The Division of Student Affairs, along with the entire Illinois State University community, is mourning the loss of Steve Adams, who will be remembered as an impactful leader, trusted mentor, caring friend, and exceptional Redbird. Adams fought pancreatic cancer for more than three years before passing away on May 8, 2020.
Adams spent his entire 35-year career in higher education at Illinois State. He served in major administrative positions in Academic Affairs for nearly three decades, including assistant vice president for Enrollment Management and Academic Services and director of Admissions, as well as interim roles as director of Financial Aid and director of Enrollment Management, and was named vice president for Student Affairs in 2006. He retired on June 1, 2011. Even in retirement, he continued to serve the University, working out of the Office of the President for two years.
Adams grew up in Bloomington-Normal, attending Metcalf School and University High School on the Illinois State campus. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1968 from Illinois Wesleyan University. He then served his country in the U.S. Army with the United Nations Command in Seoul, South Korea, from 1968 to 1970 for which he was awarded the Joint Services Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service. After his military service, Adams completed graduate course work in counseling at Illinois State and was a Fellow in the Education Policy Fellowship Program in Washington, D.C. He was, perhaps, best known for his long and storied career as the “Voice of the Redbirds” for men’s basketball and football—a career that began in 1976, and except for a brief retirement in 2013, continued into the 2019-2020 men’s basketball season.
Included among Adams’ numerous recognitions were the Neal R. Gamsky Quality of Student Life Award from the Division of Student Affairs, Stretch Miller Award for service to Illinois State University Athletics, Joseph F. Warner Golden Redbird Award, Missouri Valley Conference Most Courageous Award, Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and the University High School Alumni Association Pioneer Hall of Fame. The Illinois State Alumni Association named him an Honorary Member.
Vice President for Student Affairs Levester “LJ” Johnson said: “It is with heavy hearts that we mourn Steve’s passing. He will forever be remembered for his significant contributions to the student experience and for the mentorship and support he provided to many who still work throughout the Division of Student Affairs and the University. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Sandi, and their entire family.”
The Division of Student Affairs’ Steve and Sandi Adams Legacy Hall of Fame, which began in 2014, is named in their honor for their many years of combined service and commitment to Illinois State University. It recognizes their dedication to the role holistic education plays in the life of a student, as well as their steadfast loyalty to Illinois State University. Steve and Sandi Adams enjoyed welcoming a new class of inductees to the Hall of Fame each year, during which Adams provided a heartfelt welcome that referenced his and Sandi’s commitment to students, the Division of Student Affairs, and the Redbird spirit.
The Steve and Sandi Adams Legacy Hall of Fame is appropriately named, as Adams’ legacy and profound impact on Illinois State University will live on through his contributions to the institution and by all those who knew and loved him. The Division of Student Affairs plans to celebrate Adams’ life this fall during the Hall of Fame ceremony with details to be shared at a later date.