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The Courtship of Louis and Ruth: An Illinois Love Story

Louis and Ruth c. 1935
Louis and Ruth c. 1935

Written by Anna Trammell

Scrapbooks, dance cards, and letters in the Student Life and Culture Archives often reveal tales of love that blossomed on campus. The love story of Louis Wright and Ruth Fisher materializes out of a combination of these items and comes to light through discoveries made by their daughter Nancy Wright Meyer, also a graduate of the University.

When Nancy and her sister Lois began organizing the attic of their parents’ home in Des Plaines, Illinois, they came across extensive correspondence between Louis and Ruth during their courtship. “There was no way we could throw them away… not after being saved for more than sixty-five years. They chronicled a developing friendship, romance, campus life in Champaign-Urbana, life on the farm, life in Des Plaines, teaching at Maine Township High School, job search, and life in general during the mid-1930s,” Nancy wrote in the preface to The Courtship of Louis and Ruth. [1] Nancy transcribed each letter and published this volume as a way to share them with family and friends. Continue reading “The Courtship of Louis and Ruth: An Illinois Love Story”

I’m Documenting Student Life, and You Can Too

Prison Justice Project informational flyer, 2014.
Prison Justice Project informational flyer, 2014.

Written by Nick Hopkins

The University of Illinois Student Life and Culture (SLC) Archives maintains documents spanning the entire history of the university. It is particularly focused on the experiences of students. Its collections include documents and photos of student organizationsIllio yearbooks, and sorority and fraternity publications, as well as a great deal of other student sources. The SLC Archives puts the history of student life at UIUC at the fingertips of visitors, for student projects, enjoyment, and professional research.

The SLC Archives also presents an opportunity for students to become part of this history. Students may donate papers of their organization to be archived in the Student Affairs series. Submitted materials are processed and boxed by archives staff, like myself, and are publicly available to view.

Preserving student history is important. One of my favorite student organization collections is the African-American Cultural Program Publications series. These sources are cited in UIUC alumna Joy Ann Williamson’s history of African-American student experiences and Project 500, Black Power on CampusUniversity of Illinois, 1965-75.  The documents allow Williamson to tell the story of black students at a racially contentious time in both university and U.S. history. Continue reading “I’m Documenting Student Life, and You Can Too”

Shozo Sato: Reinventing Kabuki Theater

Written by Nick Hopkins

Shozo Sato and theater students, 1969.
Shozo Sato and theater students, 1969.

Shozo Sato’s (1933- ) contributions to the performing arts have spanned a long, path-breaking career. A Professor of Art and Design at Illinois for 50 years, Sato gained international attention for his adaptation of classic western theater plays into Kabuki performances. In the process, Sato produced a new, hybrid genre of performance that blurs the boundaries between classical Western and Japanese theatres.

The Japanese director came to Illinois in 1964 as an artist-in-residence. With the opening of the Krannert Center for Performing Arts in 1969, he shifted his attention to theatre production. In 1978, he and a student cast performed “Kabuki Macbeth” at Krannert. The performance generated positive reviews in Champaign County, and went on to win three of Chicago’s J. Jefferson awards, for best production, director, and costuming. The success of “Kabuki Macbeth” put the director on the map. Continue reading “Shozo Sato: Reinventing Kabuki Theater”

Pride Month 2015: LGBT History on Campus

Written by Caitlin Stamm

Now that it’s June, we’ve begun Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month). Pride Month is celebrated in honor of the Gay Liberation Movement’s Stonewall Riots, which occurred in New York City in late June 1969 [1]. After the riots in Manhattan, Pride groups formed at the U of I to fight for acceptance and change.

The announcement for the first meeting of the Gay Students' Alliance, which became Gay Illini
The announcement for the first meeting of the Gay Students’ Alliance, which became Gay Illini

The Gay Illini organization was formed in 1975 and Illini Pride was founded in 1977, both growing out of the work of the Gay Liberation Front. [2] Gay Illini was announced in the Daily Illini on January 29, 1975 [3]. By April 1975, the group was holding Gay Forums, offering panels discussing topics related to gay students and queer life. The group also hosted a number of social events, including dances, picnics, and movie nights.

The group acted as advocates on campus. Gay Illini often raised money for efforts like the Gay Information Switchboard, which ran on campus every night from 7 pm to 1 am [4]. They also formed a discrimination committee to “investigate discriminatory racial and sexual practices and policies at public places” [5]. Gay Illini marched in the Chicago Gay Pride Parades. Continue reading “Pride Month 2015: LGBT History on Campus”