In his early campus ramblings, Roger developed a fondness for the Lily Pond—a feature that had existed since 1917. By 1960, however, it had been cleared to make way for a residence hall parking lot. It was a topic to which his attention would return at a much later date, when he was editor of The Daily Illini.
“‘Your father is an electrician for the university,’ my mother told me. ‘It can’t run without him.’ . . . On nights when a fierce thunderstorm would descend, the phone might ring. I would lie awake waiting for my father to say, ‘Come on boy, the lights are out.’ We would drive in the maroon Plymouth through the darkened streets to the power plant, a looming coal-smelling building that my father would enter with a flashlight and do something. ‘All right, boy,’ he would say. ‘Stand by the door.’ All of the lights on the campus would come back on.” (Roger Ebert: Life Itself)
A Leg Up
While still a high-school senior, Roger had the opportunity to enroll in a Division of General Studies class. He signed up for Verbal Communications in the spring of 1960, earning a solid B. Of perhaps more significance, he picked up some invaluable college experience, which served him well when he began full-time studies the following September.
By the spring of 1960, Roger was ready to make a mark on campus as the editor of a newly formed newspaper, one offering a distinct opportunity for a young man of his talents and perspective.