Campus Explorations

As a child, Roger lived at 410 East Washington Street, Urbana, a short distance from the university. He explored the campus and came to know it well, developing a depth of knowledge and confidence that few other students could muster. While his peers struggled with homesickness, he walked into his first classes well-focused—and eager to concentrate on extra-curricular writing.

Youthful Wanderings

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.

Lily Pond

Childhood Memories

“‘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)

Abbot Power Exterior
Abbott Power Interior

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.

Roger Ebert’s Student Identification Card
Roger Ebert’s Study Grades Winter 1960

First Foray

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.

The Daily Illini announces new student paper, ‘Spectator,’ February 16, 1961
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