What it means to be an Illini

With a snip to the ribbon, the Richmond Family Welcome Gallery is officially open. From left to right: project designer Kurt Bielema; UI Associate Vice Chancellor of Alumni Relations and UIAA President Jennifer Lewis Neubauer; UIAA Board Chair Steve Van Arsdell; UI Chancellor Robert J. Jones; U of I System Executive Vice President Barbara Wilson; and UIAA History and Traditions Program Coordinator Ryan Ross. (Image courtesy of Sweet Lemonade Photography)
The new Richmond Family Welcome Gallery captures the University’s rich legacy

It was a celebration long in the making.

For weeks, moveable panels had concealed a large portion of the ground floor of the Alice Campbell Alumni Center. Workers hauled in wiring and tools, tall boxes of glass and wood arrived, and installation noises went ambient. By the evening of Thursday, Oct. 11 (just before Homecoming Weekend), long blue curtains had replaced the panels. A large crowd of invited guests mingled and awaited their first look at the Richmond Family Welcome Gallery—a state-of-the-art, interactive space devoted to the life of the University of Illinois, past, present and future.

In remarks preceding the celebration, Jennifer Lewis Neubauer, ’82 ED, UI Associate Vice Chancellor of Alumni Relations, hailed the new Gallery as “a testament to the ingenuity and innovation that built Illinois into a global university.” When UI Chancellor Robert J. Jones took the podium, he pointed out that 30,000 prospective Illinois students and their families will experience the Gallery each year on campus tours. “This Gallery will help them better understand who we are, how we got here and what we do,” Jones observed. “In short, they—and generations to come—will know what it means to be an Illini.”

The Richmond Family Welcome Gallery is an interactive space devoted to the life of the University of Illinois, past, present and future. It’s located in the Alice Campbell Alumni Center. (Images courtesy of Sweet Lemonade Photography)

In his address, Steve Van Arsdell, ’72 BUS, MAS ’73, chair of the UIAA Board of Directors, thanked the project’s many supporters, including the Board and the University administration. He singled out long-time UIAA staffer Joe Rank, ’69 MEDIA, MS ’73 MEDIA, as “the true dreamer behind the project,” lauding Rank’s passion for Illinois’ history and traditions.

Neubauer—flanked by Jones, Rank, UI System Executive Vice President Barbara Wilson, as well as key artisans and researchers involved in the Gallery’s creation—cut the ceremonial ribbon. The blue curtains drew back to reveal the $4.5 million Welcome Gallery, funded by a gift from the late philanthropists Jack, ’43 ACES, and Marjorie Richmond. Guests streamed in to explore the Gallery’s 14 interactive discovery boxes and artifact displays and viewed a 14-minute video describing what it’s like to be a student at Illinois. “Wonderful, fascinating, overwhelming,” was how Norm Beasley, BS ’58 DSSWV, described the Gallery, adding, “What do I like about it? The memories, obviously.”        

As Rank later remarked, “The Alumni Alliance motto is: ‘Building Relationships for Life.’ Where better to start than at the very beginning, when prospective students first come to campus? To inspire them and their parents and help them make the right decision—to attend the University of Illinois.”