A Brief History of the UIAA
In 1872, 20 students comprised the first graduating class of the Illinois Industrial University (later the University of Illinois), thus becoming its first alumni. One year later, on June 5, 1873, 15 graduates met in the old Mechanical Building and formed the first Illinois Alumni Association. They elected officers, adopted a constitution and planned a little "entertainment" for the following year's commencement ceremony.
A humble start, to be sure, but these forward-thinking alumni recognized the need for graduates to maintain a connection to their alma mater beyond their student days. They realized the value of alumni coming together independently of the University in order to advocate and guide the growth and development of this new, fledgling institution of higher education for the people of the state of Illinois.
It wasn't long before the Alumni Association began to make an impact.
From persuading the state Legislature to empower trustees to grant degrees instead of certificates to changing the name of the institution to the University of Illinois to presenting Lorado Taft's Alma Mater statue group to establishing a medical college in Chicago after purchasing the old College of Physicians and Surgeons and giving it to the University as a gift in 1913, alumni and the Alumni Association have been key factors in determining and bolstering the future of the University of Illinois.
By the early 20th century, it was apparent to alumni leaders that the purpose of the organization had evolved — recognizing what their President J.G. Wadsworth described in 1907 as the "pleasure of association" being eclipsed by a "field of usefulness" opening up before it. Even then, direct references to legislative advocacy, trustee selection, student recruitment and the importance of knowing where alumni were located and how to reach them were significant points of concern and the focus for united action.
They remain so today.
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