This grand old university is an academic leader in numerous disciplines, a strong part of the Big-10 conference, and the vivid cultural hub for central Illinois.
Many of these trivia items are obscure, but others are questions that our audience members might know. To play at home, consider bringing a few small prizes that can be given to guests who get a correct answer.
Here is some U of I trivia from the Office of Public Affairs page on the U of I site:
What alumna originated soap operas?
Erna Phillips, class of 1923. She is also credited with creating “Guiding Light,” “As the World Turns,” and others!
Who cut the cake at the dedication of the Illini Union?
Eleanor Roosevelt, on February 8, 1942, one year after it opened.
What year did this university grant the first degree in architecture in the United States?
Nathan C. Ricker was awarded the first degree in architecture in 1873. Just five years later, Mary L. Page became the first woman to graduate with an architecture degree in the country.
What was the first University yell, created in 1894, by students who shared a five dollar prize?
Rah! Hoo-rah! Zip, boom, ah! Hip-zoo! Razoo! Jimmy, blow Your bazoo! Ipzidyiki, U of I! Champaign!
What building at Illinois was home to the earliest “March Madness” and its “Sweet 16” basketball teams?
Huff Gym…home of Illini Vlooeyball and Graduation–plus many other local events.
(Quoting the Detroit Free Press, March 8, 2007) — “March Madness” was coined to describe an Illinois high school basketball tournament. The annual tournament sponsored by the Illinois High School Association grew from a small invitational affair in 1908 to a statewide boys competition among more than 900 schools by the late 1930s. A field of teams known as the Sweet Sixteen routinely drew sellout crowds to the U. of I.’s Huff Gymnasium. Henry V. Porter, assistant executive secretary of the association, was so impressed by the phenomenon that he wrote an essay to commemorate it. Titled “March Madness,” it appeared in the Illinois Interscholastic, the association’s magazine, in 1939. The term struck a chord with newspapers. Now everyone uses it for the national collegiate basketball tournament.
A U of I architecture graduate received a failing grade on his big design project because his professor said it wasn’t feasible. What was the project, which eventually was built on the Illinois campus?
The Assembly Hall, which was one of the first – and the largest – domed-roof structures in America designed without supports to hold up its roof. This icon was renamed State Farm Center in 2013.
Why were the first attendees of events at the Assembly Hall –now State Farm Center or The Farm–afraid to clap too loudly?
They were afraid that the roof might cave in!
Which was the biggest crowd ever to attend an event at The Farm?
The audience for the October 22, 1976, Elvis Presley concert. (They did not clap quietly.)
What is the name of the stream that runs through the engineering campus?
What was the original name of Illinois Street in Urbana?
It was originally named Dry Street. There was both a High Street and a Dry Street in Urbana.(probably a nod to the fact that Champaign-Urbana was built on a swamp!) High Street retains the original name.
Dr. Roger Adams (for whom the Roger Adams laboratory was named) was head of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering for twenty-eight years. To which famous Americans was he related?
Roger Adams was related to former presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
Who recognized the Marching Illini as the “World’s Greatest College Band” back in the 1920s?
John Philip Sousa, who was the composer of “Stars and Stripes Forever.” (The University of Illinois is home to the world’s largest collection of Sousa scores and instruments.)
Tuition in 1867 was fifteen dollars. (Out-of-staters had to pay twenty dollars.) By 1940, seventy-three years later, there had been a 100 percent increase: in 1940 it cost thirty-five dollars a semester for in-state tuition and fourty dollars for out-of-state! (By logical extension, then, today’s tuition should be seventy dollars in-state, eighty dollars out-of-state.)
In 1938, which club’s motto was “Lips that touch lipstick shall never touch mine?”
The Anti-Lipstick Society, created by men who were against women students wearing excessive amounts of lipstick.
The University of Illinois holds the record for the world’s longest talk-a-thon: 609 uninterrupted hours!
What were the biggest attractions at the Department of Engineering open house in 1953?
“Kiss-O-Meter” demonstrations! (We have no idea what the “Kiss-O-Meter” might have been!)
James E. Corbin, a professor of animal sciences, was known as the father of the modern pet food industry. Why did Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine, thank Corbin for speeding up the release of the polio vaccine by five years?
Jonas Salk was using rhesus monkeys shipped from India as kidney cell donors for the testing and development of his vaccine, but the animals were so malnourished that they arrived debilitated. Salk asked Ralston Purina to develop a monkey chow that could be shipped to India to feed the monkeys and to provide healthy animals for the vaccine tests. Corbin was a young scientist who had only been with Ralston Purina six months at that time, but he and a colleague developed a product that helped the Indian monkeys thrive. The next group of monkeys that Salk received arrived in excellent condition.
“Playboy” magazine founder Hugh Hefner attended the U of I in the 1940s. Did he graduate?
Yes, he did. He graduated in 1949. He majored in psychology and double-minored in creative writing and art. He claims that some of the ideas for his magazine came while he was a student here.
There is one grave on the campus proper. Whose is it?
John Milton Gregory, the University of Illinois’s first president, is buried north of Altgeld Hall. A commemorative marker to the south of that building says, “If you seek his monument, look around you.”
How many student clubs and organizations does the University of Illinois have?
Over one thousand, including the Compulsive Lyres, the Hoof and Horn Club, the Intercollegiate Meats Judging Team, the Rodeo Club, the Sherlock Holmes Society, the Underwater Hockey Club, Falling Illini Skydiving, and the Yo-Yo Club.
How many U of I alumni are in the NFL’s football hall of fame?
Six: Dick Butkus, Red Grange, George Halas, Bobby Mitchell, Ray Nitschke, and “Shorty” Ray.
What Olympic gold medalist holds more Olympic gold medals than any other other woman in speed skating, and first trained at the U of I Ice Arena?
How things change
The College of Agriculture had a very slow start. Only six students were registered in the College in 1889, seven in 1890, eight in 1891, and thirteen in 1892. Between 1889 and 1892, only three students received degrees in agriculture. Today the college of ACES grants more than five hundred degrees each year.
How things stay the same
In the 1880s many students “did their laundry” by mailing it home.
Which 1980s rock band began its career here and practiced at the Illinois Street Residence Halls?
REO Speedwagon formed here in 1970.