New money for Altgeld

Dedicated in 1897, Altgeld Hall is the second-oldest classroom building on campus. (Image by L. Brian Stauffer)
Project includes funding for a new data science center

Memories elicited by Altgeld Hall run the gamut of all things Illinois—from the rigors of math exams taken in its classrooms to the enchantment of chimes ringing from its bell tower. Sheathed in sandstone and crowned by red tiles, the building is also the photogenic backdrop for the Alma Mater sculpture group, providing imagery that embodies the soul of the University. 

Altgeld is the second oldest classroom building on campus and the long-time home of the mathematics department.  It is slated for renovation and modernization along with demolition and replacement of Illini Hall, which will include a new data science center, for a total project cost of $100 million. 

The project’s planned classroom improvements are critical. Enrollment in math and statistics courses has almost doubled over the past decade, and each year, more than 20,000 students take classes in Altgeld and Illini Halls. The addition of collaborative spaces for students and faculty is also key in the view of mathematics professor Sheldon Katz, who is guiding the project on behalf of the College of LAS. “Employers value employees who can work in teams,” Katz says. “Providing research and collaboration opportunities will make students of mathematics, statistics and data science even more marketable than they already are.”

The need for major upgrades to Altgeld (dedicated in 1897 as the University Library) has long been apparent, and Katz adds that the building must be made ADA-accessible. Reclaiming the building’s beauty also is central to the project, and may include restoration of the Mathematics Library, with its beautiful mosaics, murals and atrium, and returning the sandstone exterior to its original pink.

The new data science center will be an integral part of the Illinois Innovation Network, a cluster of research hubs designed to accelerate job creation and economic growth statewide. The center is scheduled for completion in 2022, with a two-year renovation of Altgeld to follow. 

Funding for the project includes $27 million in student fees. In addition, the University’s Campaign for Altgeld and Illinois Halls aims to raise $10 million. For more information, visit altgeldillini.illinois.edu, which offers a portal for sharing memories of classes and chimes and days at Illinois.