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More than a Century Strong

John Milton Gregory1868 – Under the direction of John Milton Gregory, Illinois Industrial University welcomes its first class of about 70 students. The University admits women two years later.

1869 – The campus's first laboratory, which is devoted to chemistry, is constructed in the south wing of the original University Hall.

1873 – John Milton Gregory argues for and succeeds in adding a literature and arts curriculum “to give agricultural and engineering students the literary side of their education.”

1877 – The College of Arts and Literature awards its first degrees.

1878 – The same year that the University begins granting degrees, the Department of Chemistry becomes the first department to have its own building—the Chemical Laboratory, which is later called Harker Hall after Judge Oliver A. Harker, the first University counsel and the third dean of the law school.

1885 – Illinois Industrial University officially changes its name to the University of Illinois.

1892 – The Natural History Building opens to house the departments of botany, zoology, and geology. It is home to the Museum of Natural History, which among its exhibits, boasts a bison and the entire bird collection from the Columbian Exposition of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

1894 – David Kinley is elected dean of the College of Literature and Arts, and Stephen Forbes becomes the dean of the College of Sciences. Kinley announces that the college will become “the center of culture in the University to balance the severely practical spirit of the technical departments.”

1899 – Davenport Hall opens to house the College of Agriculture, although it later becomes home to the Departments of Anthropology and Geography.

1902 – Illinois' new Chemistry Building is the largest single chemical laboratory in the world, and the first interdisciplinary research institute in chemistry. Over the next century, eight Nobel laureates receive their training there. In 1939 it is renamed in honor of William Albert Noyes, a legendary professor of organic chemistry and head of the Department of Chemistry from 1907 to 1926.

Foellinger1907 – The Auditorium (today known as Foellinger Auditorium) is built in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda.

1911 – The eastern half of Lincoln Hall opens, named after Abraham Lincoln in recognition of his signing of the federal Land Grant Act in 1862 that made the University possible. The western portion of the building is completed in 1929, doubling the size of the structure.

1913 – College of Literature and Arts and College of Sciences merge into College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

1918 – The first women’s residence hall, which later became the English Building, opens on campus. By the 1930s, the building includes a pool and a gym so that women can compete in athletics. Previously, outdoor physical education equipment consisted of swings and a slide.

1930 – The first play is performed in Lincoln Hall Theater. Titled Beggar on Horseback, it featured 72 students, some of whom went on to Broadway.

Altgeld Hall1933 – When the Depression hits campus the University can no longer afford to pay its bell-ringer and the Altgeld bells go silent.

1942 – With World War II raging, the Illini Union Ballroom is transformed into a cafeteria for enlisted men. Professors pull double duty. English professors teach math, art professors teach physics, and retirees return to work. Women are called upon to teach, for the first time. More than 20,000 students, alumni, and faculty serve in the Armed Forces during the war. Of them, 850 are confirmed dead or missing in action as of May, 1946.

1949 – The college introduces the first international studies major, in Latin American studies, marking the campus’s growing engagement with the world beyond Illinois.

1950 – The East Chemistry Building opens, later renamed in honor of Roger Adams, who turned Illinois into a powerhouse for organic chemistry. Adams is best known for developing the platinum oxide catalyst that hardens liquid vegetable oils into solid fats for soap, for which he received the National Medal of Science in 1964. Its discovery had a profound effect in the synthesis and structural knowledge of organic chemistry and biochemistry.

1960 – English professor Paul Landis ends a 20-year tradition when he reads Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol one last time in Lincoln Theatre.

1965 – As a result of the U.S.-Soviet space race, Congress passes Title VI of the Higher Education Act, which encourages universities to help students gain an awareness of other cultures and languages in an effort to make Americans more competitive in the international economy. This act gave way to the creation in the 1960s of the Latin American Studies Program, the Department of Linguistics, and the Afro-American Studies and Research Program.

1968 – LAS offers the first yearlong study abroad course. By 1999, LAS also is offering four- to six-week courses abroad to help make studying abroad a financially viable option for more students. Cultural awareness is becoming an essential part of a higher education.
Carl Woese
1977 – Carl Woese, U of I professor of microbiology, discovers archaea, the third domain of life, which overturns scientists previous beliefs about the evolution of life on Earth. Woese receives the Crafoord prize in 2003, an award given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in scientific fields not covered by the Nobel Prize.

1984 – Professor of Entomology May Berenbaum launches the first annual insect fear film festival. Today, it may be the longest-running university-sponsored public celebration of arthropods in the nation.

1989 – A groundbreaking animation of a thunderstorm created by Robert Wilhelmson, an atmospheric scientist and pioneer in the use of computer graphics to simulate severe storms, receives 14 awards, including an Academy Award nomination. He later simulates the formation of a tornado from a severe thunderstorm—a feat that is helping in storm prediction.

1999 – LAS establishes Learning Communities, a program that helps make the University more intimate and welcoming to freshmen. From an initial enrollment of less than 300, the program now accommodates more than 1,000 freshmen.

Spurlock Museum2002Spurlock Museum, which replaces the World Heritage Museum, is opened on September 26 after 10 years of planning and construction. The museum's collections are organized around five permanent exhibits celebrating the cultures of Ancient Mediterranean, Africa, Europe, the Americas, and Asia and Oceania. Its Focus Gallery hosts national traveling exhibits and other special exhibits. Only 2,000 of the museum's more than 45,000 artifacts are exhibited at any one time.

2003 – Department of Economics returns to LAS. Originally founded in 1895 by David Kinley, head of the College of Literature and Arts, the department moved to the School of Commerce in 1902.

2003 – Paul C. Lauterbur, professor of chemistry, is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his groundbreaking work with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The Nobel Prize in Physics goes to U of I physicist Anthony J. Leggett for his contributions to the theory of superfluidity.

2004 – The college inaugurates the Global Studies program, an innovative first-semester program that introduces more than 1,500 freshmen at U of I to world cultures and the phenomenon of globalization.



©2005 The Board of Trustees
of the University of Illinois
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign