Celebrating the ’66ers

6/18/16 50th Anniversary of the Circle Campus Class of 1966, the 1st graduating class. To mark the ocassion, a bronze plaque designed by campus architect Walter Netsch commemorating the 1st commencement was re-installed near the original location.

Members of the Chicago Circle Campus Class of 1966 returned to campus June 18 for the reinstallation of a class gift on the 50th anniversary of their graduation. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

As Chicago Circle Campus alumnus Arlen Gould leafed through the 1966 yearbook, he showed Chancellor Michael Amiridis the beginnings of the UIC campus.

“It’s a thrill to be here,” said Gould, who graduated with a degree in political science. “What I learned here was the basis for what I’ve enjoyed my whole life.”

Amiridis joined staff, students and 25 members of the Circle Campus Class of 1966 — which totaled 192 graduates — on the east side of campus June 18 to celebrate the group’s contributions to the university and the reinstallation of a class gift that was lost after campus development and construction.

“We couldn’t be more inspired by your dedication to this institution, and by your presence here today,” Amiridis remarked as he welcomed alumni back on the 50th anniversary of their graduation.

The class moved from the Navy Pier campus, which opened near the end of World War II to accommodate returning veterans, to the Chicago Circle Campus (CCC) in 1965. The new four-year public university allowed students from the two-year Undergraduate Division at Navy Pier to complete their degrees. At the time, Circle Campus had two colleges — Liberal Arts and Sciences and Business Administration —and “a lot of mud,” Gould recalled.

bronze plaque designed by campus architect Walter Netsch commemorating the 1st commencement

The class gift was reinstalled between Student Center East and Lincoln Hall.

“We really, really had things to do because [the campus] was literally zero — nothing,” said William (Bill) Johnson, Class of 1966 president, three-sport athlete and biological sciences graduate.

The east side of campus, designed by acclaimed architect Walter Netsch, was still under construction when classes started.

But class officers and students became a part of the historic link between the Navy Pier and Circle campuses. They also helped lay the foundation for a university that’s now the second largest in the state, something that would not have been possible without students who are characterized by their “resilience, tenacity and determination,” Amiridis said.

The university reinstalled a replica of the ’66er’s class gift, a brass plaque designed by Netsch, between Student Center East and Lincoln Hall. The plaque is mounted on granite that was part of the university’s original architecture.

“It was a really significant moment, and we all appreciate the effort the university made to do this for us,” said Marguerite (Marty) Hutchins, class treasurer who earned her degree in psychology.

“It’s the initial symbol of a great university and it shows our history,” Johnson added.

Jeff Nearhoof, vice chancellor for advancement, asked alumni to save the date for December commencement events and get involved.

“We’re here to embrace our alumni,” he said. “We want you to stay connected.”