In interviews after the symposium, Stanley Ikenberry, Donald Langenberg and James Stukel discuss the merger and its outcome.
Video: Henrique Cirne-Lima/Editing: Anna Dworzecka
They talked about UIC's past and present, but their focus was on the future.
UIC commemorated its 30th anniversary at a symposium Sept. 19 that celebrated the merger of two University of Illinois campuses in Chicago — the Medical Center and Circle — to become the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Some of the administrators and staff who were part of the process returned to see how it all turned out.
Three who were integral to the process — Stanley Ikenberry, who started talking about a merger on his first day as University of Illinois president in 1979; Donald
Langenberg, first chancellor of UIC; and James Stukel, who followed Langenberg as chancellor and Ikenberry as president — were reunited for a panel discussion.
"One thing you learn as a historian: institutions are not marathons. Institutions are more like a relay race, and these are the anchor men," said historian Fred Beuttler, who moderated the discussion.
Ikenberry admitted to a bit of showmanship when, on his first day in office, he flew to Chicago and walked from the Medical Center over to Circle Campus.
"I wanted to show that it really was a fairly short distance — eight-tenths of a mile?" he said.
Although a year-long task force cited cost savings as a major reason for the merger, the real goal was more long term, Ikenberry said.
"The drive behind this strategically was to change the presence of the University of Illinois in the city of Chicago," he said.
"I don't think all the good things that have happened at UIC happened because of consolidation, but I do think consolidation changed the concept of who it was and who it could become."
Langenberg, chancellor from 1983 to 1990, said when he joined UIC, he was amazed by the diversity of the campus and the city.
"This place has an advantage — a huge advantage — that results from its location in one of the nation's — no, the world's — most economically, socially and culturally dynamic cities," he said.
"That fact is formative, crucial and determinative, and upon it will depend the future of UIC and its next 30 years."
Stukel, chancellor from 1990 to 1995 and president from 1995 to 2004, talked about the "get it done" spirit at UIC as the campus tackled a list of problems: student retention rates, diversity, lack of residence halls, physical appearance and a weak relationship with the mayor and corporate leaders.
All three leaders agreed UIC, as a young university, is still developing its identity — and it is well-suited to respond to the changes ahead in the 21st century.
"This campus has always had a sense of insecurity, a feeling that it isn't getting the respect and the acknowledgement it deserves," Ikenberry said.
"That's a very healthy thing. Being a little bit hungry is just fine. It bodes well for the future."