The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the largest employer in Champaign County and a world-class educational institution. Please add more information here!

History (by retired U of I Archivist Maynard Brichford)

Champaign was less than ten years old when the Illinois Industrial University was chartered. The secession of the southern states in 1861 enabled a Republican majority to pass the Morrill Land Grant College Act in 1862. Freed from the bitter political wrangling over the admission of western states and routes of western railroads, the new party embraced the American tradition ofland development and speculation. Earlier, the Chicago Branch of the Illinois Central Railroad had passed a mile west of Urbana providing access to the area. In 1867, a vacant three story seminary building between Urbana and Champaign became part
of the package that Champaign County offered for the public university: When the Industrial University opened in 1869, Champaign became the university's station on the railroad from
Chicago to Cairo. 

John Milton Gregory, the first regent of the university, organized the institution as the "West Point of the working world': He devoted thirteen years to fashioning a university on the muddy prairie. Instruction in the liberal arts aroused the hostility of legislators and champions of "industrial education': Attempts at agricultural education proved premature. Most early graduates took the engineering curriculum or entered business. Gregory experimented with student government and brought an academic culture to the Illinois prairie. Most students came from nearby counties and lived in rooming houses in Champaign and Urbana.

The 1880s brought financial hardships. In 1885, the name of the university was changed to the University of Illinois to indicate the aspirations off acuity and alumni and avoid confusion with schools for delinquents. Regent Selim Peabody struggled to maintain academic standards and sell the university's lands. His strict policies came under vigorous attacks by students and developing alumni groups. In 1891, the Board of Trustees forced him out of office. Chosen by popular vote after 1887, and representing interested alumni groups, the trustees sought a strong, yet progressive administrator. While they searched, the university began a period of rapid growth under the capable guidance of acting regent Thomas J. Burrill. Fraternities, intercollegiate athletics and liberalization of regulations reflected the special values and interests of students. In President Andrew Draper, the trustees found an aggressive exponent of American values, who was schooled in the politics of the state of New York. A successful disciplinarian and legislative lobbyist, Draper continued a building program begun in 1892, hired an able faculty and broadened the university's offerings by adding schools of law; library science and medicine. In 1889, the enrollment, courses and departments
began a rapid increase. The agricultural (1888) and engineering (1904) experiment stations brought federal support and called public 1899, Dean Eugene Davenport mobilized the state's agricultural interests top put the College of Agriculture on firm footing with a $150,000 appropriation tor a building. That same year saw an electric railway running from the Illinois Central in Champaign, past the University campus, to Urbana. illinoisan, Edmund J. James became president in 1904. In sixteen years, he made a major contribution to the growth of the university. A master of public relations and legislative tactics, he secured an outstanding young faculty and won significant new state appropriations.

By 1909, the library was on track to become one of the largest university libraries in the nation. Thirty-five percent of the faculty and staff lived in Champaign and 65 % lived in Urbana; 72% of the commercial businesses and 79% of the restaurants were in Champaign, beginning the town-gown cleavage which persists to this day. Class rivalries and Bob Zuppke's winning football teams boosted campus morale. Long-time administrator, David Kinley served as president from 1920 to 1930. He was a zealous champion of the university, which a visiting orator regarded as "an oasis of intellectuality in a desert offertility': A legislative approved building program accommodated increased enrollments. The university became one of the strongest fraternity campuses in the country. An American approach to social, housing and governance
problems in mass higher education, the fraternity system reached a peak under the guidance of Dean" matriarchal, patriarchal" Thomas Arkle Clark. A 60,000 seat football stadium in the attention to the university's research interests. In then southern reaches of Champaign provided employment, publicity, visitors and profits.

From 1934 to 1946, a severe economic depression and conservative management nearly halted building construction during Arthur Willard's presidency. Exceptions were the first men's dormitories in southeast Champaign and the Illini Union.1he end ofWorld War II and the GI Bill for veterans opened the way for unprecedented growth. The percentage of the state budget allocated to higher education had fallen from 14% prior to World War I to 3% before World War II. The "architect" of the new university was George D. Stoddard. He appointed young deans who soon came into conflict with veteran faculty and conservative community influences. A series of crises eventually resulted in his dismissal by the Board of Trustees in 1953.

In 1956, the trustees chose David D. Henry as president. With a professional presence and administrative skill, he accelerated the building program and presided over a period characterized by the rapid growth of the Graduate College and increased federal support of ear-marked funds for scientific and technological research and developIl1ent. The university remained the preeminent state-supported institution for graduate work, but its proportion of the higher education tax dollar dropped from 78 percent in 1948 to 49 percent in 1968. The state continued to supply two thirds of the university budget, but the federal government provided nearly 90% of the funds for research. As the campus grew, the Wright Street division separated the academic teaching and research activities in Urbana from the administrative, commercial campus-town and entertainment facilities in Champaign. In 1959, 42% of the faculty and staff lived in Champaign and 58 percent lived in Urbana a major factor in the perceived town gown character dividing the two cities. The 1960s were characterized by increasing student and faculty unrest over government and social priorities. In 1961 the Assembly Hall  provided indoor facilities for public and student entertainment in southeast Champaign in 1967, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts became a major cultural addition to the Urbana campus.

From 1979 to 1995, under Stanley Ikenberry's leadership and genial persuasion the university located private funding to offset fluctuating state appropriations. Substantial increases in federal and private grants, gifts and contracts "built bridges" to business, began the development of the North Campus scientific research center, and secured millions for supercomputers. He improved alumni relations, appointed respected faculty as chancellors, and merged the Chicago and Springfield campuses. About 700,000 people have studied, taught and worked at the university. The university is a democratic, land grant institution and one of the larger state universities, with a current enrollment of 41,918 students, including 18,775 from Cook County and its collar counties. Currently, 4,574 come from east and south Asia. The university employs 12,291 persons and is the major employer in Champaign and Urbana. In 1990, 42.7 percent of Champaign's population held a college degree. Once described as "the worst of the best" and a "sleeping giant" unable to overcome the numbers, it has emerged as a highly selective "multiversity;' with over 25 percent of its students in graduate or professional programs. It has been a force for social mobility and has demonstrated an ability to meet changing social needs. Students, faculty, administrators and nonacademic staff have shaped its character. Outside influences have been the state legislature, trustees, benefactors, alumni, parents, employers and the media. It should go without saying, the presence of the university has been largely responsible for what Champaign it is today.

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