When the Illinois State magazine staff launched our blog STATEside last August, we were looking for a way to connect our alumni readers back to life on today’s campus on a daily basis.

Now, with more than 180 individual STATEside stories under our belts, we’d like to wrap up our freshman year by sharing with you our Top 10 favorite posts from Year 1. This Top 10 list is a mix of our most-read posts and other stories that struck a chord with our readers.

And while STATEside will be shifting to weekly publication over the summer, we’ll be back with a new story every weekday when students return to campus in August. Got a story idea of your own? Share it!


Senior Kyle Waznis’ family was rocked by news last fall that his father, Jim Pruett, had an aggressive tumor the size of a tennis ball in his brain, and that he had only a few months to live. That meant Jim would miss Kyle’s May 2013 graduation ceremony—something he had long wished to see. But thanks to some help from Illinois State faculty and staff, Kyle got to walk early (at the December Commencement), so that his father could see him in his cap and gown. Kyle was eager to tell his story as a “thank you” to those who helped his family.


Being a member of the Big Red Marching Machine is demanding work, especially during football season. That’s when STATEside caught up with sophomore Mark Reppen, a trombone player who is deaf. Mark talked about how he honed his talent just like any other musician—through years of practice, at least three weekly BRMM rehearsals, feedback from his band director, his fellow trombone players, and his tuner.


Last fall, alternative rockers All-American Rejects and Boys Like Girls came to Bone Student Center’s Braden Auditorium, followed later in the year by Matchbox Twenty and Phillip Phillips. The big-name bookings were welcome news to alumni who remember seeing major shows at Braden over the years. STATEside spoke to Bone Student Center Associate Director Barb Dallinger about Braden’s history, the biggest acts to come through Normal, and some of the unusual requests she’s received over the years from celebrities.


Illinois State’s faculty and graduate students do some amazing work, but they don’t have a monopoly on research here on campus. Every spring, the Undergraduate Research Symposium shines a light on Illinois State’s youngest researchers, giving them space to show off their team or individual passion projects. STATEside visited the symposium and found a diverse body of work, from research on parasitic killers, to a dictionary of historic ISU slang, to an analysis of how noisy bars can be dangerous to a bartender’s ears.

Milner ghost arrested

Illinois State University Police load Ange Milner’s ghost into a squad car outside Williams Hall.


Anyone who’s spent any time on the Illinois State campus—or seen Ghostbusters—knows the legend of Ange Milner’s ghost, which supposedly haunts the old stacks at Williams Hall. STATEside teamed up with Illinois State University Police on April Fools’ Day for a ghost-hunting expedition. By the end of the day, Milner’s ghost was in custody—thanks to some help from a couple of School of Theatre and Dance professors.


Anyone who visits the website TotalFratMove.com leaves with the impression that college fraternity and sorority members drink, skip class, post dumb things on social media, and not much else. It’s a popular site, especially among college students, and one that irks Illinois State junior Jessica Garber. So she created her own site in response, called Actual Sorority Move, and tied in other social media. It’s a great story about a student fighting unfair sorority stereotypes.


STATEside made the trek to the men’s and women’s Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournaments in Missouri in March, to show what the fan experience is all about. We had a blast chatting with die-hard Redbird fans who made the trek too. One of our favorite stories came from the Mennonite College of Nursing, which has unofficially designated the section behind the Redbird women at home games as Section N, as the section for nurses. STATEside caught up with Section N on the road in St. Charles.

Anthony La Giglia poses with his Batman creation.

Anthony La Giglia poses with his Batman creation.


One morning, the Illinois State campus woke up to find an amazing snow sculpture of the Dark Knight on the Quad. Not-so-creatively dubbed “Snowman Batman,” the sculpture was an impressive work of art, handcrafted by junior art major Anthony La Giglia with only a plastic knife from a campus dining center. This is one of STATEside’s most popular stories from Year 1, generating tons of funny comments on Illinois State’s Facebook page—most involving Mr. Freeze. It even got retweeted by DC Comics.


No STATEside story has been more read than our interview with Tyler Raineri, a junior construction management major who was one of three finalists for a $1 million Lay’s potato chip contest. Tyler’s Sriracha chips recipe (a riff on a family favorite) brought him oh-so-close to the grand prize, but he came up just short in online voting this spring. Even though he didn’t win, he still gets $50,000, and a great story.

James Gang concert

James Gang opens for Edgar Winter on April 30, 1974, at Illinois State.


Illinois State’s concert scene in the 1970s was pretty epic, as any alum will tell you. Bruce Nelson ’74 had just about the best seat in the house as the official concert photographer. Now, he’s dusting off his old negatives and sharing his photos with his fellow alums. We spoke to Bruce around the holidays about his favorite concerts, his best shots, and what it was like to pick up Grand Funk Railroad at the airport.

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