UI Alumni Association President Loren Taylor: Back to the Future
It was a long-awaited homecoming in April when the Alma Mater sculpture group returned to the Urbana-Champaign campus to much fanfare. Hundreds of onlookers watched as the newly restored trio of Alma Mater, Learning and Labor was carefully placed back on the pedestal at Wright and Green streets. We sent a message out to alumni, and thousands of you strained the server capacity to watch it live via webcam.
Graduates at this year’s Commencement once again lined up in caps and gowns to have their pictures taken with what must be the campus’s most photographed icon.
Alma Mater was back home where she belonged. And, at least for a short time, all seemed right with the world.
Some may question all the fuss over a group of once-green-sheened ctogenarians—each now sporting a healthy bronze tint. But in the two years that the sculpture was in the care of the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio in Forest Park, Ill., I think some of us were surprised to realize just how much we had missed her constant, calming presence—even those who don’t live and work in Urbana-Champaign.
Alumnus Lorado Taft’s Alma Mater group—purposeful and industrious Labor; wise and thoughtful Learning; and, of course, sincere and unflappable “Alma” with outstretched arms in generous greeting—artfully captures all the University of Illinois has been, is and aspires to be.
Before the sculpture was returned, we invited you to share your messages to “thy happy children of the future.” Hundreds of your greetings were included in a time capsule placed inside the base for some generation to discover many years from now. Here are just a few examples that caught my eye:
“Ours is a large and diverse family. What unites us is our love of our Alma Mater, as symbolized by this iconic statue.”
“Stand proudly in front of the guardian of the U of I campus in Champaign, Ill. Honor her and protect her, as she has doneo this great University.”
“I will love this place forever, and I am glad to be a part of this Illini family with you.”
The Alma Mater embodies our loyalty to our shared ideals. It is a bridge across generations. And it is a unique reminder of the lifelong bond we have as part of the University of Illinois.
As it happens, these are the very reasons why the University of Illinois Alumni Association exists.
Loren R. Taylor
President and CEO