Looking Back on BenU

BenHall in 2005 prior to major changes to the campus. Photo courtesy of Benedictine Library, Archives, and Special Collections.

by Therese Porod

Benedictine University will be celebrating its 125th anniversary on Thursday, March 1 with a Founders’ Bash to honor alumni and celebrate current students.

The Founder’s Day groundbreaking ceremony will be hosted for faculty and staff on Friday, March 2 at the farmhouse, which is being converted to a new Alumni Welcome Center.

“Founder’s Day is important to recognize because it reminds everyone at the University how far we’ve come and of our rich history,” said Jessica Stillo, associate director for stewardship.

The private event will be followed by a celebration for faculty and staff in Krasa that will feature speakers like President Dr. William Carroll and  Abbot Austin. The Benedictine monks will also be presented with recognition of their 125 years of excellence.

“For students, it’s interesting to reflect on what life on campus might have been like 125 years ago and of all the alumni that have come before you and those generations that will come after you,” added Stillo.

“BenU has taught me the importance of heritage, especially balance and hospitality,” commented Marco Masini, associate vice president of student life. “I would like to focus on those two things that expanded my growth.”

According to Benedictine’s Voice’s magazine, the history of BenU began on March 2, 1887 when Benedictine monks paid $6,240 for a farmhouse and 104 acres of land.

The university was first named St. Procopious College in 1901, Illinois Benedictine College in 1971 and finally Benedictine University in 1996. The first bachelor degrees were awarded in 1910, sending off the first graduates to a world of opportunities.

Today, four colleges make up the University, creating a wide range of academic success.  These include the College of Business, College of Education and Health Services, College of Liberal Arts and College of Science.

The residence halls were all created at different times. Jaeger Hall was opened in 1951, Neuzil Hall in 1969, Ondrak in 1970 and finally Founders’ Woods in 2000.

Jen Wildes, alumni and head Benedictine volleyball coach, was one of the first residents of Founders’ Woods.

“I have been a part of Benedictine since 1998. I have grown up here and I would like to think that I am continuing to grow while I work here,” Wildes explained. “I have realized how lucky I am to have had an amazing collegiate experience and that I am blessed to be able to work at a place that I love so much,”

Although BenU is an academic institution, many feel that the people are what make the biggest difference here.

“The people have always been my favorite part of BenU,” added Wildes. “I was really lucky to meet some great people while I was a student and to be influenced by some pretty special coaches.”

“My hope for the future is that we continue to be the strong, Catholic, diverse, progressive institution that we have been historically,” shared Mercy Robb, executive director of marketing and communications at Benedictine.