Military Day 1926: old photo of military drill with hundreds of soldiersl on a wide field

Talk: The Historic Role of the Military at the University of Illinois

The Spurlock Museum hosts the talk The Historic Role of the Military at the University of Illinois on Thursday, March 15, at 4:00 PM. Join retired Alumni Association vice president, Naval ROTC alumnus, and retired Navy commander Joe Rank for a presentation on this little-known aspect of the University’s history.

From its opening in 1868, the University of Illinois and the military have had profound impacts on one another. Once dubbed “the West Point of the West,” Illinois’ military training programs have provided the Armed Forces with “citizen soldier” leaders for a century and a half. Prior to World War I, President Edmund James (1904–20) was a leading advocate of a standardized, nationwide Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program at Land Grant universities. During World Wars I and II, the University of Illinois provided technical training to tens of thousands of soldiers and sailors in non-degree programs in aviation, diesel mechanics, and communications. Wartime defense research in digital computing, synthetic rubber, anti-malarial drugs, and Doppler radar set the stage for the University’s preeminence in scientific research.

Third Thursday / Knowledge at Work

The program is part of the Third Thursday Series and is held in conjunction with the Spurlock Museum’s temporary exhibit Knowledge at Work: The University of Illinois at 150. This exhibit explores the history of campus as a community of educators, researchers, and students engaged in learning, research, and public service. Learn about the contributions of a wide variety of people and groups to campus history and ways the University has changed how it relates to the people it serves. The exhibit runs through December 21, 2018.

Image courtesy of University of Illinois Archives.


For further information on this event, contact Beth Watkins at or (217) 265-5485

All participants are welcome. To request disability-related accommodations for this event, please contact Brian Cudiamat at or (217) 244-5586.