At Illinois, we had the chance to celebrate Veterans Day a bit early at the groundbreaking for the Chez Family Foundation Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education on Friday. I’m so proud of our campus commitment to supporting our veterans as they pursue their education. And we all look forward to the impact on campus and beyond of the programs and services that will be available when the doors open.
The center is an extension of the importance Illinois places on the men and women in our family who have served in the United States military. They make up such a rich part of our history and our campus has proudly recognized them in monument and in word.
This year during the Army ROTC’s inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Joseph Rank, gave a wonderful talk on our ROTC history. Joe is a veteran, an Illinois alumnus and the former vice president of the Illinois Alumni Association. Below, I have included parts of his talk. This may be the chancellor’s blog, but in this case the best words to be found on this topic belong to Joe.
“One of the fundamental principles embodied in the Morrill (Land Grant) Act of 1862 that led to the establishment of the University of Illinois and its sister Land Grant institutions is that of citizen service, more specifically military service. When it was enacted, our nation was engaged in the great Civil War. Because of our country had historically disdained and continues to disdain the concept of a large standing army, the wholesale call-up of poorly trained troops presented a challenging leadership vacuum. By mandating instruction in military tactics at our Land Grant institutions, it was believed our nation could guarantee a sizable cadre of citizen soldier leadership should future conflicts arise. The concept has served our country well.
I suspect few of today’s University administrators, faculty, students and alumni appreciate the degree to which the University of Illinois we know today has been so profoundly shaped by its 146-year relationship, or more appropriately, partnership with the U.S. Armed Forces.
Unlike some of its peers, the University of Illinois took the Morrill Act mandate to provide instruction in military tactics quite literally. Not only did Illinois offer courses in military arts as the Act specified, but it actually required it of all males from its establishment in 1867 until 1963. Because of this, I suspect few, if any, civilian colleges or universities have the record of military service and, consequently, sacrifice as the University of Illinois. Nearly 9,000 Illinois students, faculty and staff and alumni served in World War I. 189 perished in that War. Think about it. Between 1872 and 1918, there were slightly over 20,000 graduates total and some 750 faculty. Nearly half donned our nation’s uniform.
More than 20,000 served in World War II; 856 died in service. We didn’t keep records of service after World War II, but we know of 21 who died in Korea, 64 in Vietnam and 7 in other wars and conflicts, including Operation Iraqi Freedom.
But, throughout our history, the University of Illinois has contributed more to our nation’s defenses than officer leadership. During both World Wars I and II, the University provided its facilities and expertise for technical training.
When World War II ended, the University welcomed returning veterans with open arms and the Post-War GI Bill was largely responsible for the University structure we know today. It was there that Professor Tim Nugent developed the University’s renowned Disability Resources & Educational Services - one of Illinois’ most unique and influential contributions to society.”
Joseph Rank, October 25, 2013
So however you might celebrate Veteran’s Day this year, I hope that you take a moment to recognize the contributions women and men in the armed services have made here at Illinois.
Around the Campus
Congratulations and welcome to George Czapar (Department of Crop Sciences) on his appointment as Associate Dean and Director of Extension and Outreach. Extension at Illinois has been a long and proud part of our university history and has an important strategic role to play in our future. Read more here.
Congratulations to internationally renowned opera singer Nathan Gunn, who has been named general director of the new Lyric Theatre program, which – like Gunn – will embrace a broad spectrum of vocal theater repertoire, from musicals to opera. Read the full story here.
Congratulations to Illinois student Tatyana McFadden who completed an unprecedented Grand Slam by winning marathons in New York City, Boston, Chicago and London. Read more about McFadden here.
Illinois ranks first in the nation for 2013 with 10 recipients of U.S. Fulbright Scholar awards, according to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education. In addition, for the fourth consecutive year Illinois was named as a top producer of U.S. Fulbright Students. Read the full story here.