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150th kicks off with February events

Illinois State University is marking its 150th year by honoring its history and looking toward its future.  The year-long sesquicentennial celebration gets underway on Thursday, Feb.15.  Events throughout the coming year will include public presentations by internationally recognized scholars and artists, new University music and a celebration of Illinois State’s history in books and videos.

The sesquicentennial year will begin with the traditional ringing of the Old Main Bell on the Quad on Founders Day, Feb. 15, at 10 a.m.  The bell will be rung once for every year that Illinois State has been in existence.  The Founders Day Convocation will be held that afternoon at 1 p.m. in Braden Auditorium.  The Convocation will serve as the official 150th anniversary kick-off event.  In addition to the traditional pomp and ceremony and the recognition of faculty and staff scholarship and service award winners, the Convocation will feature the premiere of “Procession of the Academics, by composer David Maslanka.  The processional music was specially-commissioned in honor of the University’s sesquicentennial.

Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and historian David McCullough will present the event’s keynote speech “Leadership and the History You Don’t Know.”  McCullough’s works include biographies of U.S. presidents John Adams and Harry S. Truman.  He has also appeared on the television shows Smithsonian World and The American Experience, and in documentaries, including The Civil War and Napoleon.

McCullough’s visit to campus is also in connection with the Illinois State Historical Society’s Illinois History Symposium, “Knowledge on the Prairie,” being held in the Bone Student Center, Feb. 15-17.  The symposium, held annually in Springfield, was moved to Illinois State’s campus this year to coincide with the 150th birthday of the state’s first public university.  Education will be a major theme of the symposium with sessions on history education, education in Illinois, the history of Illinois State University, frontier Illinois, the Civil War and historic preservation.  On Friday, Feb.16, Douglas Wilson, co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College, will deliver the keynote address, “President Lincoln’s Hidden Asset,” at the Symposium Banquet at 6:30 p.m.  For more information on the symposium visit HistoryIllinois or phone the Illinois State Historical Society at (217) 525-2781.

University Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus John Freed will deliver the symposium’s plenary address on Thursday, Feb. 15, at 11 a.m. in the Prairie Room.  Freed’s address, “The Founding of Illinois State Normal University: Normal School or State University,” will be a re-examination of the University’s early history and the interpretation of its educational mission.

Another specially-commissioned orchestral work in honor of Illinois State’s 150th will be premiered during the President’s Concert on Sunday, Feb. 18, at 3 p.m. in the Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall.  “A Carl Sandburg Reader” by composer David Maslanka will be performed by the University’s Wind Symphony, with special narration by President Emeritus David Strand.

For more information about Illinois State’s 150th Celebration visit the ISU Home page.

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