The Real Deal
Whenever people talk about Dorothy DiIorio, there is no shortage of adjectives.
"Dorothy is gentle, open-minded, kind, and terribly bright," says Gail McClain, the former president of the LAS Alumni Board who recruited DiIorio to the board in 1997.
"She is dependable and honorable, interesting and fun," adds Diane Gottlieb, the current LAS Board president who worked side-by-side with DiIorio for several years.
These glowing remarks are standard fare for DiIorio, whose qualities of character have left a lasting impression on the people who worked with her. One such quality has been her commitment to LAS, beginning when she was a student in the late 1940s and continuing to this day. For this, she is the 2007 LAS Distinguished Service Award winner.
Although DiIorio was born in St. Louis, she spent her formative years in Urbana. Midway through high school, her father's job took the family to Evanston, Ill., but DiIorio was back in Urbana for college, receiving her BA in Spanish in 1949 with a minor in history. Being drawn back to Urbana would be a theme for her life, as she retained close ties with the College of LAS and the Urbana campus.
In 1953, DiIorio began work at the Illini Center in downtown Chicago, the start of her long career with the U of I. While she spent most of her adult life living in Evanston and working at the U of I's Chicago campus, DiIorio returned to the Urbana campus for two years—1960 and '61. That's all the time it took for her to meet and marry Jim DiIorio, forming a lifelong partnership that serves as another example of her devotion and commitment.
McClain says the LAS Board actively recruited DiIorio because of her reputation as an effective and energetic director of the U of I Alumni Association on the Chicago campus. At the time, DiIorio had just retired from the U of I, but retirement didn't keep her from traveling down to Urbana nearly once a month for countless events and games.
DiIorio joined the board and went to work overhauling the bylaws of the LAS Alumni Association—a mammoth task that required the tact that she is known for.
"I need to add another adjective here—Dorothy is also fair-minded," says McClain. "She has a great ability to pull people together and get everybody on the same page. She is issue-driven and doesn't let pettiness enter into the discussion."
"Whenever there was any discord on the board, she was always the one to smooth it away," adds Gottlieb. "She dealt strongly from knowledge but never in a contentious way."
One of the board's major tasks is devising creative and educational activities for alumni—a job for which DiIorio was tailor-made. "Dorothy has a canny sense of what will interest members of the LAS Alumni Association," McClain says.
According to McClain, this "canny sense" comes from DiIorio's insatiable appetite for learning new things and discovering new worlds. As director of the U of I travel program for many years, she has been all across the globe, leading alumni on trips from Kenya to Antarctica.
"Education is an adventure for her," says Gottlieb. "She has an aura of youth about her and tries to make the most out of the world."
Yet another adjective that colleagues use to describe DiIorio is "generous." She is currently establishing a significant need-based scholarship for LAS students. In 2004, she provided funding for the Carmichael DiIorio Balcony in the Alice Campbell Alumni Center. And after her husband passed away in 2004, she established the James D. DiIorio Student Assistance Award at the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations. This award helps students whose financial needs jeopardize the completion of their degree.
In 2006, she funded the U of I library's acquisition of a digital facsimile of The Chicago Defender, one of the most influential African American newspapers of the 20th century.
But regardless of all the gifts, DiIorio's character trumps all.
"Dorothy is unfailingly friendly, intellectually curious, and gracious," says Patrick Hayes, LAS director of development.
Or as Gottlieb puts it, "Dorothy is the real deal."
By Doug Peterson