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Stukel honored by namesake building

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stukel towers
“It’s a little strange,” having his name on the new residence hall, says retired university president James Stukel.

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

For James Stukel, retired University of Illinois president and former UIC chancellor, having the campus’ newest and largest residence hall named for him is “a real honor” that carries a lot of symbolic value.

“It’s a little strange, knowing that upcoming generations of students will see my name on a building,” said Stukel, who last toured Stukel Towers in June when it was still a construction project, and plans to return for a visit “once the students are all settled in.”

Looking east, the towers’ floor-to-ceiling windows offer a view that shows UIC’s place in Chicago — not just physically, but as an illustration of the Great Cities Commitment first launched by Stukel in 1993.

In the other three directions, the view offers the South Campus streetscape Stukel helped create as chancellor and university president.

Stukel recalled that when he moved to Chicago in 1985 to become vice chancellor for research, what is now South Campus was like “a bombed-out area.”

“Now it’s just magnificent,” he said. “The townhouses, the businesses, the residence halls — it changes the whole character of the campus.”

Stukel said it’s especially meaningful to him that the building bearing his name is just across the street from residence halls named for Marie Robinson and Thomas Beckham, UIC administrators who dedicated their careers to improving the lives of students.

Stukel knew and worked with Beckham, UIC’s first vice chancellor for student affairs, who died in 1996, and Robinson, his successor, who died in 1994.

“It’s an honor to be honored with them,” Stukel said.

When he was an undergraduate at Purdue University in the late ’50s, Stukel lived in a fraternity house that lacked many of the amenities — wireless Internet access, baby grand pianos and big-screen TVs — students probably take for granted in his namesake building.

But the benefits to students of living and learning together are timeless, he said.

Since his retirement in January 2005, Stukel, who lives by the Chicago lakefront, spends his time sailing, visiting his vacation home in Michigan and doing “the usual things retired people do — travel and grandchildren,” he said.

“I highly recommend it,” he added.

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Number of students living on campus continues to rise 08/29/07

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