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2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Illinois Club has been an integral part of the UIUC's history since it was founded in 1906. From the start, and continuing through the present, many of the Club's members are closely affiliated with the University, either directly as faculty, staff or students, or indirectly as family members of university employees. Membership in the Club supports the University as a vital part of our community.

Perhaps one of the most profound ways that the Club interacts with the University is through our annual scholarships for undergraduate students, a program that has been active since 1915. The annual scholarship brunch, held in the spring, brings together scholarship winners, their families, and Club members for a celebration and a lively exchange of scholarly ideas.

Our tours are another way that the Club engages with the University. Each year Club members make their way to various locales on campus to learn about new and evolving programs, attend events, and experience award-winning performances. And each week the Club's campus lunch group comes together to socialize and discuss University issues.

With so many connections, there can be little doubt that many Club members will have a story to tell about the University. As part of the sesquicentennial celebrations, the University is collecting personal accounts at Share Your Story at http://150.illinois.edu/gallery. For more information about the sesquicentennial and upcoming events throughout the University, go to http://150.illinois.edu/.

The Illinois Club in the Illinois Alumni Magazine

The University of Illinois Alumni Association included in the January/February 2006 edition of Illinois Alumni an interesting article on the history of the club, provided with permission from the University of Illinois Alumni Association.

A Century of History for the The Illinois Club

The First 25 Years (1906-1931)

By Nancy Komlanc and Vivian Larson

Since The Illinois Club will turn 100 year old next year, we saw it fitting to study and share this rich history with all club members. Thanks, in part, to The Illinois Club members over the first 100 years who kept detailed records of club events. Thanks, also, goes to the University of Illinois Library Archives Department for housing these wonderful records and keeping them in such wonderful condition.

It was in February 1906 that some women from the Illinois campus met and started a nameless club. In October that same year the club officially became the "University Women's Club" with its first president, Mrs. D.O Barto. Meetings were held monthly on Tuesday afternoons at the Women's Building. Two years later dues were set at $.50, and by then there were already 200 members! In these early years, typically cake, ice cream and coffee, were served, and it was traditional each year in March for an "evening of entertainment with husbands invited". In 1911, 17 dozen spoons were ordered ("Modern Art" by Reed & Barton) for the club's exclusive use only in the Women's Building. The club had to borrow plates and cups.

During World War I in 1917, "conditions (social and national) became so unsettled that after all plans had been made to make the April meeting an 'evening affair which should include the husbands', the whole affair was given up and thus the March meeting" concluded the year. During WWI informal talks were given on the War efforts such as: "The YMCA War Fund", at meetings that weren't cancelled. The Sewing group stitched for the Red Cross effort.

In 1918 "the October meeting was postponed because of the influenza and pneumonia epidemic; consequently the club began 4 months later" in February. There was small attendance this year "due to so many women having their time fully occupied with Red Cross or other war work". This year the club donated $25 to the University Loan Fund for needy students. However, the May meeting seemed grand with entertainment by members with violin solos, piano solos, and a ladies' quartet. In 1919 Military Officers' wives were the guests of honor. One event this year even had 300 members present! By 1921 entertainment included one act plays.

In 1922 there was talk of a new club name, and in 1923 it was changed to "The University Women's Tuesday Tea" which members felt was more descriptive of the club's activities. Look for the history of the next 25 years in subsequent issues of The Illinois Club newsletter.

The Second 25 Years (1931-1956)

Here's more history of the first 100 years of The Illinois Club. Thanks, in part, to The Illinois Club members over the first 100 years who kept detailed records of club events. Thanks also go to the University of Illinois Library Archives Department for housing these wonderful records and keeping them in such wonderful condition.

Remember the twelve dozen spoons that the Club purchased in 1911? They were all sold to the University in 1925 for $60.00, though we don't know why.

Here's the big mystery question: Where was the "Women's Building" where The Illinois Club meetings were held for so many years, and does it still stand today? This mystery has been solved! The "Women's Building" still stands on the Quad today and is now the English Building. Between these two names the building was called Bevier Hall before the current Bevier Hall was built on Goodwin Ave. (A. S. Weller, 100 Years of Campus Architecture, U of I Press, 1968).

In the early years, wives of local ministers were welcomed as club members. Back then it was common to have hundreds of members attend meetings each month with 35-50 hostesses! The spring "annual receptions" had a receiving line which consisted of six women from the Executive Board. Meetings had entertainment such as vocalists with piano accompaniment, readings from a professor of English, or dancing to the Virginia Reel.

In 1930 annual dues were $10 - they haven't gone up much since then, have they ladies! Due to "non-payment of membership fees," women were dropped from the club after receiving polite reminder letters. In 1931 a newsletter was started to help increase membership.

In 1928 the Club voted to "sponsor the newly formed 'Newcomers' Club' and consider it auxiliary to the Tuesday Tea Club." Dues for this club were $.25 annually. "Mrs. J.H. Reedy had long felt the need for such an organization here and had been hopeful that a Newcomers' Club would be formed." Mrs. David Kinley, wife of the University President, enthusiastic about the club, obtained a list of the appointed staff members' wives from the President's office. The following year chairmen of the following committees were appointed - "membership, social and courtesy." The courtesy group visited the sick and assisted in making personal membership calls. Membership this first year quickly increased from 40 to 86. The primary purpose was social, enabling new women to become acquainted with others who had just come to campus and participating in the life of the University and the community. Whereas in the first year this club met in women's homes, it graduated quickly to meeting in the Women's Building. However, as the Depression years came (1932-1935), the size of the club reduced dramatically with fewer professors being hired, so they met in homes until the Club became too large again. By 1937 there were 140 members in the Newcomers' Club with dues of $.50. In 1941 monthly meetings for the Club moved from the Women's Building to the brand new Illini Union.

In 1942 both the Tuesday Tea and the Newcomers' Club started to be affected by WWII. Since so many men were called to war, more and more women worked on campus and therefore many could not participate in the daytime activities. However, club activities were kept up as morale boosters. By 1945 the men started returning home in droves - hallelujah!

The Third 25 Years (1956-1981)

The month of October, 1962 forever changed the course of The Illinois Club at the University of Illinois as the Tuesday Tea and Newcomers Group voted to incorporate as one organization with the new name: "The University of Illinois Women's Club." In three short years the Club had a membership of 860 (can you believe 614 attended the October dessert?). There were seventeen distinct Interest Groups. One such group was the sewing group concentrating on millinery and leatherwork, instead of the crafts and sewing projects we see in today's group. The Newcomers Group continued its efforts now as an interest group as well, providing friendships to new members of the community. Regular meetings were held providing programs about the community and the University, and social teas, brunches, and lunches strengthened the growing organization.

The Dean of Students' office was very much involved in the Club's scholarship program. The office provided names, encouraged applications, and interviewed each student. After the custodian of scholarships and the committee met to determine the recipients, the custodian met with the Dean to clear selections. The Illinois Club 100 years of success at the University of Illinois has helped hundreds of students financially. The scholarship fund, started in 1915, was originally used as loans to needy students, but by the time of our incorporation in 1962 and the prosperity of the United States, the Club was able to invest these funds and establish a permanent scholarship. Initially, the scholarships were awarded to successful female candidates, thus in our own small way, we helped to promote greater female attendance at the University. During these 25 years, we gave approximately 67 scholarships or the equivalent of $14,000.

In 1966, through numerous meetings, it was decided that the University of Illinois Foundation would receive and hold funds of the Club to be designated as the University of Illinois Women's Club Loan Fund. This fund was to be administered by the Foundation with assistance from University officers and with recommendations from the Club. The custodian, as chair of the University of Illinois Women's Club Loan Fund, served as liaison between the Club and the Foundation in its administration of the fund. During the year 1975, the Club By-laws Revision Committee revised the scholarship section. The procedure of handling money and awarding scholarships and loans had been changed by a vote of the membership to transfer the funds from the Foundation to a new account.

Our next significant change occurred in the 70's as we officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization (July 1979, in Illinois, and accepted as a 501(c)(7) by the IRS in February of the following year) and our scholarship fund reaped the benefits. Soon after, the Club needed to meet changing affirmative action policies and welcomed men into membership roles and offered scholarships to male students. At the end of the decade, we officially renamed the organization "The Women's Club at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign". Whatever our name has been, we have been an organization that has touched lives in friendship, education, and service.

100 Years Existence and Onward (1981-2020)

As women's roles changed and the faculty included more and more women, the club recognized that the camaraderie should be shared with male spouses, friends and community members. As we celebrated our 100th anniversary, thought was given to a name change that would reflect the changing make-up of the club. In 2007, the membership voted to change the name to "The Illinois Club", signifying our affiliation with the leading public institution of learning in our state and the broadening of our Club into the community. Interest Groups were updated and activities were added to appeal to the broader constituency.

In addition to serious relaxation time, the group has been quite active in awarding scholarships to U of I Students. Working with the Illinois Foundation, our Scholarship Endowments continue to grow. In 2006, the estate of long time member Isabelle Purnell provided $240,000 for teacher scholarships. President Stan and Judy Ikenberry also endowed a generous scholarship. By 2009, the combined endowment funds totaled over $400,000. The following scholarships are awarded at the annual Spring Luncheon: "Make a Difference Award", "Global Focus Award", "Humanities Award" "Isabelle Purnell Education Award" and the "Judith Life Ikenberry Award".

Looking back in our history we have watched the membership swell and diminish. We can see the effect of the 1918 influenza pandemic and of wars. But now in 2020, as the club and community face challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have new resources. We are Zooming along. The board and several interest groups are meeting virtually. We hope to see our membership surge as you reach out to others providing friendship and alternatives to 'home alone'.

Complete list of Past Presidents