It’s been a cold, hard winter in Central Illinois, as well as much of the country. Looking for something to brighten your day and break the doldrums of shoveling snow in frigid temperatures?

Keep an eye on your mailbox, as you’ll soon have the February issue of Illinois State’s alumni magazine. Let your mind wander from winter back to campus. Just grab your favorite hot drink and settle on the sofa with Illinois StateYou can also download the full PDF and toss it on your tablet.

Here’s what you’ll find inside this next issue:

Back to baseball

Nothing says warmer days are ahead than spring training prior to opening day. Baseball fans should keep an eye on Neal Cotts during this upcoming season. A Redbird standout pitcher, Cotts went from a World Series celebration with the Chicago White Sox to watching major league play from the sidelines. Injuries kept him out of any lineup from 2009 until last season with the Texas Rangers. Cotts’ return to professional baseball is deemed as unlikely as his initial arrival.

Evidence of excellence

Illinois State’s graduation rate has hit an all-time high of 71.5 percent, which puts ISU among the top 10 percent of all U.S. universities. The statistic reflects the percent of 2007 freshmen who graduated within six years. The graduation rate also rose specifically for minority students. The graduation rate for 1992’s freshman class was, by contrast, just 52.6 percent. The national average for public universities today is only 56 percent. Find out ISU’s formula for successfully serving students.

Students at Moulton School

Ken Janda ’57 attended Moulton School south of Wilmington in Illinois. He is bottom left in the classroom photo from the 1940s.

Little school on the prairie

With its foundation as a teachers’ college, Illinois State has a long legacy of preparing educators. The earliest graduates left campus to teach in a one-room schoolhouse. Some of the University’s oldest alums make it clear that these schools are long gone but far from forgotten. Four graduates from the 1930s still relish those simpler times, which uniquely challenged teachers. The routine required to manage eight grades simultaneously is remembered well by all four, who relished the task of preparing youngsters in the quaint educational system of yesteryear.

Five decades later

Older alums will also remember an equally important part of the University’s history: the hotly debated decision to change the name of Illinois State Normal University. It’s been 50 years since that momentous decision. The emotion and concern voiced when the controversial move was made is revisited. Those involved recall the shift to Illinois State University as a turning point that altered ISU’s path. And yet, there is evidence the University has not veered from teacher preparation as opponents feared.

Inside Look

Redbird fans will appreciate the opportunity to go behind the closed doors of the locker room used by the men’s basketball team. Private gifts designated to repurpose a former Redbird Arena weight room have transformed the space into an area where players study, view game film, relax and bond. You’ll get some insider’s trivia as well, including how many pairs of Nikes players always have on hand.

Susan Marquardt Blystone can be reached at