Roger Ebert’s first Daily Illini byline dealt with two major artists at the School of Music. The papers of both Garvey and Partch are held by the University Archives and are the object of regular research use.
On the Masthead
The first appearance of Roger in the Daily Illini masthead listed him as “Night Sports Editor.”
Up in the World
Two years later, he had moved up several notches, to the position of Editor in Chief.
An Activist Spririt
Roger’s inclination toward activism bore fruit in the defense of campus landmarks. One campus feature that Roger treasured was the “Halfway House,” a streetcar/bus stop that had stood on Green Street since the 19th century at the point halfway between Urbana and Champaign.
Saving Campus History
To accommodate the early 1960s widening of Green Street, the Halfway House had been disassembled and “lost” to campus until The Daily Illini discovered it on the South Farms, lying in parts and next to a chicken coop. Roger used his position at the paper to campaign for its restoration and return to campus.
By the time of the second semester in 1964/65, Roger was enrolled in the UIUC Graduate College and looking towards future studies at the University of Capetown (as well as worried about the military draft). In a sign of his fundamental significance to the University of Illinois, he had the opportunity to address two campus forums to not just sum up his observations on the university, but also to present his broader world view. He had come a long way from a child accompanying his father to the Power Plant, but his eyes were still on the underlying structure of what was needed to make a university great. In his idealism, it seems clear that despite his vigilant criticism, he still remained fiercely dedicated to Illinois.