Illinois Public Media News
Abraham Lincoln delivered his farewell address in Springfield 150 years ago as he was about to leave for Washington, D.C., and three months later, the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
To mark the anniversary of the start of the war, communities from all over the country simultaneously read the former president's farewell address on Friday in an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Record for simultaneous reading of a single document. The reigning world record was set in 2006 when more than 223,000 people read from "Charlotte's Web."
The Guinness Book of World Records requires the reading to last five minutes, so people had to recite the brief speech three times. Don Owen, the assistant superintendent for Urbana School District 116, was among the nearly 50 people who participated in the mass reading at the Urbana City Building. Owen, who showed up with his two children, said the speech revealed a lot about Lincoln's presidency.
"He knew that even before the Civil War started that he was going to be a president remembered for either saving or destroying the union," Owen said. "That kind of intelligence and forethought is amazing for any president."
Organizers say it will be several weeks before they know if they broke the record
Meanwhile, Urbana is looking forward to more Lincoln events. City planner Rebecca Bird said in the next couple of months, the city will release a podcast outlining sites with connections to Lincoln.
A University of Illinois professor who formerly lived in Egypt says the sudden departure of Hosni Mubarak will now mean patience on the part of people there to see what kind of government develops.
Sociology and Middle East studies professor Asef Bayat said this quick transition of Mubarak handing power to the military didn't allow for another power to shadow the president, or form some type of alternative governing body.
"One has to really wait and see how the negotiations will start, and whether or not the army would be willing to really move the country into a democracy after a transitional period, and step back and remain as a kind of neutral body," Bayat said.
Bayat said there has been a large expectation of a 'honeymoon' with Mubarak's resignation. But he said in recent weeks, there has been a realization among Egypt's people that Mubarak's departure alone isn't enough. Bayat said he is now seeing a lot of banners calling for the entire regime to step down.
"While the slogans by and large focused on his (Mubarak's) departure, now I have seen a lot of banners and slogans basically saying that the regime should go, and that's a big, big difference from the past," he said.
Bayet said Egypt should look beyond any operators of power who revolved around Mubarek and his type of parliament. He also said there's a lack of coordination between different organs of power, and that was evident when the chief of the Egyptian army showed support for Mubarak following the Thursday address, just before he would announce he was stepping down.
It's Black History Month, and Al Letson, who's the host of NPR's State of the Re:Union, recently finished a documentary honoring the life of someone who he calls the most important civil rights figure with very little name recognition. Bayard Rustin was involved in the freedom rides, he served as the chief architect of the March on Washington, and by the end of his life, he became influential in the gay rights movement.
Al Letson was in Champaign this week to talk about Rustin's legacy, and he spoke with Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers.
(Photo courtesy of Warren Leffler)
A longtime advocate for the rights of disabled people says he's 'humbled and proud' to be named to the list of Lincoln Academy Laureates.
Tim Nugent founded the University of Illinois' Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services in 1948, and has since developed standards for handicapped accessibility. Nugent's ideas started with building ramps for injured World War II veterans. He was teaching health education at the U of I's former campus in Galesburg when it closed in 1949.
With no plans to transfer disabled students to Urbana, Nugent said that prompted rallies on the campus and in Springfield. He compares the effort to what African-Americans have gone through in this country.
"It wasn't until recently that they had full privileges," Nugent said. "And they were going through the same thing. It's a natural phenomenon when you bring out something new or different. People question it, people challenge it. And that's what proves its merit."
Nugent says he's worked with many Lincoln laureates, including Urbana native and film critic Roger Ebert, and is happy to be joining their ranks. He'll receive Order of Lincoln award in April 16th ceremonies at the U of I's Krannert Center for the Performing Arts along with five other people, including Flex-N-Gate Corporation President Shahid Khan.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois)
The achievements of two Champaign-Urbana residents have won them the state of Illinois' highest honor.
The Order of Lincoln honor is bestowed on Illinoisans who have served their communities - since it originated in 1964, it's gone to people ranging from Ronald Reagan to Gwendolyn Brooks to Walter Payton.
In April, Governor Pat Quinn will give the award to Shahid Khan, the president of the Urbana auto component company Flex-n-Gate, and to Tim Nugent, who worked for decades to make the University of Illinois and the rest of the world more accessible to people with disabilities.
Other honorees at the Krannert Center ceremony will be Chicago arts philanthropists Richard and Mary Lackritz Gray, Northwestern university law professor and former state senator Dawn Clark Netsch, and Illinois Arts Council chair Shirley Madigan.
An effort to build a wind turbine on the University of Illinois campus will appear on the Board of Trustees' agenda during its March 23 meeting in Springfield.
The plan calls for a single wind turbine on the university's South Farms site. It was estimated to cost $4.5 million, but last week the university increased that value by $700,000. University spokesman Tom Hardy said a challenge confronting the U of I is finding a way to close that budget gap.
"Still a lot of work to do on this project, not the least of which is how to close a nearly $700,000 funding gap," Hardy said. "In the meantime, the turbine project will be presented for consideration by the full board."
Suhail Barot, the Committee Chair with the Student Sustainability Committee, said he met Tuesday afternoon with U of I President Michael Hogan. Barot said Hogan told him the energy project would move forward.
"He did ask us to look into finding whatever we can do to help cover the budget shortfalls," Barot said. "We will help with it, but we don't know to what degree."
Students at the University of Illinois have been talking about setting up a wind turbine on campus for the last several years. It was originally introduced in 2003 by Students for Environmental Concerns (SECS), who initiated a student fee to support clean energy. By 2008, then-Chancellor Richard Herman canceled the project because of budget concerns.
A $2 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation supporting the project needs to be used before it expires at the end of May 2011.
At its meeting next month, the Board of Trustees is expected to vote on a contract with an energy company hired to build the turbine.
Champaign County residents have raised concerns about the project's cost, shadows produced by the turbine throughout the day, and the amount of noise pollution that would be generated.
The Champaign Unit 4 School District is mulling over the idea of building a new school to relieve overcrowding at Central High School.
The school board held the fourth public meeting Monday night to discuss the project, this time including board members of the Champaign City Council and the city's park district.
Seven sites are being considered to house the new school. Four of the sites are near the north end of Prospect Avenue, two are west of First Street and south of Windsor Avenue, and one is west of I-57 in Northwest Champaign. Each location is roughly 60- to 80-acres. Lynn Stuckey, a parent of a Central High School student, said wherever a new school is built, location is key.
"Frankly, I'm not in favor of a new high school given the locations that I've seen," Stuckey said. "I live four blocks away from Central High School. I like the location, and I think we can do more to keep our school in the middle of our community."
School board President Dave Tomlinson said the seven sites are being reviewed based on population growth and proximity to public transportation. Tomlinson added that the board is still gathering input from the community, and has not made a final decision on how it will proceed.
"We need more people to give us input...because we're not going to make the best decision we can unless we have the right input," Tomlinson said.
If a new school is built, voters would have to approve a tax referendum of at least $50 million to begin construction.
Feedback about the project can be e-mailed to CentralComments@ChampaignSchools.org
The manager at Willard Airport says commercial flights there won't be affected by the possible closure of the U of I's Institute of Aviation.
Steve Wanzek likely the biggest impact would be the downgrading of the airport's control tower, since 90-percent of the takeoffs and landings are pilots in training through the U of I. On Thursday, university administrators recommended that the Institute close once current students complete their degrees, or by the spring of 2014.
Wanzek said the Federal Aviation Administration could lose a few jobs at Willard, as well as training opportunities.
"A hundred-thousand activities in a non-O'Hare (International Airport) environment is a lot of activity, and they get a lot of exposure for trainees here," Wanzek said. "And that opportunity for the FAA will diminish as the institute slows down and if it goes away."
But Wanzek said the potential closing of Aviation won't affect Willard's efforts to construct a new tower, which he said should be finished by the end of next year. Meanwhile, the President at Flightstar hopes to make up for a loss of about $100-thousand in revenue that the Institute brings his facility each year - if it does close by 2014. Bill Giannetti said the loss is significant, but his business will survive. Flightstar does maintenance and charter flight service at the airport.
Giannetti said it is a shame that the Institute of Aviation and its deteriorating buildings have gone neglected by the U of I for years.
"My fear is the Institute will shut down, the FAA will build a new control tower, so we'll have a number of buildings that are going to be empty, going into a state of neglect, kind of like what we've seen with some of the buildings in Rantoul," Giannetti said. "These are old buildings. They really, at some point, needs to be demolished."
Gianetti said he had hoped the U of I would construct a new facility for Aviation, making it competitive with other schools that have better facilities.
Illinois' economy is not growing yet, but it's one point closer to doing so, according to the University of Illinois's Flash Index.
The monthly reading of the state economy was at 95.9 in January, up from 94.9 in December. Any number below 100 reflects economic contraction. But U of I Economist Fred Giertz said the Index has shown gradual improvement over the past eight months.
"This is one of the bigger jumps," Giertz said. "Any one month, you have to be careful about it - it could be an anomaly. But it's going in the direction that's expected, of a substantial increase, which is what's happening at the national level."
Giertz referred to national economic figures, which showed a sharp drop in the unemployment rate in January, even though job growth was weak. Illinois's 9.3% unemployment rate for December was slightly better than the national rate of 9.4% --- although Giertz said both were high, considering the improving economy. Now that the national rate has fallen to 9%, Giertz said he wants to see how the new state numbers stand in comparison, when they're released in about a week.
The Flash Index is based on Illinois tax revenues. Giertz said January's improvement was due to growth in state income and sales tax receipts, rather than corporate taxes.
The University of Illinois' Interim Chancellor and Provost have proposed that the Institute of Aviation be closed, following suit with recommendations made by a faculty committee.
In a letter distributed around campus this afternoon, Vice President and Interim Chancellor Robert Easter said, "As an institution, we must examine carefully our core missions and determine how to support and enhance those missions so that we may best serve our students, the state and society. We have arrived at the difficult conclusion that closing the Institute best serves those interests."
The letter was also signed by Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Interim Provost Richard Wheeler.
Administrators will ask that the Faculty Senate's Educational Policy Committee hold a public hearing on the proposal. After last September's 'Stewarding Excellence' review, the U of I's Illinois Business Consulting Group was asked to evaluate the marketability of a stand-alone and self-supporting flight certification program. The IBC concluded that there wasn't sufficient demand to support the expansion of such a program. Last year, Easter estimated the university could save up to $750,000 a year by closing the program.
The Interim Director of the Institute of Aviation, Tom Emanuel, said the news did not come as a surprise.
"There have been some restrictions to our enrollment, and the fact that all the faculty were taken from the program (and moved to other departments) by central administration a year or so ago," he said. "That left us in a pretty precarious situation, I mean, how can you have a program without a faculty base?"
The courses are now being taught by academic professionals and faculty from other departments. Aviation currently has about 160 students. Emanuel said he will suggest merging Aviation with another department when the Faculty Senate's committee meeting is held, which requires 30 days' notice. March 8th has been set as a tenative hearing date.. U of I administrators have guaranteed that current students would be allowed to complete the program, so the Institute of Aviation wouldn't be eliminated until the spring of 2014 at the earliest.
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