Why is Lincoln's nose shinier than the rest of his head? Because tradition holds that students who rub the nose on this bust in Lincoln Hall will have good luck on a test.
Abraham Lincoln played a significant role in the creation of the premiere public university in his home state by signing the Morrill Act, the legislation that created the land grant university system. At the time of Lincoln's presidency, the United States was rich in land, and Congressman Justin Morrill's legislation gave states millions of acres that could be used or sold to fund state universities. In 1867, Illinois sold 380,000 of its 480,000 land grant acres at 66 cents an acre, raising a little more that $250,000 to fund Illinois Industrial University, which would become the University of Illinois.
The first regent (president) of the University was John Milton Gregory. Until Gregory's arrival, many proponents of the new university wanted it to stick to providing a mechanical and industrial education to the state's citizens, who were mostly farmers. Gregory made clear that the university would provide a "liberal and practical education to the industrial classes." In his inaugural address, Gregory stated that the university must offer "a full table spread with every form of human knowledge, and bid (students) freely to the feast." It was largely because of Gregory that the university's curricula was broadened to offer a range of scholarly pursuits for the first class of 77 students, and for generations of Illini.
Illinois is proud of its land grant heritage and continues to strive toward continued realization of the mission mandated with Lincoln's signature: excellence in education, research, and public engagement.