Student Life at Illinois: 1890-1899



  • Alumni Association adopted a new constitution setting annual dues at fifty cents.
  • An alumni badge designed by Nathan Ricker, an eight-cornered star with a monogram in its center, is approved.
  • The first UI football team organized.
  • Drill Hall (now Kenney Gym Annex) completed.
  • Board of Trustees banned “political speakers” from campus.
  • Mauritz Schmidt hired as Instructor of Gymnastics.
Classroom, circa 1891
Classroom, circa 1891


  • The Academy–a new literary society–organized.
  • Students held mass meeting calling for reinstatement of two suspended cadets.
  • Faculty appointed Committee on Athletics consisting of three professors.
  • Trustees voted to turn over to athletic association for athletic purposes “the north half of the north campus.” The Athletic Park (later known as Illini Field) opened in May 1891.
  • Class rush (also known as color rush) led to suspension of eleven students. This was the first color rush at the University, in which members of the freshmen and sophomore classes battled for possession of their respective class colors.
  • Regent Peabody resigned. Professor Thomas J. Burrill appointed acting regent.
  • Faculty tenure and sabbatical leaves initiated.
  • Philomathean and Adelphic societies founded Star Course.
  • Illini representatives helped form Western College Press Association.
  • Military drill required only of freshmen and sophomores.
  • First glee club started.
  • New code of rules promulgated for students. Loyalty oath was eliminated and warning system replaced use of demerits. Entering students no longer required to pledge that they would not join a fraternity
  • Alpha Gamma chapter of Kappa Sigma formed.
  • Kappa Kappa chapter of Sigma Chi reorganized. This was the first fraternity to receive official approval from the University.
Tennis outing, 1892
Tennis outing, 1892


  • University appointed Edward K. Hall as football coach.
  • Local fraternity Epsilon Delta established.
  • The Western Intercollegiate Athletic Assocation, precursor to the Big Ten, founded.
  • Practice of having visiting speaker deliver Commencement address was resumed. Dr. Washington Gladden gave address.
  • Natural History Building dedicated.
  • Chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma organized.
  • University withdrew from the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Assocation after having won the state athletic championship four times in a row.
Library Science Students and Faculty, circa 1893-94
Library Science Students and Faculty, circa 1993-94


  • Baseball coach hired.
  • The Graduate School, the first summer school and the first University extension program were established.
  • The University created a committee to publicize the school.
  • The University sponsored an exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition.
  • Governor John Peter Altgeld delivered Commencement address.
  • Local fraternity Beta Beta Beta founded.
  • Athletic Association changed University colors from black and yellow to crimson, and then, less than a month later, to olive green.
  • Natural History Building completed.
  • University Assembly formed. Group consisted of faculty members, graduate students, and seniors.
Football team, 1894
Football team, 1894


  • First junior promenade held.
  • Eta chapter of Phi Delta Theta founded.
  • Students’ Assembly for “social and intellectual purposes” organized.
  • Faculty decided to discontinue formal chapel services. Voluntary convocation services served as replacement.
  • University students required to be at least sixteen years of age.
  • Courses leading to Ph.D. and Sc.D were established.
  • Andrew Draper named University regent.
  • Local fraternity Delta Delta Delta became Beta Upsilon chapter of Delta Tau Delta
  • Title of “regent” changed to “president.”
  • Illini published weekly. Control of publication placed in the hands of students.
  • Council of Administration formed, assumed control over student affairs.
  • Juniors published the first yearbook, which later adopted name Illio.
  • Faculty and students adopted orange and navy blue as the University’s colors.
  • Engineering Hall completed. Class of 1894 had stone plaque affixed to exterior of Engineering Hall, near main entrance, as class memorial.


  • Women’s glee club formed.
  • Students of Latin organized Sodalitas Latina.
  • Nine sophomores suspended for kidnapping freshmen before freshmen social.
  • Physical training department organized to include men and women.
  • Gamma Zeta chapter of Alpha Tau Omega established.
  • First sophomore cotillion held.
  • Sororities Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Alpha Theta were formed. These were the first national sororities organized on UI campus.
  • Class of 1895 established loan fund for needy students.
Daily Illini, 1896
Daily Illini, 1896


  • “I” adopted as athletic emblem
  • Tennis courts constructed on campus. First tennis tournament held at University.
  • Chemical Laboratory (now Harker Hall) partially destroyed by fire sparked by lightning.
  • Women competed in first basketball game held on campus.
  • Using chemicals, sophomores disrupted freshmen social.
  • Female faculty members and faculty wives organized Woman’s League of the University of Illinois to further the welfare of women students.
  • Illinois defeated University of Chicago in debate presided over by William Jennings Bryan.
  • Observatory completed.


Altgeld Hall illustration, circa 1910
Altgeld Hall illustration, circa 1910


  • College of Physicians and Surgeons joined the University.
  • Council of Administration expelled nine students for disrupting freshmen social.
  • State Treasurer Charles W. Spalding discovered to have embezzled University funds.
  • Office of Dean of Women created. Violet DeLille Jayne appointed to position.
  • Women admitted to the school of medicine.
  • The library school and the school of law were established in Urbana.
  • Library Building (now Altgeld Hall) dedicated.
  • Natural History Building partially destroyed by fire sparked by lightning.
  • Chapter of Phi Gamma Delta established.


  • University of Illinois Oratorical Association challenged University of Wisconsin to a debate. The UI lost this first-ever intercollegiate debate held at the University.
  • First woman’s edition of Illini published.
  • Dr. John M. Gregory died and was buried near the Library Building.
  • Engineering Laboratory opened.
  • All women of the faculty and student body met for the first time as a Woman’s Department.
  • Watcheka League established to facilitate “united action on the part of the women students of the University.”
May Pole Dance, 1910
May Pole Dance, 1910


  • Three-term college year changed to two semesters.
  • Beta chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon organized.
  • Beta Lambda chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma founded.
  • Alpha chapter of Phi Lamba Upsilon–a national recognition society for men in chemistry–founded.
  • First May Fete (with May Pole dance) occurred.
  • Local sorority Gamma Sigma organized.
  • Illini became a student newspaper rather than official organ of the University, and was published three times a week.
  • Iota chapter of Alpha Chi Omega established.
  • Students’ Hospital Fund Association organized to pay hospital bills of students.
  • Edward Snyder Department of Students’ Aid formed to provide loans to needy students.

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