Every week, we use STATEside to take a look back at the recent and not-so recent past, using the archives at the Vidette.

If you recall any of the campus happenings referenced in our This Week in Illinois State History feature, feel free to post in the Comments below.

Previous weeks: Homecoming week | October 12 | October 19 | October 26


Anyone who travels back and forth between Chicago and Normal would have been encouraged by today’s story on November 1, 2002, reporting that an Amtrak train used a new technology called Positive Train Control, or PTC, to test out speeds up to 109 miles per hour on a return trip to downtown Normal from Lexington. Lawmakers and other officials were on hand for the Lexington-Normal test run. Ten years later in 2012, high-speed rail is only now becoming an everyday reality for the Chicago-to-Normal stretch, after recent upgrades. On October 19, 2012, Gov. Pat Quinn and other officials rode a train from Joliet to Normal, hitting 111 mph between Dwight and Pontiac. The goal is to have 110-mph service along 75 percent of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor by 2015. Turns out high-speed rail takes a while.


A young law student with a famous pedigree comes to Illinois State’s Bowling and Billiards Center in 1992 to help observe Unity Week. It’s Jesse Jackson Jr., who is usually just down Interstate 74 attending University of Illinois law school. Jackson is on a campaign tour just days before the presidential election between Republican George H.W. Bush and his challenger, Democrat Bill Clinton. “We as students have a challenge to think of those students who have died in the process of trying to make unity possible,” Jackson tells students at Illinois State. (Jackson has been a U.S. congressman from Chicago since 1995.)


It’s 1982, and Bloomington’s First Pentecostal Church is protesting today’s Jefferson Starship concert at Illinois State. The church is specifically demanding an apology from the band for lyrics in songs such as “Easter” and “Son of Jesus,” saying the music blasphemes Jesus Christ and calls Christians stupid. The church went so far as to have a record-burning on its front steps the day before Starship’s Illinois State concert. “The Pentecostal Church is quite outspoken,” says Pastor Wesley Ates, who also challenged members of the band to a debate.


The chairman of the Student Senate’s ISU Committee, Jim Koch, uses a letter to the editor to reiterate the panel’s support for the University’s much debated name-change. Should Illinois State Normal University drop the “Normal”? Koch says the ISU Committee will mobilize students in support of the change, including information rallies, letter-writing campaigns, picketing, and even a marathon run to the state capitol, if need be. “Give your help in order to insure that your University and future alma mater, the oldest University in the State of Illinois, does not slowly slip to the ranks of second-rate universities,” Koch writes. Indeed, in January 1964, the institution’s formal name is changed to Illinois State University.

Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@ilstu.edu.