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First campus historical marker to be placed outside Architecture Building

Jeff Unger, News Bureau
(217) 333-1085;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The UI plans to make – and mark – history today when Chancellor Michael Aiken unveils the first campus historical marker outside the Architecture Building on the University of Illinois campus.

The marker, recognizing the achievements of Nathan C. Ricker, is among 57 that will be posted around the Urbana-Champaign campus by fall. Ricker, the first person to graduate in architecture in the United States, established an architectural program at the UI in 1873. His students were recognized as among the best in their field.

"These markers are a lasting monument to the extraordinary faculty who have achieved so much throughout the history of this great university," said Aiken, who conceived of the marker program about two years ago and who said he is gratified to have seen the first marker put up prior to his retirement this summer. "As members of the community and visitors stroll across the campus, they will be continually reminded of the tradition of excellence of this campus."

The bronze markers, each weighing 75 pounds, are being cast in Erie, Pa., and will be mounted on 8-foot poles sunk several feet into concrete, said Robin Kaler, the assistant chancellor for public affairs and a member of the committee that has overseen the marker project from its inception.

The 12-member committee appointed by Aiken in the spring of 2000 spent several hours discussing what criteria to use to decide whether a marker was warranted and then solicited nominations from the campus.

The committee agreed upon 37 markers initially – to be placed around campus in the next few weeks – and another 20 to be posted by fall. The first group honors people not connected specifically with any campus building; the second group honors former UI faculty members for whom buildings are named, such as William Albert Noyes, for whom Noyes Lab is named. A former chemistry department chairman in the early 20th century and prolific scientist, Noyes was responsible for numerous discoveries.

The marker criteria included historical significance, whether the person's achievement changed the discipline, whether it has been of value to society, whether it has been a catalyst for other discoveries, and whether it differs from work at other institutions. Those chosen to be honored must no longer be on campus.

"We also wanted to make sure that the achievement of whomever we honored had 'resonance,' " Kaler said. "That is, there had to be a human aspect to it, something that made the achievement relevant to people’s lives."

The text for each marker initially was written by Todd Wilson, communications associate in the Office of Public Affairs. The text then was reviewed by the nominator, the nominator’s department head and dean, the marker committee and several editors on campus, Kaler said.

People are encouraged to nominate other candidates for marker status, Kaler said.

"For one thing, there's always the possibility that we might have missed something this first time around," Kaler said. "Especially some of the older accomplishments – because people associated with them are no longer around. At the same time, it's the nature of this institution that people are working on the frontiers of their disciplines. We eagerly anticipate the opportunity to honor the next historic achievements."