Illini Everywhere: Egyptian Illinois Illini, Since 1905

Since 1905, there have been multiple student groups representing new Illini from south of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad line also known as “Egyptian Illinois”. The Egyptians include many undergraduate, graduate, and transfer students who have contributed to the development of the State of Illinois. Read on to learn about Egyptian Illini!

Group Photo of 1908 Egyptian Club Members

Egyptian Club Group Photo from 1908 Illio, Page 315, found in Record Series 41/8/805.

Egyptian Club, 1905-1923

While the Illio (Record Series 41/8/805) provides group photographs with member names, the Daily Illini (Record Series 41/8/801) provides meeting announcements, and the Student and Faculty Organization Constitution and Records (Record Series 41/2/41) provides registration information, the activities of the Egyptian Illini are not detailed. In fact, no Egyptian alumni have donated materials yet. What we do know is that the Egyptian Illini, with members sometimes referred to as “Egypti”, hosted monthly “smokers” (social gatherings) and dances each semester.

Henry Ben Pope Ward (B. A. Literature and Arts 1908), of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, was the first Club president. After graduation, Mr. Ward returned to a long career in Mt. Vernon where he married Aline Emerson (whose father, Louis L. Emerson, was later Governor of Illinois from 1929-1933). [1]

A Photo of H. B. P. Ward.

H. B. P. Ward Illio Photo from 1908 Illio, Page 118, found in Record Series 41/8/805.

Another successful Egyptian Illini was Charles Wham (Law 1913) of Cartter, Illinois. Mr. Wham was a past President of his senior Class (second semester), Pan-Hellenic Council, and a Varsity football player, to name a few positions. After graduation, he joined the W. F. Bundy Law Office, (now Wham and Wham Lawyers). From 1937 to 1939, Mr. Ward was a two-term president of the Alumni Association and he later ran for a seat on the Board of Trustees. [2] Even later, he even directed the fiftieth reunion of the Class of 1912, in 1962. [3] [4]

A Photo of Charles Wham.

Charles Wham Illio Photo from 1913 Illio, Page 112, found in Record Series 41/8/805.

Yet another successful Egyptian Illini was William Everett Britton, (A.M. Political Science, 1910; Law, 1914), of Farina, Illinois. After graduation, Mr. Britton was a librarian in the University Law Library (now Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Law Library). His professional education and his instructional experiences with library users made him a well-placed man in the University. Not long later, beginning 1919, Mr. Britton assumed part-time business law instruction duties while his stature as a business law scholar grew. After a brief departure for a full-time professor position in 1921, Professor Britton returned to the College of Law Faculty in 1924. [5] [6] From 1945 to 1949, he was also the University’s Legal Counsel, counseling projects including the gift of the Robert Allerton estate and the lease of Navy Pier in Chicago for the University of Illinois Navy Pier campus development. In 1950, Professor Britton returned to teaching full-time until his retirement in 1955. His 1954 retirement announcement also meant the end of his additional, thirty-year role as Chairman of the University’s Committee on Accountancy since 1924. [7]

A Photo of W. E. Britton.

William Everett Britton Illio Photo from the 1915 Illio, Page 165, found in Record Series 41/8/805.

Egyptian Normal Club, 1921-1923

Isaac Owen Foster (MS Education 1922, PhD Education 1925), of Emma, Illinois, was a graduate student in education, a history teacher at University High School, and the founder of the Egyptian Normal Club. As a transfer student from the Normal School (a teaching school) in Carbondale, Illinois, Mr. Foster was seeking reconnecting with and mentoring fellow alumni from his undergraduate school in southern Illinois. [8] Transfer students and other new Illini have experienced difficulties adjusting to campus life, and this group organized to help Southern Illinois students.

The first page of the first Egyptian Normal Club organization's application form..

1921 Egyptian Normal Club of the University of Illinois Application Form, Page 1, found in Record Series 41/2/41, Box 9, “Egyptian Normal Club, 1921-23”.

Like other clubs, the Egyptian Normal Club had a constitution and monthly meetings during the Fall and Spring terms. The Club organized campus events including a Thanksgiving Dance, annual picnics at Crystal Lake Park, and receptions for members. [9] [10] [11]

The first page of the first Egyptian Normal Club organization's constitution.

1921 Egyptian Normal Club of the University of Illinois Constitution Page 1, found in Record Series 41/2/41, Box 9, “Egyptian Normal Club, 1921-23”.

Before even completing his PhD, Mr. Foster became Assistant Principal at the University High School. [12] He was also President of the local chapter of honorary educational fraternity Phi Delta Kappa. [13] Within a year of graduation, Dr. Foster’s career took him to Michigan before settling as a professor in Indiana. Unfortunately, the Egyptian Normal Club did not continue without him.

Egyptian Illini, 1937-1940

In the middle 1930s, a new Egyptian Illini group organized, as other regional Illini groups formed on campus. [14] Like the Egyptian Club, Egyptian Illini organized dinners and dances for members on campus. [15] Later, as the University planned to demolish University Hall to be replaced with a modern student building, Egyptians and other regional student organizations supported fundraising through campus dances and through alumni to “equip the new Illini Union building”. [16] The new Egyptian Illini also included women members and women as officers.

Mary Ellen Wunderlich (B.S. Home Economics, 1938) of Marion, Illinois, was an undergraduate transfer student in the College of Agriculture and the first president of Egyptian Illini. She was also an athlete in the Women’s Athletic Association (W.A.A.), playing basketball and volleyball. [17] [18]

A Photo of Mary Ellen Wunderlich.

Mary Ellen Wunderlich Illio Photo from the 1938 Illio, Page 140, found in Record Series 41/8/805.

Whether it be H. B. P. Ward’s lifelong service to Mt. Vernon, Charles Wham’s service to his clients in Centralia, the Alumni Association and the University of Illinois, William Everett Britton’s service to the University of Illinois, Isaac Owen Foster’s service to fellow regional transfer students, or Mary Ellen Wunderlich’s athletic and co-ed leadership, Egyptian Illini have contributed much to the Illini community.

Although like the Dixie Illini and other regional student organizations, there is limited identified documentation of group activity after World War Two as of yet. However, like the Dixie Illini and others, this can change and we look forward to arranging and sharing future accomplishments of more Egyptian Illini soon.

Are you an Egyptian Illini? Do you know someone who is? We’d like to hear from you! Please send us a message or leave a comment below. We want to include you and your story, as we celebrate the first 150 years of the University of Illinois.

Happy First 150 everyone!


[1] “Emerson, 78, Dies of Heart Ailment at Mt. Vernon”, Daily Illini, February 5, 1941.

[2] “Candidates…for Board of Trustees”, Daily Illini, April 22, 1944.

[3] “Old-timers to Hold Reunions”, Daily Illini, May 18, 1962.

[4] Campus historians may recall that the Memorial Bench and Pillar on the Main Quad is the gift of the Class of 1912. (See images: here and here)

[5] “Professor Britton to Leave University”, Daily Illini, May 16, 1921, page 2.

[6] Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, June 9, 1924, page 579, Record Series 1/1/802.

[7] Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, June 21, 1954, page 1371, Record Series 1/1/802.

[8] “Egyptian Normal Club”, Record Series 41/2/41, Box 9.

[9] “Students From S.I.N.U. Plan Thanksgiving Dance”, Daily Illini, November 20, 1920.

[10] “Egyptian Normal Club Plans Picnic”, Daily Illini, July 13, 1923, page 5.

[11] “Bulletin Board”, Daily Illini, November 24, 1922, page 5.

[12] “Urbana”, Urbana Daily Courier, March 14, 1925, page 5.

[13] “Phi Delta Kappa Officers Chosen for Following Year”, Daily Illini, May 25, 1922, page 8.

[14] “Form Six Illini Clubs in 1937: Active Regional Bodies Follow Dixie-Illini Movement”, Daily Illini, December 23, 1937.

[15] “35 Campus Organizations to Present Dinners, Dances, Hayrides Tonight”, Daily Illini, December 22, 1938.

[16] “Students Will Aid Union Campaign”, Daily Illini, January 6, 1939.

[17] “Interclass Volleyball Groups in WAA Tourney Announced”, Daily Illini, January 8, 1936, page 4.

[18] “WAA Tournament Will Begin Today”, Daily Illini, March 18, 1936, page 2.

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