping track of insurance, financial, and other matters relevant to students, faculty, staff, and others in the college.
“As the largest college on campus, the level of activity that we maintain on a daily basis is astounding,” says Brian Ross, interim dean of the College of LAS. “Thanks to the many people who work together to advance our mission, we are able to improve every day and plan for an exciting future.”
Robert Copeland (1943-2004)
A College Dean Broke Barriers with Caring and Compassion
Those who knew Robert Copeland when he was growing up in North Carolina had him pegged as a future minister. Education was his calling, however, and for years Copeland helped run the largest college at the University of Illinois with a sense of compassion that would touch the lives of countless students.
Copeland worked as a high school biology teacher before earning his PhD in science education. He was active in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement, and that calling never left him as he worked in the College of LAS for 27 years—first as an advisor, and later as associate dean for student academic affairs. He was the first African American to serve as a college dean at the University of Illinois.
Copeland embodied an ethic for which many leaders in the College of LAS administration strive. He was a strong advocate for programs to aid unrepresented populations, and he was also known as a firm, caring figure who was ready to help any student in a time of trouble. His open-door policy and reputation for “brutal honesty” won him the respect of hundreds of students, many of whom remained in contact with him for the rest of his life.
Charles Brock, who attended LAS in the 1970s, once recalled how he turned to Copeland for advice about finishing school when he learned he was losing his eyesight due to diabetes.
“Sometimes you have to take life as it comes, and when life throws you curves, you just have to dig in, set yourself, wait for your pitch, and whatever pitch that is, swing as hard as you can,” Copeland told him. The words inspired Brock to finish school and embark on a successful career.
Roxanne Decyk (1952-)
An English Major Shows How Literature Can Lead to Success in Corporate America
What can you do with an English degree? For one, you can become one of the most influential figures in the corporate world, as evidenced by the meteoric career of Roxanne Decyk.
Decyk retired in 2010 as executive vice president of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, one of the largest companies in the world. Since leaving Illinois in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, she has served successfully in a variety of leadership positions at Shell and other companies—some of which she still directs in various capacities, such as Alliant Techsystems Inc., Snap-On Inc., Petrofac Ltd., Ensco Plc, and Business for Social Responsibility.
She graduated from Illinois summa cum laude and achieved Bronze Tablet recognition, completing dual degrees in English and advertising within just three years. Decyk went to law school at Marquette University, where she graduated first in her class, and worked three years at one of Wisconsin’s largest law firms.
At 28, she was hired by the struggling farm implements company International Harvester, and her success in transforming it into Navistar won her a position at Amoco Corporation, which recruited her to turn around its fuels and chemicals divisions. In 1999, she was hired by Shell to lead the creation of its first global strategy.
Decyk has held her alma mater in high regard, establishing scholarship in the Department of English and returning to campus to lecture and mentor students. She believes the key to leadership in corporate America is a deep and broad education.
“Some of the best lessons in acquiring and keeping power come from studying Shakespeare, not organizational psychology,” Decyk once said. “And if you really want to understand the subtleties of human behavior, read Jane Austen.”
Jesse Delia (1944-)
The Former Dean of LAS is a Renowned Professor and Administrator
Few people have had more success in dual roles as faculty and administrator—and with more benefit to students and the University of Illinois—than Jesse Delia.
In his 43-year career at the University of Illinois, Delia has served as professor and head of the Department of Communication, dean of the College of LAS, interim provost, and an international ambassador for the University. He has earned a reputation for excellence in all roles.
Delia is a leading scholar in the field of communication, and he is best known for advancing a theory that explains why people differ in their ability to persuade, support, and comfort others. His work set a standard for social science research at a critical time for the field.
“Jesse Delia is broadly recognized as one of the most original, productive, and influential thinkers in the field of communication,” said Brant Burleson (1952-2010), a professor of communication at Purdue University who was mentored by Delia.
From 1978 to 1994, Delia served as head of the Department of Communication and helped it become one of the country’s top programs. He served as dean of the College of LAS from 1994 to 2006, during which time he increased the size of the college, oversaw $170 million in renovation and construction projects (including Spurlock Museum), secured $200 million in private support and commitments for endowed chairs and professorships, and strengthened a wide array of programs.
Delia went on to serve as interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs for the University of Illinois from 2004 to 2007, overseeing some 41,000 students and an $800 million budget.
Today, he serves as executive director for International Research Relations, under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. Much of his work is conducted overseas, but his impact on campus remains strong.
Robert Dietz (1914-1995)
Geologist Is Known for Groundbreaking Research of Ocean Floors and Meteorite Strikes
If you don’t think that ocean discoveries and Illinois belong in the same sentence, then you don’t know Robert Dietz and the history of marine geology at the University of Illinois.
While a graduate student here, Dietz (BS ’37; MS ’39; PhD ’41, geology) studied under Francis Shepherd, the so-called “Father of Marine Geology” known for extensive research of the world’s oceans. Dietz went on to use new echo-sounding technology to increase our understanding of the planet’s surface.
In 1961, he coined the term “sea-floor spreading” (still in use today) to describe his hypothesis that mid-ocean ridges marked where the Earth’s crust was constantly being created. This eventually led to the theory of plate tectonics, which today explains mountain formation, earthquakes, volcanoes, and long-term changes to the planet’s surface.
While studying at Illinois, Dietz also became interested in odd rock structures in an Indiana quarry, and he argued that they had been created by a meteorite impact. He continued to study meteorite impacts throughout his career, and in 1964 he hypothesized that a meteorite caused a crater 250 km in diameter—bigger than the one believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs—some 1.8 billion years ago at a spot now near Sudbury, Ontario.
The finding was controversial, but it is now widely accepted. Dietz identified many other possible impact craters, arguing that meteorites are common occurrences over time and related to occasional mass extinctions. His findings have helped shape our understanding of the evolution of life on Earth.
Dietz received numerous honors for his work, which includes one paper that has been cited 372 times in other studies. His research has been seminal to the field of geology.
Joseph Leo Doob (1910-2004)
Professor of Mathematics Shaped How We Think about Probability
It’s been said that if you took all the mathematicians who spent at least one semester at the University of Illinois, you’d have a Who’s Who of Probability. The grandfather of them all would be Joseph Leo Doob.
Though he grew up mainly in New York City, Doob felt at home in Champaign-Urbana, where he pioneered our understanding of mathematical probability and its interplay with other areas of mathematics. His book, Stochastic Processes, released in 1953, is recognized as one of the most influential books in the development of modern probability theory.
Starting in the 1940s, he systematically developed the theory of martingales, which still plays an essential role in the study of mathematical statistics, information theory, financial mathematics, Markov processes, and many other branches of mathematics and science. He is also known for his fundamental contributions to probabilistic potential theory, and his 1984 book, Classical Potential Theory and its Probabilistic Counterpart, showed how martingales and potential theory can be studied with the same mathematical tools.
Doob advised many students during his career in the College of LAS, including David Blackwell, another mathematician in the Gallery of Excellence. Doob joined the Department of Mathematics in 1935 and was an original member of the Center for Advanced Study when it began in 1959. Among his many honors, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Jimmy Carter.
Jean Driscoll (1966-)
The Hall of Fame Olympian Has Turned a Stellar Athletic Career into Service for Those with Disabilities
A few years removed from the racing track, Jean Driscoll once joked that any story about her would be greeted with blank stares. That’s doubtful. She is one of the greatest wheelchair racers in history and now is a prominent advocate for people with disabilities around the world.
Driscoll (AB ’91 speech communication, MS ’93 rehabilitation administration) won the Boston Marathon eight times in the wheelchair racing category. She’s been inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, won 14 Olympic and Paralympic medals, and held the women’s world record time in the marathon for 17 years.
Driscoll now works as an assistant dean for advancement in the College of Applied Health Sciences, which is renowned for its programs making higher education accessible to people with disabilities. Through University of Illinois and other organizations, Driscoll has traveled as far as Africa to advance the living conditions of people with disabilities.
She credits her degree in speech communication for helping her to communicate effectively when her victories in racing thrust her into the public eye—a role she would develop to advocate her cause. Driscoll once recounted her first trip to Ghana, where many of her overseas efforts have made a difference. Wheelchairs were hard to come by, and people who could not walk arrived at Driscoll’s wheelchair clinic on their hands and knees.
“I’m watching these people crawl in and I just thought, ‘I’ve never had that indignity,’” Driscoll recalled. “And in that moment I developed a life mission to help people up off the ground, literally and figuratively.”
Robert Emerson (1902-1959)
A Botanist’s Quiet Confidence Led to a Brilliant Career in Photosynthesis
For some 65 years, the University of Illinois has been recognized as a world leader in the study of photosynthesis. It all started in the basement of the Natural History Building, in the laboratory of botany professor Robert Emerson.
It takes courage to say your teacher is wrong—particularly if the teacher has won the Nobel Prize—but that’s what Emerson (grandnephew of Ralph Waldo Emerson) did early in his career when he contradicted German physiologist Otto Warburg’s assertion that four photons of light could convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrate during photosynthesis. Through rigorous research, Emerson showed that the process required eight photons.
Warburg, the Nobel laureate who advised Emerson during his doctoral studies in Germany before World War II, spent a year at Illinois trying to disprove his former student. Warburg would leave angrily, however, as Emerson, known for his gentle yet insistent demeanor, could not be proven wrong. Today, Emerson’s discovery is considered pivotal to our modern understanding of photosynthesis.
Emerson went on to discover that obtaining energy for water-splitting and reducing carbon dioxide was a two-step process involving two different photosystems. Called a Z-scheme, this discovery is still taught in introductory plant biology courses.
For this and other work, he was named a member of the National Academy of Sciences. His expertise helped build his program, as Emerson’s prominence in the field attracted many other leaders in the study of photosynthesis to the College of LAS. His contributions might have been even greater, but Emerson died in a plane crash in New York at age 56.
Ethnic and Women’s Studies
Creating Prominent Programs on Women, Cultures, and Language Took Years of Dedication
Every program in the College of LAS has a different story. Each of the many units specializing in ethnic and women’s studies, however, was formed by a common commitment by the college and University to understand the world in its entirety, and ultimately open the doors to students, faculty, and staff from all cultures and backgrounds.
This tradition extends back for more than 100 years. Research on Latin America began as early as 1904, when a delegation from the University of Illinois visited Brazil. By 1949, a Latin American studies major was established, and in 1965 the U.S. Department of Education named the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies a National Resource Center.
The African American Studies Program, created in 1969 in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., would become a department in 2008. And through years of organizing and collaboration, Asian American faculty, students, and staff participated in the establishment of Asian American Studies, the largest department of its kind outside California.
In 1996, vocal student activism for more attention to Latina/Latino issues led to the creation of the Latina/Latino Studies Program in the College of LAS. The program was named a full department in 2010. Similarly, a growing cry for attention to American Indian issues led to the creation of the Native American House in 2002. In 2005, the American Indian Studies Program was officially established in the College of LAS.
In 1980, the Office of Women’s Studies became part of the College of LAS. Gradually the program grew, and in 2003 began offering an undergraduate major and was renamed the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies to reflect more fully its mission to study how gender affects life experiences.
University of Illinois Faculty
Countless Breakthroughs in Science and Understanding Trace Back to Professors in LAS
Professors in the College of LAS are at the forefront of their fields. The person teaching your class or running the laboratory could have just been named to the National Academy of Sciences, won a Guggenheim Fellowship, or one of countless other honors LAS faculty regularly receive.
Within its roughly 60 departments and units, the college has more than 600 faculty, including writers, chemists, biologists, geologists, mathematicians, psychologists, atmospheric scientists, cultural experts, and others. While faculty are expected to possess the best teaching and research skills, they also bear a strong sense of civic duty and have initiated many outreach efforts as ambassadors of LAS and U of I.
Over the years, LAS faculty have pioneered breakthroughs in natural science, social science, and the way we view humanity’s meaning and influence in the world. They remain among the most respected and innovative group of scholars in the nation deserving of past and present honors that include memberships in the National Academy of Science, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering.
Other professors past and present have earned the Nobel prize, the Crafoord Medal, the National Medal of Science, the Fields Medal in Mathematics, the Hubbell Award, and the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award. They’ve been named National Science Foundation Young Investigators, Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Carnegie Foundation Professors of the Year.
The list is just a sample of the achievements earned by LAS faculty. With ongoing commitments to their fields, the list of accomplishments and progress will only continue in the years to come.
Larry Faulkner (1944-)
Professor Made Waves as a Teacher, Researcher, and Administrator
Few have had a wider impact on the many aspects of U of I than Larry Faulkner. As a former chemistry professor, dean of the College of LAS, and provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs, Faulkner helped initiate and usher campus through several important changes.
Faulkner arrived at Illinois in 1973 as a chemistry professor. He quickly became known for his teaching and research, and after serving as department head in the mid-1980s, he was named dean of the College of LAS in 1989. He continued to teach and research in these positions, winning numerous awards and recognition. He served as provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs from 1994 to 1998.
As provost, Faulkner overhauled the campus budget system and launched initiatives to inspire more classroom interaction for undergraduates. He also increased diversity hires in faculty, established competitive salary structures, improved organization of environmental, international, and teaching programs, and led efforts to improve computer technology on campus. He was instrumental in supporting the new Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory, constructed in 1997, and the Japan House, dedicated in 1998.
After leaving Illinois, Faulkner served as president of the University of Texas at Austin and president and CEO of Houston Endowments, Inc. He chaired the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, and he has served on the boards of Exxon Mobil, Southern Methodist University, Houston Grand Opera, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, and several other organizations.
One example of his enduring legacy came years after he left Illinois. While still on campus, Faulkner co-invented the cybernetic potentiostat with one of his former doctoral students, Peixin He, who went on to found CH Instruments. Faulkner’s former student was so influenced by his experience with Faulkner that he and his wife provided $1 million to U of I to create the Larry Faulkner Professorship in Chemistry to honor his mentor.
Howard Griffith (1967-)
Star Football Player Moves on to Prominent Career in Broadcast
Howard Griffith’s name may ring a bell—if not for his athleticism, then for what he has accomplished since he retired from football.
As a star running back and football captain for the University of Illinois, Griffith (BA ’91, speech communication) helped lead the Illini to a 10-win season in 1989 and a share of the Big 10 title in 1990. During the 1990 season, he rushed for eight touchdowns in a victory against Southern Illinois, which set an NCAA record for rushing touchdowns in a game.
Griffith went on to spend 11 seasons in the NFL, where he played a significant role for the Denver Broncos in winning two Super Bowls (XXXII and XXXIII, in 1998 and 1999). He blocked effectively for star running back Terrell Davis, and in Super Bowl XXXIII, versus the Atlanta Falcons, he scored two rushing touchdowns in a 34-19 victory.
His football-playing career was ended by a neck injury in 2001, but after retirement from the playing field his degree in speech communication came into play as he became a football analyst for television and radio. Griffith is the lead studio anchor for the Big Ten Network’s football coverage, and he analyzes the NFL for ESPN radio in Chicago.
Griffith authored a book on his journey from the south side of Chicago to the Super Bowl, and he worked successfully as a motivational speaker, including serving as a commencement speaker at a recent Illinois graduation. Griffith is also known for his charitable work, as he is co-founder of Turbo Athletics, a sports academy teaching young athletes to excel athletically and academically.
Herbert S. Gutowsky (1919-2000)
A Chemist with a Plaque outside Noyes Lab Pioneered the Use of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
An obituary for Herbert S. Gutowsky, longtime professor of chemistry in the College of LAS, in the magazine Current Science summed up his life’s work succinctly with this meaningful phrase: “One need not emphasize the importance of his discoveries.”
Gutowsky, who arrived at the University of Illinois in 1948, was a pioneer in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, an invaluable technique for sample analysis that has become a standard tool in chemistry, molecular biology, and medical imaging. He was the first chemist to begin using NMR in his research, starting as early as 1948. His investigations had implications for all scientific research regarding molecular structure.
“In short, Gutowsky’s breakthrough discoveries made NMR one of the most important spectroscopic tools in chemical and biochemical research,” according to a statement from the Department of Chemistry. A campus historical marker commemorating Gutowsky’s work is placed outside Noyes Lab.
Gutowsky would build his own apparatus to perform his first NMR experiments, and that work inspired companies to build and sell NMR spectrometers—now a billion-dollar industry.
Born on a produce farm in Michigan, Gutowsky was a quiet man devoted to bicycling, bird-watching, growing roses, and science. He became head of the department in 1967, and in 1970 he oversaw the creation of the School of Chemical Sciences, where he served as director until 1983. Among his many honors were the National Medal of Science in 1977 and the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 1983. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
He published research until the last year of his life.
Rolando Hinojosa-Smith (1929-)
Renowned Author Can Trace His Roots to Texas, Mexico, and the College of LAS
Rolando Hinojosa-Smith acknowledges that, for a professor, he got a relatively late start in his career, not earning his doctoral degree in Spanish until age 40 from the College of LAS. He recently told the college’s Storyography project, however, that he spent time in his younger years writing, teaching, and meeting “all manner of people in many classes of American society,” which helped lead to an internationally renowned career as an author.
Hinojosa-Smith is the author of more than a dozen novels as well as other works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry written in English and Spanish. Born in Texas, some of his best-known works include Ask a Policeman and the Klail City Death Trip Series, an extensive series of novels about a fictional county in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. For that series, he was the first Chicano author to be awarded the prestigious Premio Casa de las Americas award.
Today he is also known as a distinguished scholar in the field of Latino studies, as the Ellen Clayton Garwood Centennial Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches American literature, Mexican-American literature and culture, Chicano literature, creative writing, and other topics regarding the American Southwest.
Hinojosa-Smith maintains strong affinity for his Texan roots and his Mexican ancestry, but he also moved around the country during his life. In 1963, he moved from Michigan to the University of Illinois with his wife, Patty—a move he called the “luckiest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
His warm feelings toward his alma mater have been mutual. Hinojosa-Smith was awarded the College of LAS Alumni Achievement Award in 1988, and the University of Illinois Alumni Association Alumni Achievement Award in 1998.
Freeman Hrabowski (1950-)
Prominent Alum Develops Successful Program that Engages Minorities in the STEM Fields
There are those who learn math and science for their own sake, and there are those who learn it to teach others. One of today’s most prominent figures in math and science education is Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland—Baltimore County (UMBC).
Hrabowski’s career can be traced to the College of LAS, where he earned his master’s degree in mathematics in 1971 before earning his doctoral degree in the College of Education. When he arrived at UMBC in 1987, he quickly began turning the university into a model to recruit and train students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
He created the Meyerhoff Scholars program, now a national model for recruiting and training excellent minority students. The program has 800 alumni, including more than 200 with PhDs or medical degrees (or both), and 300 enrolled in graduate or professional degree programs. Hrabowski has co-authored two books, Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Males, and Overcoming the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Young Women.
He was named president of UMBC in 1992, and he has since become one of the most honored people in higher education. U.S. News and World Report named UMBC the No. 1 “Up and Coming” university in the nation in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and the magazine named him one of America’s Best Leaders in 2008. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he holds honorary degrees from more than 20 institutions, including Illinois, Harvard, and Princeton.
He’s been featured on 60 Minutes, and in 2012, Time listed him as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Icko Iben Jr. (1931-)
Astronomer Shed Light on the Life Cycle of Stars
In one sense, Icko Iben Jr. (pictured, standing on the right) didn’t go far during his career. The native of Urbana-Champaign earned his graduate degrees at Illinois and later served as chair of the Department of Astronomy. On the other hand, he built an international reputation for exploring as far as humanity has ever seen—the stars.
Iben, now distinguished professor emeritus of astronomy and physics at Illinois, is recognized as one of the leading scientists in the world in stellar evolution theory. His calculations helped describe stars from their early contractions to the burning of helium (one of the final stages of a star’s life cycle) and other stages of evolution. The success of his models to describe observations of real stars has been described as the greatest triumph of 20th-century astrophysics.
Iben was named chair of the Department of Astronomy in 1972 and served in that post until 1984, during which he led the department to international acclaim. His research focused on understanding how the products of nuclear reactions deep within stars’ interiors are mixed to the surface. His model predictions have been confirmed by stellar spectroscopy.
He retired in 1999 but remained active in retirement, writing the well-reviewed Stellar Evolution Physics, which has appeared in two volumes totaling about 1,500 pages, providing an encyclopedic account of star structure and evolution, including physics and numerical techniques that go into model building.
Iben was elected into the National Academy of Sciences in 1985. He won several other awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985. In 1990, he was awarded the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, for “single investigations of outstanding merit in theoretical astrophysics.”
Each year, the Department of Astronomy conducts the Icko Iben Jr. Distinguished Lecture Series to bring a noted astronomer to campus to highlight developments in the field in a forum for the general public.
Insect Fear Film Festival
Outreach Effort Is Devoted to Spreading the Truth about Insects
Faculty, students, and staff within the College of LAS have a long tradition of outreach to the surrounding community. Of all the examples, perhaps none is more well-known than the Insect Fear Film Festival, which has been giving audiences the willies—and a lesson or two on bugs—since 1984.
The festival was founded by May Berenbaum, head of the Department of Entomology, who had the idea while she was a graduate student at Cornell University. Her idea didn’t fall on receptive ears until she pitched it as a young professor at the U of I, where it was decided that the event would be free of charge and open to the community at large.
“Our optimism in calling it the ‘first Insect Fear Film Festival’ proved well-founded,” Berenbaum wrote in a historical account of the festival, and organizers established a format that endured. The first festival included two feature-length films (Them and Bug) interspersed with shorts, including The Fly. Since then, the festival has followed generally the same format, with a mix of films (from good to “unspeakably bad,” she says), live exhibits, and other educational displays.
The 1994 festival, for example, featured a 12-hour film marathon and insect “treats” such as deep-fried waxworms and stir-fried silkworm pupae. The same festival featured a children’s art contest, and in 1999 organizers held a blood drive in conjunction with the mosquito film theme.
The festival has been covered by newspapers and broadcasters from around the world, including the New York Times, CNN, CBS Morning News, National Public Radio, and others. Berenbaum writes that it all helps to debunk Hollywood myths about the insect world.
“As long as they keep disseminating disinformation about the most misunderstood taxon on the planet, we have an obligation to counter with the truth about insects,” Berenbaum writes.
International Studies Centers
A Professor Creates a Model for International Studies that Has Endured for Decades
The College of LAS has long been devoted to understanding world cultures. Among the college’s many language and cultural academic programs are its international studies centers, including the U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Centers, which are part of a national initiative launched after Sputnik I to spread global awareness to students.
Institutions must meet high standards of teaching, research, and outreach to be named a Title VI Center, and the U of I has more centers than almost any other university. Five of the six centers on campus are part of the College of LAS, including the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies (1964), European Union Center (1998), Center for Global Studies (1965), Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (1965), and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (1959).
The Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center, created by Professor Ralph Fisher, was the first at Illinois. Many people during the Cold War could not see past the Communist threat, but Fisher used the urgency of the era to lay the groundwork for international studies that would establish LAS as a leader in the area long after the politics of the Cold War had passed. He was one of the first in the nation to apply for and receive funding for a center under the National Defense Education Act of 1958.
By investing in the center’s library, attracting diverse faculty, and making the center’s resources accessible to scholars from around the world, Fisher created a model that subsequent centers used to maintain their status and federal funding for decades. Today, more than 600 faculty members from all of the colleges at Illinois are affiliated with one or more of the centers.
Donald C. Johanson (1943-)
Anthropologist Helped Define What it Is to Be Human
What does it mean to be human? It’s one of the oldest questions of our species, and few have done more to answer it than Donald C. Johanson, one of the most well-known and authoritative experts on human origins and evolution.
After leaving Illinois in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, Johanson went on to Africa, where he discovered “Lucy,” a 3.18 million-year-old female hominid skeleton in Ethiopia. The discovery led to the recognition of a new early human species, Australopithecus afarensis, which led to profound changes in our understanding of evolution, particularly regarding bipedalism, upright walking, and tool use.
Johanson’s numerous writings on the subject have inspired decades of subsequent earth scientists and anthropologists. He has written eight books on the topic, including Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind, which won the American Book Award and is likely the most widely read book on paleoanthropology in the world. He has also played a key role in multiple television films and series, including In Search of Human Origins on Nova.
In 1981, Johanson founded the Institute of Human Origins in Berkeley, Calif., as the first anthropological and public outreach organization of its kind in the U.S. In 1997, the institute was adopted by Arizona State University, where Johanson remains as director and a member of the faculty. He is known for a deep dedication to teaching and research, along with public outreach to share discoveries about the ancient world.
Henry R. Kahane (1902-1992)
A Strong Department in Linguistics at Illinois Was Founded by a Determined Scholar
Henry R. Kahane used to say that his strategy for creating the Department of Linguistics was “very simple”—even though it went on for nine years.
“I made it a point to visit the dean every week and stress the importance of a department of linguistics on this campus,” said the late professor emeritus of linguistics. “He would throw me out the door and I would come back through the window. Finally, I succeeded.”
For his efforts, the College of LAS created the department in 1965, and it’s been home to distinguished research in the field ever since. It’s just one of Kahane’s many achievements in his long career in the College of LAS, where, with “quiet, intelligent, [and] perceptive” style, as described by former Chancellor Morton Weir, he served as head of seven academic units during his time on campus.
“I am sure that he was head of more departments and programs than any other individual in the history of our campus,” said former Dean of LAS Larry Faulkner.
Born in Berlin, Kahane was forced into exile after the rise of Adolf Hitler, and in 1939 he arrived in the United States. Soon after, he came to the University of Illinois as a professor of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. He retired in 1971, but he remained active in the Department of Linguistics until his death in 1992.
He received numerous honors for his teaching and scholarship, including two Guggenheim Fellowships, and in 1984 he served as president of the Linguistic Society of America. His presence is still felt on campus in numerous ways, including a teaching award established in his name by the Department of Linguistics, and the linguistics library, which has been named after Kahane and his wife, Renee.
David Kinley (1861-1944)
Prolific Teacher and Administrator Helped Shape the College of LAS in its Earliest Years
When a major building still bears your name some 70 years after your death, it’s safe to say you made a deep impact on something you cared about in your life. Indeed, David Kinley was one of the most influential figures in the history of LAS and the University of Illinois.
An economist, Kinley was born in Scotland before moving to America at age 11, later becoming the first to earn a PhD in economics from the University of Wisconsin. His first job out of graduate school was as assistant professor of economics at Illinois, where he was named full professor the following year. In 1895 he founded the Department of Economics.
Kinley was a prolific teacher but also an effective administrator. He served as dean of the College of Literature and Arts (a precursor to the College of LAS) until 1906, and he was the first director of the School of Commerce, founded in 1902. There he was involved in negotiations that ultimately landed the Department of Political Science within LAS.
He was appointed dean of the Graduate School in 1906 and served there until 1914, when he became vice president of the University. He was named acting president in 1919, and he served as president from 1920 to 1930. Under Kinley’s leadership, Illinois formed the College of Commerce and Business Administration in 1915.
Kinley’s main academic interests were money, banking, and government regulation. He wrote several books and was active in associations and state and local affairs. He held numerous honorary degrees, and in 1946 the Commerce Building was renamed David Kinley Hall.
Philip Kolb (1907-1992)
Professor of French Brought a Great Mind to Light
Philip Kolb recognized the greatness in Marcel Proust (1871-1922), the French novelist admired as one of the most important writers of the 20th century. In the 1930s, Kolb began editing the deceased writer’s letters, and by the time he had finished some 60 years later, he had produced a scholarly contribution that transformed the understanding of Proust’s life and work for researchers from all over the world.
A native of Chicago, Kolb earned his PhD at Harvard in 1938 before serving in World War II, and was decorated for his service as a naval intelligence officer. He taught in the Department of French at Illinois from 1945 to 1975, during which time he transformed our understanding of Proust, modernism, and French intellectual history.
Proust almost never dated his letters, which meant that organizing the novelist’s enormous volume of correspondence required Kolb to virtually reconstruct Proust’s life day by day, using clues in the letters and a variety of secondary sources, from newspapers to weather reports and diary entries by other correspondents. Kolb was thus able to date almost every one of Proust’s thousands of published letters, and by doing so he made the novelist’s life and ideas more understandable to everyone.
Kolb’s edition of Proust’s correspondence is more than 10,000 pages long, with the last of it published a year after Kolb’s death. It remains an authoritative reference for scholars and biographers, who have given high praise to Kolb for his priceless contributions to their work on Proust.
In honor of his work, Kolb received several awards, including the French Legion of Honor in 1983. Today, his vast database on Proust is available to researchers worldwide through the Kolb-Proust Archive for Research.
Richmond Lattimore (1906-1984)
Poet and Translator’s Legacy Endures in Classrooms Today
Not even a world war could halt Richmond Lattimore’s devotion to poetry. He was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II when he produced studies on the Greek poet Sappho and the Roman poet Catullus, and his translations of Homer, Aeschylus, and Vergil were published in War and the Poet in 1945, near the conclusion of the war.
That’s just a sample of his renowned career. Lattimore is most known for his translations of ancient Greek poetry, including his 1951 translation of the Iliad, which is considered one of the finest translations of Homer. That and his 1967 translation of the Odyssey remain standard texts in university classrooms.
Lattimore (MA ’27; PhD ’35, classics) earned a reputation that was perhaps best described by Herbert Mursurillo, who wrote that Lattimore’s 1958 book, The Poetry of Greek Tragedy, was “a fresh sea-breeze over the parched landscape of classical scholarship.”
Lattimore, who spent the majority of his career teaching at Bryn Mawr College, also wrote poems that appeared in the Saturday Review and other compilations. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Poets.
Recalled as a kind, gentle, and considerate man, Lattimore was moved to write a poem in memory of William Abbot Oldfather, the founder of the Department of Classics at U of I known for leading students and other faculty on outdoor excursions. Oldfather died in a tragic canoeing accident in 1945.
“Think of that country that we knew / so well, land of black woods and trailing vines,” reads Lattimore’s poem, which is on display at the departmental library, “and inland muddy streams that held your fate, / the Pollywogs, the flooded Danville mines, / Sangamon and Vermillion and Salt Fork, / our professional playground / How we played / beside the crawfish-catfish-haunted Lethe stream / through overall-and-gallus groves of Academe.”
Paul C. Lauterbur (1929-2007)
Nobel Laureate Is Remembered for the MRI
It seems that Paul C. Lauterbur was always on a quest for knowledge. In high school, his chemisty/biology teacher excused Lauterbur from class lectures to run science experiments in the school laboratory. Later, while working for Dow Corning Corporation, he took advantage of a job perk to take free classes at the University of Pittsburgh, where he eventually earned a doctorate in chemistry.
While at Pittsburgh, Lauterbur was exposed to nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Later, he would learn that NMR signals could be used to create an image. Further development of this concept led to magnetic resonance imaging, an important medical diagnostic tool. In 2003, Lauterbur, along with Sir Peter Mansfield of the University of Nottingham (who was a research associate at Illinois in the Department of Physics from 1962 to 1964), received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in this area.
Lauterbur was recognized for “seminal discoveries concerning the use of magnetic resonance to visualize different structures,” the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, which issues the award, announced. “These discoveries have led to the development of modern magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, which represents a breakthrough in medical diagnostics and research.”
Prior to Illinois, he was a chemistry professor at State University of New York at Stony Brook. Lauterbur served at Illinois from 1985 until his death, with appointments in the College of Medicine and the Department of Chemistry. He was also director of the Biomedical Resonance Laboratory.
Luis Leal (1907-2010)
Professor Is Remembered for Bringing Overlooked Literature to Light
Authors work hard to give voice to their own writing. Then there are those like the late Luis Leal, who spent a career studying and giving voice to other writers.
Leal, who served as a professor of Spanish in the College of LAS from 1959 to 1976, was an internationally recognized scholar of the literature of Mexico, Latin America, and Latinos in the United States. He wrote more than 30 books and 300 scholarly articles in his career, and he is credited with lending credibility and major exposure to Chicano literature.
It was during his time at Illinois when Leal “began to write essays and deliver papers at conferences that began to call attention to the concept of Chicano literature, which hadn’t really been acknowledged in American literary circles,” Mario T. Garcia, professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UC-Santa Barbara, told the Los Angeles Times after Leal’s death in 2010.
Leal was born in Mexico and earned his college degrees at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. He served in the Pacific during World War II, and in addition to his time at Illinois, he had teaching positions at several universities during his 60-year academic career, including the University of Chicago, the University of Mississippi, Emory University, Stanford University, UCLA, and UC-Santa Barbara.
In 1988, he received the Distinguished Scholarly Award from the National Association of Chicano Studies in recognition of lifetime achievement, and in 1992 he received the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor given to foreign citizens by the Mexican government. In 1999, President Bill Clinton awarded Leal the National Medal for the Humanities for his lifelong contributions to the study of literature.
Carol Lee (1945-)
A Love of Teaching Leads to New Schools and Educational Theories
Carol Lee had no teachers in her family, but one of her earliest memories is pretending to grade papers in a game of classroom make-believe. Little did she know that someday she would help build schools.
Since earning her bachelor’s degree in the teaching of secondary English at Illinois in 1966, Lee has devoted her career to helping minority students overcome low expectations, stereotypes, and inadequate resources. She’s done it through several roles: high school teacher, professor at Northwestern University, and cofounder of several innovative schools in Chicago.
After finishing at Illinois, she went on to teach at Chicago’s Englewood High School. She was heavily influenced by the black power and black art movements, and in 1969 she and her future husband, Haki R. Madhubuti (then Don Lee) helped found the Institute of Positive Education. In 1972, the institute began its own school, New Concept Development Center. It still operates today, along with three other schools in Chicago that Lee cofounded: the Betty Shabazz International Charter School, the Barbara A. Sizemore Academy, and the DuSable Leadership Academy.
She earned her PhD in education from the University of Chicago in 1991, and she is well known for her “cultural modeling” theory, which leverages everyday knowledge of youth to support the teaching of vital concepts. Lee has also led initiatives to help students understand the role of Africa in human history, from ancient Greece to Renaissance Europe, to the modern United States.
“Carol Lee stands out uniquely among contemporary education scholars,” Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan, once said. “Her work has influenced my thinking in ways that are foundational. I know I am not alone.”
Nelson J. Leonard (1916-2006)
Chemist Is Remembered for His Research “With a Purpose”
At the beginning of his long career, Nelson J. Leonard adopted a guiding principle for his research: organic synthesis with a purpose. Now, nearly 30 years after his retirement from Illinois, he is universally recognized as one of the pioneers of chemical biology.
Nelson’s career spanned more than 50 years at Illinois, where he was a professor of chemistry, professor of biochemistry, a professor in the Center for Advanced Study, and the first Reynold C. Fuson Professor of Chemistry. He was one of the first to use synthetic organic chemistry to explore the relationship between structure and function of nucleic acids, the building blocks of genetic code.
Nelson arrived at Illinois on a postdoctoral research assistantship with the renowned Roger Adams. During World War II he trained military personnel who passed through the University; after the war, he joined the faculty in the Department of Chemistry, where he remained until he retired in 1986.
He is considered a master at applying organic synthesis to solve important problems in biochemistry and plant physiology. Nelson’s research spanned an enormous number of subjects, from alkaloids, cell division, and nitrogen heterocycles to heterocyclic ring compounds. Nelson was elected into the National Academy of Sciences at age 38 and received numerous other honors during his career. He was particularly proud of the Roger Adams Award in Chemistry, which he received in 1981.
In all, Nelson published 438 papers. Yet he was also known for lending deep support to younger faculty. Nelson is remembered as a “bridge between eras” in the Department of Chemistry, as he worked with founders such as Adams, Fuson, and Carl “Speed” Marvel, as well as brilliant researchers of the modern era.
Iconic Building Represents Commitment to Higher Education
Undergraduate students in the College of LAS these days might be hard-pressed to believe the old stories about Lincoln Hall, complete with peeling plaster and squirrels running across the theater stage. That’s because a monumental, years-long renovation that concluded in 2012 turned the century-old building into a model of modern higher education.
Designers found ways to preserve Lincoln Hall’s historic features, such as the bust of Lincoln and the terra cotta panels on the building’s exterior, while upgrading classrooms and offices into a 21st-century learning environment.
Recently, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the renovated Lincoln Hall its highest ranking—platinum—in its Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program, which evaluates building construction and renovations on various aspects of sustainability. LEED rankings are touted as the national standard by which “green” building projects are judged.
After the roughly two-and-a-half-year renovation, the building is once again one of the busiest sites on campus, with virtually all U of I undergrads taking a class there at some point during their education. It remains the heart and home of the College of LAS.
While it may be hard to believe now, the building for years had a reputation for being dilapidated and out-of-date. That changed in 2009, when the state legislature approved a statewide capital construction bill that included funding for the roughly $60 million renovation. Governor Pat Quinn announced the funding during a campus visit.
“This is an investment not just for our time but for future generations,” he said. “We have to understand that all of us in Illinois today...have to have the spirit of Abraham Lincoln.... He understood that we in America always want our children’s future to be better.”
Susan Lindquist (1949-)
Scientist Is Known for Her ‘Elegant’ Approach to Fighting Some of Our Most Horrifying Illnesses
Growing up, Susan Lindquist was expected to become a housewife by her parents. She did get married and had two daughters, but she also became one of the most respected molecular biologists in the world.
Lindquist is a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she is most known for her expertise on prions and protein folding, a natural process that can result in disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and cystic fibrosis if it fails. She is also known for advances in nanotechnology, and is co-founder of FoldRx, a company researching drug therapies for diseases involving protein misfolding (the company has been bought by Pfizer).
In 1971, Lindquist earned her bachelor’s degree in microbiology at Illinois before earning a PhD in biology at Harvard University, in 1976. She went on to become the first female director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT, where she is still a member.
One of the highlights of her work is developing yeast strains that serve as “test tubes” to study severe neurological disorders, such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s, and discovering how protein folding is a contributing factor. As one scientist put it, Lindquist is known for “the elegance and diversity of her experimental approaches.”
She has received many honors for her work, including the National Medal of Science. In 1997, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, and Discover magazine has named her one of the Top 50 most important women in science. In 2006, she received the University of Illinois Alumni Achievement Award.
Joseph L. Love (1938-)
An Unassuming Scholar Made LAS a Leader in Brazilian Studies
The nation of Brazil is widely recognized as an emerging economic and political world power. The University of Illinois has seen and understood the implications of this for a long time, thanks largely to the efforts of Joseph L. Love.
Love, professor emeritus of history at the University of Illinois who retired in 2003, has been a driving force in positioning the University as a leader in Brazilian studies. He played a key role in directing the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies by designing its master’s degree program, winning numerous grants, and organizing its consortium with the University of Chicago.
After retirement, he served as interim director of the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies from 2009 to 2011, and he continues to serve on the institute’s board.
Love also is known for his scholarly achievement, notable for its quality and wide impact. He has edited and authored several books and monographs on Brazilian and European history, with all three of his monographs noteworthy enough that they were translated into Portuguese within four years of publication; one was also translated into Romanian. He has received numerous honors for his work, including two Fulbright scholarships, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a Woodrow Wilson fellowship. He was named a University Scholar in 1993, and in 2002, he was named Distinguished Brazilian Studies Scholar by the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
A nomination for the Conference on Latin American History’s distinguished service award emphasized “the unassuming quality of Joe’s style, something so unexpected and striking in a historian whose erudition and publishing were so widely admired.”
Carl Shipp “Speed” Marvel (1894-1988)
The Chemist with a Flashy Name is Remembered for Being Extraordinary
As his name and nickname may suggest, the career of Carl Shipp “Speed” Marvel was spectacular. Known as the father of synthetic polymer chemistry, Marvel influenced thousands of chemists with his teaching, research, and consulting; and his expertise was even central to an Allied victory in World War II.
Marvel, who earned his nickname for the way he raced through meals to accommodate his long hours in the laboratory, served as faculty in Illinois’ Department of Chemistry from 1920 to 1961. Soon after his arrival, he began making discoveries in polymers, which are large molecules with repeating structures, including plastics, neoprene, and rubber.
With his knowledge he became a leader in the Synthetic Rubber Research Program, initiated in the early 1940s to keep Allied armies supplied with tires and boots after Japan choked off natural rubber supplies early in World War II. Due to Marvel’s influence, Illinois was one of the most heavily funded universities in the program.
Marvel also led ground-breaking research on heat-resistant polymers in the 1950s and 1960s, resulting in polybenzimadazoles (PBI), which is now used in clothing worn by astronauts and firefighters, and as fire-proofing in aircraft, among many other uses.
He consulted thousands during his nearly 60-year career for the DuPont Experimental Station, and he trained 176 PhD students and 150 postdoctoral students (which included many years at the University of Arizona after his retirement from Illinois). Indeed, of all his contributions to chemistry, chemists say one of his greatest legacies was his love for people.
Edna Greene Medford (1951-)
An Epiphany Fuels a Career as One of the Leading Historians of the 19th Century
Edna Greene Medford remembers distinctly the night she visited the Westover Plantation in Virginia in 1996. The history of slavery in that place shook her to the core, and it’s fueled her efforts to connect people with the lessons of the past ever since.
“It all came home to me that night, the pain, the suffering, the longing for freedom, all the work the slaves did on that plantation and the attachment I’m sure they felt to that place,” Medford (MA history, ’76) later told Illinois Alumni magazine.
Today, Medford, chair of the Department of History at Howard University, is considered one of the pre-eminent scholars on the Emancipation Proclamation, and a giant in the field of African American history. Since graduating from the College of LAS, she has written extensively about Abraham Lincoln and African Americans around the time of the Civil War, and she teaches numerous courses on the topic.
“Edna Greene Medford is one of the great treasures of the American history field,” says Harold Holzer, one of her collaborators on The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views, which Medford co-authored in 2006. “She is that rarest of scholars who combines interests in documentary history, social history, political history, and forensic anthropology. And all the while, she maintains a devotion to teaching her students at the highest levels of engagement.”
In addition to writing and teaching, Medford lectures widely to national and international audiences on topics ranging from Alexis de Tocqueville’s influence on American politics to African American responses about the policies of Abraham Lincoln. In 2009, she received a special bicentennial induction into the Order of Lincoln, the highest honor awarded by the state of Illinois, for her studies of Abraham Lincoln.
In 2013, she received the LAS Alumni Achievement Award.
Molly Melching (1950-)
Alumna Has Devoted Her Career to the Education and Empowerment of African Communities
They say that studying abroad changes one’s perspective. For Molly Melching, it led to a powerful calling to help villagers halfway around the world.
Melching (AB ’71, general curriculum; MA ’79, French) is founder and director of Tostan, a highly regarded nonprofit organization working with communities in Africa. Meaning “breakthrough” in Wolof (the primary language of Senegal), Tostan provides an innovative, human rights-based education program in eight African countries that builds the capacities needed for villagers to improve living conditions within their communities.
The work by Tostan has led to better health and respect for human rights, particularly advancing the empowerment of rural girls and women. Tostan can be credited for the abandonment by entire communities of the centuries-old practice of female genital cutting, with over 6,500 African communities publicly announcing their abandonment of this practice in recent years.
“Molly Melching saw a deeply disturbing but deeply entrenched practice and refused to accept that it couldn’t be stopped,” said Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a statement the former First Lady and U.S. Secretary of State provided for a biography of Melching entitled However Long the Night. “Her relentless efforts are proof that commitment and partnership can drive transformational change.”
Melching, the recipient of the 1999 LAS Humanitarian Award, first went to Senegal in 1974 as a master’s student as part of an exchange program with the University of Dakar. After her studies, she stayed in Senegal to promote literacy and basic holistic education in rural villages. She founded Tostan in 1991.
The organization has won many awards for its work, including Sweden’s Anna Lindh Human Rights Award (2005), the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize (2007), the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize (2007), the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship (2010), and the 2012 Cécilia Attias “Award in Action” for improving health systems and maternal care.
Using Tostan’s work as a model, Senegal has initiated a national action plan to end female genital cutting by 2015.
Susan Nagele (1955-)
Doctor Chose a Lifetime of Faith and Service to Those in Need
A world of opportunity awaited Susan Nagele when she earned her medical degree in 1981. She chose to go to east Africa, to help those whose future was bleak.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in biology at Illinois in 1978, Nagele earned her medical degree at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. In 1984, she joined the Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful and spent the next six years in Tanzania renovating a health center and providing care.
Beginning in 1991, she spent many years in war-torn Sudan, where she established health centers and launched a tuberculosis program. She sometimes saw 100 patients a day. At one point, Nagele was the only doctor for 30,000 displaced refugees.
In 2003, she moved to Kimini, Kenya, to work at a small hospital in a district where 55 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. More recently, she worked as a medical consultant to the diocesan health coordinator for the Archdiocese of Mombasa, Kenya, to improve healthcare units run by the archdiocese.
Nagele received the LAS Humanitarian Award in 2000, and the University of Illinois Alumni Humanitarian Award in 2005. Her work was featured by ABC’s Nightline in 1999, and in 2012 she received the Medal of Valor from the American Medical Association.
For her LAS Humanitarian Award, Nagele recounted how she integrated faith and compassion in Africa while enduring heat, language barriers, and bouts with infectious disease.
“There is no training in kindness in medicine,” she said, “but it’s the most important thing.”
Marie Hochmuth Nichols (1908-1978)
A Pioneer in Communication Research Still Influences Her Field
Words have meaning. Just how much meaning they convey has been studied for years, and one of the most influential pioneers in this area of research is Marie Hochmuth Nichols.
Professor Nichols arrived at the University of Illinois in 1939 to teach and study communication, and she would remain in the College of LAS until her retirement in 1976. During this time she developed what became known as the “Illinois Tradition” of communication research, which included establishing the study of “public address,” introducing scholars to rhetorical theory, and otherwise examining how words influence action.
“No one can study rhetoric and public address without being influenced by her work as an editor, a theorist, and critic,” wrote Jane Blankenship, who earned her doctoral degree under Nichols and later became president of the National Communication Association (NCA).
Nichols was also known for her devotion to teaching, with her office light burning late into the night as she balanced research and a reputation for being accessible to students at any time. Nichols distinguished her teaching by applying concepts from old texts and speeches—from the philosophy of Aristotle to the speeches of Lincoln—to contemporary problems.
Nichols was also the first woman to be elected president of the Speech Communication Association (now NCA) by vote of the entire membership. She was the first woman to be appointed editor of the Quarterly Journal of Speech, the field’s flagship publication, and she used her post to expose readers to new social-scientific and philosophic theories that continue to influence communication research today.
Eugene Odum (1913-2002)
Doctoral Studies in the College of LAS Launched the Career of a Giant in Ecology
Taught from a young age to look at issues in their entirety, Eugene Odum rejected several graduate programs before he decided to study at Illinois’ Department of Zoology. It was a good fit—Odum went on be called “the father of modern ecology.”
Studying under his advisor, Charles Kendeigh, in what is now the Department of Animal Biology, Odum learned to identify general principles that governed the dynamics of ecological systems. After he received his PhD in 1939, he became a professor at the University of Georgia, where he spent his entire working career and emerged as one of the most influential scientists in ecology.
In 1953, he published Fundamentals of Ecology, which was then the only book in the field and influenced a generation of ecologists. Odum also served as first director of the Institute of Ecology, and he founded the Marine Institute in Georgia and the world-renowned Savannah River Ecological Laboratory in South Carolina. His many honors included the Crafoord Prize (the Nobel equivalent for ecologists) and being inducted into the Ecology Hall of Fame.
“The work of Dr. Odum changed the way we look at the natural world and our place in it,” said President Jimmy Carter, upon bestowing Odum with the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.
Odum was also particularly effective at outreach and communicating ecological concepts to those outside the field. Many of his scholarly articles and books were written for a lay audience, and his work with community and political leaders led to the Greenspace Program, which preserved more than four million acres of land in Georgia.
Charles E. Osgood (1916-1991)
Psychologist Influenced How We Think about Thought—and Worked Tirelessly to Avert War
At the foundation of several disciplines in psychology is one common denominator: Charles E. Osgood. His ideas were so influential that he is even remembered for playing a role in helping the world emerge from the shadow of nuclear war.
Osgood was a professor in the Department of Psychology from 1949 to 1984. He earned essentially every major honor in the field, and he’s credited with developing several psychological research disciplines, including psycholinguistics (the empirical study of how people speak and understand language), theories of language production and interpretation, cross-cultural studies, and the Semantic Differential, which has been used in thousands of studies as a standard method of measuring the meaning of words.
During the Cold War, Osgood became so concerned about the possibility of nuclear war that he devised a strategy to decrease political tension. He called it Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension-reduction (GRIT), and he described it to the U.S. Senate as a reciprocal method for nations to make increasingly significant gestures of peace.
Osgood worked tirelessly to put the theory before policymakers, and he testified before the Senate and House of Representatives. They listened. Following the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the nation narrowly averted war with the Soviet Union, Osgood received a note from a member of the Kennedy administration that asked, “What did you think of our use of GRIT in Cuba?”
Richard Powers (1957-)
Renowned Novelist also Worked as Professor at Illinois
There was a time, believe it or not, when Richard Powers was known more for his computer prowess than his writing. After graduating from the U of I, he was working as a computer programmer in Boston in the early 1980s when one day he walked into the Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and saw a 1914 photo of three farm boys headed to a dance. Something about it sparked an idea, and within 48 hours he quit his job to write his first novel.
The result was Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, published in 1985 to wide acclaim. Powers has been writing novels ever since, winning the National Book Award in 2006 for The Echo Maker, and named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award prior to his 2006 win.
After the success of his first book, Powers (BA ’78; MA ’80, English) moved to Holland to write without distraction, but he was drawn back to the Midwest, and in 1992 he returned to the U of I as a professor of English and writer-in-residence. During his time at Illinois he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received a MacArthur “genius” fellowship, among many other honors.
“His generosity to colleagues and students in English is truly legendary,” says Curtis Perry, professor and former head of the Department of English. Powers recently retired from his position, and in fall 2013 he joined the Stanford University Department of English as a professor of creative writing.
Technology is often at the core of his novels, but complex characters and ideas drive the plot.
“The need for knowledge is as passionate as any other human obsession,” he once told The Believer magazine.
Clifford Ladd Prosser (1907-2002)
Professor with an “Encyclopedic Mind” Helped Found the Field of Comparative Physiology
When hired as a professor of zoology at the University of Illinois in 1939, Clifford Ladd Prosser insisted on developing a new course that would teach some of the basic concepts of comparative physiology. By the end of his career, he was considered the “father” of modern studies in that field.
In fact, that new course eventually led to Prosser’s most renowned book, Comparative Animal Physiology, which went through four editions from 1950 to 1991 and greatly influenced modern physiology. A second major book, Adaptational Physiology: Molecules to Organisms, explained physiology by integrating molecular and ecological data.
His research covered a span of topics, from invertebrate neurobiology to muscle contraction. In 1942, he led a group of 150 researchers to study the effects of radiation on organisms as part of the Manhattan Project, leading him to sign the famous Szilard-Einstein letter to President Truman warning against the use of a nuclear bomb.
Prosser’s vision for new fields of study helped shape the College of LAS. He developed a broad-based program that led to the Department of Physiology, which became one of the best of its kind in the nation (it was later named the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology). He was also important in the development of neuroscience and biophysics programs on campus.
Prosser continued researching until his late 80s. In his obituary, two students praised his encyclopedic knowledge, “unbridled enthusiasm” for comparative physiology, an amazing ability to process enormous amounts of data, and “genuine interest in and respect for his students to the extent that they became adopted members of an extended Prosser family.”
Proving the Four-Color Theorem
A Theorem That Eluded Mathematicians for More Than a Century Was Finally Proven at Illinois
In 1852, Francis Guthrie was coloring a map of counties in England when he noticed that only four colors were needed. This led to the Four-Color Theorem, stating that in distinguishing regions of any map, no more than four colors are required to ensure that no two adjacent regions will have the same color.
Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. The theorem wasn’t proven until 1976, when the late Kenneth Appel and Wolfgang Haken, mathematics professors at the University of Illinois, finally proved the conjecture. It was the first major mathematical theorem to be solved with aid from a computer.
Haken first became interested in the theorem in 1949, but as he worked on it he realized that the breakthrough would not come without help from a computer. Thus began his collaboration with Appel, who was also an expert in computer programming.
Their solution was reported around the world, and the news was greeted with both enthusiasm and skepticism by purists who did not believe that the theorem could be proven by a machine. Subsequent efforts have confirmed the proof, however. In tribute to the professors’ work, the Department of Mathematics used the phrase “Four Colors Suffice” on its postmark for years.
In an interview more than 30 years after the proof, Haken credited mathematicians before them for most of the accomplishment.
“We were the fifth generation of people working on the problem,” he said, “so four-fifths had been done by others.”
James G. Randall (1881-1953)
Historian Provided a New, Clear-Headed View of Lincoln and the Civil War
They say history is written by the winners, but anyone who believes such a thing is unfamiliar with the likes of James G. Randall.
A professor of history in LAS from 1920-1950, Randall was an acclaimed scholar on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. He was known for a methodological, scientific approach to researching history, and for possessing a distinct sense of neutrality when it came to evaluating the conflicting views in the Civil War. His work on Lincoln remains an important resource for historians today.
In his most influential book, The Civil War and Reconstruction (1937), regarded for many years as one of the most important books on the period, Randall argued that traditional views that the Civil War was inevitable were “superficial.” On the contrary, he argued, war could have been avoided if not for extremists on both sides who made political compromise impossible.
“Reforming zeal, in those individual leaders in whom it became most vociferous and vocal, was often unrelieved by wisdom, toleration, tact, and the sense of human values,” Randall wrote. “It was a major cause of the conflict itself.”
In addition to his role as professor, Randall was president of the American Historical Association in 1952, and president of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association from 1939 to 1940. During his time at Illinois, he taught doctoral student David Herbert Donald, an eventual two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner and acclaimed Lincoln scholar.
In honor of his contributions to the field and to Illinois, the J.G. Randall Distinguished Professor chair was established in his name.
William Rutter (1928-)
Former Faculty and Alum Has Helped Create Life-Saving Pharmaceuticals
Hepatitis. HIV. Cancer. The words themselves send a chill, and they’re exactly the conditions that William Rutter has spent his career trying to beat. Described as one of the “fathers of the biotech industry,” he’s responsible for several promising advances in the fight against disease.
After earning his doctoral degree in the College of LAS, Rutter (PhD ’52, biochemistry) returned to the U of I as a faculty member for eight years before moving to the West Coast. In 1969, he founded a new Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at University of California-San Francisco, and his career has been marked by important breakthroughs ever since.
In 1981 he co-founded Chiron, one of the first biotechnology companies. Rutter’s entrepreneurism and research has resulted in many honors and awards, but more importantly it has helped to deliver life-saving drugs and solutions to the public.
Early in his career he cloned and explored the structure and function of insulin. His research on Hepatitis B resulted in the first recombinant vaccine, and his lab also cloned the Hepatitis C virus. In 1984, Rutter helped sequence the HIV genome. This and other pioneering work paved the way for development of diagnostic tests and viral therapies, and other advances against cancer and metabolic disease.
Rutter has produced more than 375 scientific papers and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He has served on the National Research Council Governing Board of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Council, and he’s committed deep support to the College of LAS through an endowed chair named after his father. He’s also donated separate named funds that assist faculty and student research while honoring prominent scientists in U of I history.
Richard T. Scanlan (1928-2009)
Classics Professor Made His Point through Theatrics—and His Lessons Were Never Forgotten
Most institutions at the University of Illinois come in the form of programs and facilities, but one of the best known was a magnetic teacher in the College of LAS: Richard T. Scanlan.
The professor of classics, who taught from 1967 to 1998, became so popular that many former students would encourage their children—and, as his career progressed, their grandchildren—to take his courses. His class in classical mythology became perhaps the most popular course on campus, with enrollment growing from 200 to 1,500 within the first five years of its existence in the 1970s (it was later capped at 1,200). In all, an estimated 56,000 students took the class during Scanlan’s career.
He devoted himself completely to his role as teacher, often dressing as the mythical figures he was teaching about, such as Hercules, Venus, and Apollo, the Greek god of prophecy, who would predict Illinois football and basketball scores. Scanlan sometimes arrived at class on horseback.
A People magazine profile in 1978 described his mild-mannered demeanor and affinity for bow ties and jeans, adding that he “recognized long ago that there were certain, uh, tedious stretches in his courses on classical civilization. He decided a few theatrics wouldn’t hurt.”
Scanlan pioneered the use of computers in teaching Latin, as he was one of the early consultants on the PLATO system, a widely used computer instruction system that was developed at Illinois. He wrote several books and articles on Latin pedagogy. His greatest legacy is his teaching, however, for which Scanlan won countless awards.
Phillip Sharp (1944-)
Nobel Laureate Is a Leader in Biology and Biotechnology
As a boy on a small family farm in Kentucky, one of Phillip Sharp’s first discoveries was science itself. It was, he recalled later, a way to continue learning. That calling would carry him to the University of Illinois and beyond, as today the Nobel Prize-winning professor is recognized as one of the leading biologists in the field.
He first attended Union College, where a young professor advised him to apply to enter the University of Illinois’s Department of Chemistry.
“This old and distinguished department must have recognized some hidden promise,” he later wrote, “as I was offered a fellowship.”
He earned his PhD in 1969 and went on to work at California Institute of Technology and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory before taking a faculty position in 1974 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has remained ever since. In 1993, he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with Richard J. Roberts, for discovering that genes of higher organisms are separated by “nonsense” DNA. The discovery has helped scientists understand gene sequences and the evolution of organisms.
Sharp is also noted as one of the founding entrepreneurs in biotechnology, starting Biogen in 1978. The company later became Biogen Idec, Inc., and it focuses on developing drugs for neurological disorders, autoimmune disorders, and cancer. He co-founded Alnylam Pharmaceuticals in 2002.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, he has received numerous honors and awards, including the National Medal of Science, appointment to the National Academy of Sciences, and high distinction at M.I.T. He has given back to his alma mater by endowing the Phillip A. Sharp Professorship in Biochemistry and other philanthropic efforts. In 2003, he received the U of I Alumni Achievement Award.
Thomas Siebel (1952-)
Renowned Software Giant Is also a Leader in Philanthropy
There are great business leaders, and there are great philanthropists. Thomas Siebel is a rare combination of both.
Siebel (BA ’75, history; MBA ’83; MS ’85, computer science) is arguably one of the most successful American businessmen of the past two decades. Recognized by Fortune magazine and Businessweek—and honored by many other organizations—for his ability to grow and manage companies, he is best known as founder, chairman, and CEO of Siebel Systems, a software giant that earned annual revenues in excess of $2 billion before it merged with Oracle Corporation in 2006.
Before Siebel Systems, he was also CEO of Gain Technology, which merged with Sybase in 1992. Siebel is currently chairman of First Virtual Group, a diversified holding company, and C3, an energy and emissions management company.
Siebel is also a leader in philanthropy and public service. In 1996, he created the Siebel Foundation to fund a variety of efforts, including supporting the homeless, education and research, and alternative energy, and preventing methamphetamine abuse. The Foundation’s Meth Project received a White House Commendation in 2006 as Most Influential Drug Program, and in 2009 Barron’s named Siebel one of the world’s top 25 philanthropists.
He has made a deep impact at several universities, including the University of Illinois, where he has initiated many programs to improve research and education. In 2006, he created the Thomas M. Siebel Chair in the History of Science in the Department of History, and he has served on the board of advisors for the College of Engineering. He has donated millions to the University of Illinois, including the University’s largest gift on record, in 2007, when he pledged $100 million for science and engineering research.
A Museum Endured Hard Times to Become a Campus Gem
In 1911, Illinois President Edmund James wanted a way to expose students and the community to cultures from around the world. His initiative grew and evolved into the Spurlock Museum, one of the best cultural museums in the country that attracts thousands of visitors to campus each year.
Spurlock began as two museums—the Museum of Classical Archaeology and Art and the Museum of European Cultures—which merged into one in the 1960s. Located on the fourth floor of Lincoln Hall, it remained there for nearly 90 years and went through a series of name changes.
Dedicated directors and staff kept the museum alive through financial hardships such as the Great Depression. The first full-time director, Oscar Dodson, argued that the collection should be expanded, and it was renamed the World Heritage Museum in 1971. It bore that name until 2002, when it moved to a new 55,000-square-foot building on the east side of campus made possible by a gift from alumnus William R. Spurlock in honor of his wife, Clarice.
The museum features the cultures of North and South America, the ancient Mediterranean, East Asia and Oceania, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. In 2009, it received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, an honor given to only 5 percent of museums in the country.
The success of the museum is in the numbers. Some 10,000 school-age children visit Spurlock every year. The museum possesses about 56,000 artifacts in its primary and teaching collections, 2,000 books, and 146,000 digital and non-digital images. Spurlock Museum hosted 700 events last year and collaborates with dozens of campus units. During the past six years the number of visitors has doubled.
Carol Stack (1940-)
Anthropology Alum Changed Our View about Life in the Grip of Poverty
Perhaps stereotypes are unavoidable. Few have done more to break them down, however, than Carol Stack.
After receiving her master’s degree and PhD in anthropology in the College of LAS, Stack became one of the preeminent names in cultural research through her examination of African American communities. Her book, All Our Kin: Strategies for Survival in a Black Community, became an instant classic when it was published in 1974 for its eloquent portrayal of social networks under the strain of poverty.
Stack spent several years traveling and collecting stories for the follow-up book, Call to Home: African Americans Reclaim the Rural South (1996), which also deeply influenced cultural understandings as it described the return of blacks to the south after they attempted to live up north. The book won the Victor Turner Award in Ethnographic Writing, the highest honor for such writing in the U.S.
Stack taught at Boston University and Duke University before she took a faculty position in 1987 at the University of California at Berkeley, where she is a professor emerita of the Graduate School of Education. She has also studied the lives of women.
She is the recipient of many fellowships and awards, including the Rockefeller Foundation Grant, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Russell Sage Foundation Research Grant, and a fellowship at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. She received a College of LAS Alumni Achievement Award in 1999.
Sociologists working in Chicago housing projects years after Stack’s original work report finding the same social networks that the anthropologist described.
“Despite the odds against these people, their tenacious patterns still exist,” Stack said, in response. “That speaks to their strength.”
Joel Stebbins (1878-1966)
A View of the Universe Never Seen Before Came from One Resourceful Astronomer
Talk about doing a lot with a little. While giant telescopes in the American West offer some of the best views of space, one of the most influential astronomers in history worked out of a tiny observatory in Urbana. Some of Professor Joel Stebbins’s most important discoveries were made before the University of Illinois even had a Department of Astronomy.
Stebbins arrived at the University of Illinois in 1903 as director of the Observatory. Initially with no operating budget, he developed an academic program and conducted astronomical research that soon gained international recognition.
He changed the way astronomers measured starlight. Astronomers once measured it with the naked eye or by using photographic film. Stebbins, however, did it with a selenium cell photometer (and later a photoelectric cell photometer) that he developed with physics professors. Through that method he made major discoveries, including his study of the eclipsing binary star Algol.
Today, most astronomical data are gathered with an electric detector that can trace its origins to Stebbins. He also developed new mathematical methods for analyzing research data.
Stebbins became known as one of Illinois’ most prestigious scientific researchers, and he was awarded several national and international honors for his groundbreaking work. Ever resourceful, he was known for using every instrument in the Observatory for his research and teaching.
In 1989, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the Observatory a National Historic Landmark.
“One doesn’t have to go to a place where there is a large observatory to find something to do,” Stebbins once said. “I have found conditions here in Urbana more favorable to my work than anywhere else.”
Arvarh Strickland (1930-2013)
Historian Leaves a Legacy of Service and Mentorship
Arvarh Strickland is remembered as the first African American to hold a tenure-track faculty position at the University of Missouri. His real legacy, however, lies in what he did after he arrived there.
Born in Mississippi, Strickland received his bachelor’s degree from Tougaloo College in 1951 before receiving his master’s degree at Illinois in 1953. He served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955, and then returned to become one of the first two African Americans to earn a PhD in history at Illinois, in 1962. In 1969, he joined the University of Missouri, where he would eventually serve as chair of the Department of History and establish the university’s Black Studies Program, before retiring in 1996.
Strickland authored and edited more than a half dozen books and three dozen journal articles, but he is most remembered for his sense of duty and service. He was the first African American president of Phi Alpha Theta, the professional fraternity for historians, and he received many awards for teaching and mentoring students and minorities.
A room in Missouri’s Memorial Student Union was named after Strickland in 1996, and in 1999, Strickland’s former students and others helped establish the Strickland Endowed Professorship in African American History and Black Studies. A classroom building was named after him in 2007.
Strickland was a founding member of the Gamma Upsilon chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha and remained an active member for 64 years. He worked with a friend to establish Minority Men’s Connection, to foster community involvement, and he served in numerous state and local organizations. He received the LAS Alumni Achievement Award in 1997.
University of Illinois Students
Their Success and Hard Work Help to Define the College
The College of LAS is an outstanding unit within a world-class university, moving forward with top-notch faculty and staff. Yet the element that undoubtedly brings so much energy, purpose, and potential to campus each year is the student body.
Today there are more than 11,000 students in LAS, meaning that more students call this college home than any other college on campus. It is one of the most diverse colleges on campus, and the ratio of males to females is about 1 to 1.
LAS students take rigorous, ambitious course loads in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, including majors ranging from psychology, chemistry, and philosophy to English, statistics, and molecular and cellular biology. No matter what their field of study, each student has the opportunity to obtain a well-rounded education and a deep understanding of the complexities of the world around them.
LAS students are accustomed to success. Today’s average ACT score for incoming freshmen is above 28, and 45 percent of them graduated within the top 10 percent of their high school class. And once they get to campus, their ambition continues—LAS students are at the core of many campus initiatives and take advantage of numerous career and academic opportunities, such as study abroad.
The number of LAS students who qualify for the college’s honors programs has increased 30 percent over the past five years. Recent Rhodes Scholars, a Gates Cambridge Scholar, and a Marshall Scholarship recipient from Illinois were LAS students. Thousands of LAS alumni have graduated from Illinois to become leaders in business, politics, education, medicine, law, and myriad other fields around the world.
Michio Suzuki (1926-1998)
After an Unlikely Journey to Illinois, a Mathematician Makes History
As he fled American bombs in Tokyo during World War II, Michio Suzuki might have been hard pressed to imagine a future in the United States. He would come to Illinois, however, to become one of the most important mathematicians of the 20th century.
In 1952, Suzuki left his post as a lecturer in Japan (where he’d been a student during the war) and came to the College of LAS on a graduate fellowship in mathematics. He later became a research associate and then a full professor by 1959. He’d remain for the rest of his career.
He’d make a discovery at Illinois that shook the mathematical world. Suzuki was an expert in group theory, with groups generally defined as fundamental mathematical objects that capture the set of symmetries of a geometric structure or collection of invertible transformations of a physical system. Simple groups are the building blocks of finite groups, and in 1960, Suzuki discovered the infinite family of finite simple groups that bears his name.
The discovery made him instantly famous in math circles; no new finite simple groups had been discovered since five simple groups were discovered during the mid-1800s. Suzuki later expanded upon his findings, ensuring that his name will endure as long as group theory is studied. Under his guidance, the Department of Mathematics became a renowned center of research in the topic.
Among his many awards, Suzuki was a Guggenheim Fellow and a professor at the U of I’s Center for Advanced Studies. After being diagnosed with cancer, he returned to Japan, where he worked on his final paper until the last days of his life.
John (“Jack”) F. Welch Jr. (1935-)
A Giant in Business Traces His Roots to LAS
Of all the living alumni of the College of LAS, arguably the most famous is John (“Jack”) F. Welch Jr., best known for his legendary tenure as CEO of General Electric. Fortune magazine named him “Manager of the Century” in 1999, and though he retired as CEO in 2001, he continues to make an impact on countless people’s lives.
Welch’s career has always been fast-paced. He arrived at the University of Illinois in 1957 after earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, and by 1960 he had earned his MS and PhD in chemical engineering. He went directly from college to GE, where he would work for his entire career, starting as a junior chemical engineer. He ascended the ranks quickly, and in 1981 he was named CEO.
When he took the job as CEO, the company’s revenues stood at $27 billion. Just before he retired in 2001, GE’s revenues were $130 billion. Welch’s success earned him deep respect in the business world and beyond, and the advice he imparted through writing and commentary became widely regarded as guideposts for success. His best-selling books, Jack: Straight from the Gut (2001) and Winning (2005), and also “The Welch Way,” the weekly column in Businessweek that he wrote with his wife, Suzy, are often quoted.
Welch remains active, particularly in education. In 2006, he helped create the John F. Welch College of Business at Sacred Heart University, and, in 2009, he paid more than $2 million for a 12 percent stake in Chancellor University System LLC, delivering online education. This MBA program was acquired by Strayer University in 2011 and has become the Jack Welch Management Institute.
Carl Woese (1928-2012)
The Professor of Microbiology is Credited with Discovering a “New Domain” of Life during a Nearly Half-Century Career at the University of Illinois
Hailed as one of the greatest evolutionary biologists of the 20th century, the late Carl Woese was an impressive presence on campus for nearly half a century. The professor of microbiology is most remembered for uncovering a “third domain” of life, but he was also known for his deep love for the University of Illinois.
His most famous discovery came during Woese’s painstaking analysis of the ribosome, a protein-building machine abundant in all living cells. Rather than classifying organisms by their physical traits, as others had done, Woese compared genetic sequences.
In 1977, he and his colleagues reported that the microbes now known as archaea are distinct from bacteria, thus overturning universally held assumptions that life had only two main branches—bacteria and everything else.
“Carl was truly a man of vision, creativity, and passion, with a deep love of this university,” said Gene Robinson, director of the Institute for Genomic Biology, where Woese also served as a professor.
Woese joined the College of LAS in 1964 as a professor of microbiology. He received the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award in 1984, and he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1988. He was awarded the Leeuwenhoek Medal in 1992, the National Medal of Science in 2000, and, in 2003, the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences, widely considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for areas of science that fall outside the terms of Alfred Nobel’s original bequest.
Ralph Wolfe (1921-)
A Giant in Microbiology Helps Create Independent Thinkers
One of the great modern day puzzles in science has been how certain microorganisms reduce carbon dioxide to methane, an important biofuel and potent greenhouse gas. The chemistry of this process is incredibly complicated, and to understand it requires decades of creative, meticulous, and painstaking work—the kind of work that Ralph Wolfe is known for.
Wolfe’s colleagues say that he would rather be anonymous, even though he’s known as a giant in the field of microbiology whose research has established principles of microbial ecology, physiology, biochemistry, and phylogeny that define much of the field today.
“It is difficult to think of another person who has brought such broad vision, high standards of excellence and accomplishment, intense dedication, sustained activity, and enormous impact on microbiology,” said John Cronan Jr., professor and head of the Department of Microbiology.
The discovery of novel coenyzmes for methane formation by Wolfe and his colleagues helped make possible Professor Carl Woese’s discovery of a third domain of life, called archaea, as only Wolfe’s lab knew the conditions necessary to grow the organisms.
Wolfe is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for teaching and research, including membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Science. His former students are employed in top-notch laboratories across the nation, including at least six at DuPont Central Research and Development.
“In operating my laboratory, my purpose has not been to play the role of the brilliant intellectual leader, but rather to stay in the background and try to create an atmosphere in which students can develop into independent investigators,” Wolfe once said.
At age 92, he can still be found on campus working in the laboratory.
Florian Znaniecki (1882-1958)
Sociologist Changed How We Study Society
Florian Znaniecki made a name for himself as co-author of the widely influential book, The Polish Peasant. What’s become clear in the half-century since his death, however, is that his work is also the root of fundamental methods of sociological research.
Born in Poland, Znaniecki was educated in his home country and served as faculty at the University of Poznan until 1939, when he worked a short spell at Columbia University before becoming a professor of sociology at Illinois in 1940. He taught and researched at the University until his death.
The Polish Peasant, which Znaniecki wrote with W.I. Thomas, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, became a foundational work in empirical sociology. It included several methodological innovations, including the use of letters and autobiographies to conduct sociological analysis. The book was also one of the first works to use analytic induction, the systematic examination of similarities in observations to develop concepts that can later be tested using empirical data.
He wrote several books, including The Social Role of the University Student, which is a study of students at Illinois. The book served as inspiration for the Ethnography of the University Initiative, which is based at Illinois and serves to promote student research at colleges and universities.
In addition to his research, Znaniecki is remembered as an inspirational teacher. “By following your intellectual leadership I feel that I am sharing, if only to a small degree, in that unique European teacher-student relationship which I have been seeking and for which there is little opportunity here,” one student wrote to him. “Consequently, I feel that this, my first semester with you, marks the true beginning of my university career.”
R. Tom Zuidema (1927-)
Anthropologist Is Renowned for His Work on the Inca Empire
As a young man in the Netherlands, R. Tom Zuidema was ready to take a civil service appointment to Indonesia when his plans were upended by Indonesian revolutionaries. Instead, he came to the Americas, and the College of LAS, where he became renowned for transforming our understanding of the Inca Empire.
Zuidema, professor emeritus of anthropology and Latin American Studies, took early written records by Western “witnesses” to the South American empire—including conquistadors, missionaries, and others associated with Spanish colonialism—and interpreted them to gain deeper understanding of Inca social and political life. He extended this painstaking work to cover other aspects of Inca society; in doing so, he became known as one of the leading anthropologists of his generation.
Since joining the College of LAS as a professor in 1964, Zuidema has trained many students who have gone on to be leading scholars in archaeology, ethnohistory, and ethnography, with particular emphasis on life in the Andes mountain range. His own scholarly contributions have been recognized around the world.
He was appointed by Queen Juliana to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, and he is the recipient of many honorary degrees from universities in Peru. In 2008, the president of Peru honored him with the Order of “The Sun of Peru,” in the rank of Comendador. The University of Bologna, Italy, where Zuidema has lectured, made him a member of its Center for Advanced Studies.
At home, Zuidema is one of only three anthropologists ever appointed to the U of I Center for Advanced Studies. He retired in 1993, but he has remained an active scholar, continuing with speaking engagements and writing. Just short of 90 years old, he is preparing another book-length study focusing on pre-Hispanic textiles.