If the walls of the UI residence halls could talk, they couldn’t give you a more complete account of their history than Stanley Apperson could.
He can tell you about a beautiful old bookcase, purchased for just $58 in 1926 that still sits in Clark Hall. He can tell you why, for many years, male students had maid service in their residence hall rooms, but women did not. He can tell you about the days when drinking parties were allowed in residence halls, and where the now-independent student radio station WPGU got its call letters.
Apperson, who retired from the Division of Housing on July 31 as a program director, has the sort of institutional memory that extends beyond his 36 years on campus, including his time as a student.
“After some of the other people retired, I became the de facto historian,” he said. “If someone had a question or was doing research, they’d end up at my door.”
Originally from Foosland, in northern Champaign County, Apperson moved into 428 Townsend Hall in the Illinois Street Residence Halls as a freshman in 1974. Four years later he earned a degree in secondary education for social studies.
“I’m one of those that never left,” he said. “Some people are out to see the world; I was always more of a homebody, so I was content here. It all seemed to work well. There were always new and exciting challenges.”
After graduation, he was hired part-time as an administrative assistant in the Housing Division. He moved to his first full-time job as director of Weston Hall in September 1979. (WPGU was in the basement of Weston, part of the six-pack of residence halls that replaced the old Parade Ground Units, built as temporary post-war housing.)
Residence hall directors are responsible for training and overseeing student resident advisers. They plan programs and coordinate services for students.
He remembers many years when marijuana use wasn’t a reason to call the police, and when drinking parties were not against any rules.
“We had a period of time when you could have alcohol parties in the dorm when I was a student. I’m so glad I didn’t have to deal with that as a staff member,” he said.
Maid service was available in the residence halls until the late ’70s or so, but it wasn’t until the later years that it was an option for women, Apperson said.
It was assumed that young ladies could clean up after themselves, but young men needed someone to come in and change their sheets and pick up once a week, he said. Over time, fewer students opted for the service and it was discontinued.
Apperson said there were reasons from the early days that men’s housing was in Champaign and women’s in Urbana, and why women for many years were required to be in at a certain hour.
“The idea was, you don’t need hours for men. You’d just lock the women up and the men would get bored and go home,” he said.
Apperson eventually moved into the Conferences and Special Events office, where he worked until 1993. After that, he moved into “behind-the-scenes” administration. Some of Apperson’s favorite memories are of the tri-annual Urbana conference sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. He served as the primary liaison between the UI and the conference from 1987 to 2003. The conference drew some 20,000 young adults who had an interest in international missionary work. The attendees would stay in the residence halls from Dec. 27 to Jan.1. The conference representatives were so easy to work with, and often left the residence halls rooms cleaner than they’d found them, Apperson said.
That’s the reason UI residence hall rooms have locking closets, he said. The housing contracts have a clause that allows the UI to use the rooms for conferences during breaks.
Since retiring in July, Apperson has more time to help out with his daughters’ activities. Emily is a seventh-grader at Jefferson Middle School and Katie is a senior at Centennial High School.
“I’m back working Wednesday afternoons cooking a meal for a little more than 100 grade-schoolers and parent volunteers for our youth club at Faith United Methodist Church in Champaign,” he said.
He also volunteers with Meals on Wheels making deliveries.
Both will be on hold when he takes a trip to the Philippines to attend a wedding and explore for five weeks.
In retirement, Apperson will also have more time to help with chores on his family’s farm near Foosland.