In 2010, we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Sangamon State University and the University of Illinois Springfield.

See below for a history of the institution, video recollections, photos, slideshows, and more.

The Poetry

Read the poetry of John Knoepfle, on becoming a University of Illinois campus, and on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of SSU-UIS.

The Stories

Read about staff, faculty, and students who passed through the halls of SSU and UIS.


  • Screensavers
  • Ringtones

Commemorative Ornament

2010 Springfield City Ornament

2010 St. Joseph's Home Official City Ornament

The University of Illinois Springfield is proud that our colonnade has been chosen as the center piece of the 2010 St. Joseph’s Home Official City Ornament.

The UIS colonnade was completed in the summer of 2005. It quickly has become the major landmark of the university.

Each ornament is die-cut, hand-assembled, 24-karat gold-plated, and made in the U.S.A. No more than 5,000 of these ornaments will be produced. Each comes with a signed and numbered certificate.

Proceeds from the annual ornament project support the mission and the ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception.



Download screensavers with historic photos of Sangamon State University and Illinois Springfield (instructions included):


We created several different musical styles of the song Illinois, Illinois as ringtones! Choose your style:

To use these ringtones, you need a cell phone with MP3 ringtone support. Use one of the following options to transfer the MP3 ringtone onto your phone:

If you have an iPhone, you can download all the ringtones to your computer and add them to your phone (ringtones are in M4R format, file is a .zip file, 3.9 MB):

  • Use Bluetooth to pair your computer and cell phone
  • If your cell phone has a USB connection, use that to move the MP3 file to your phone
  • E-mail or text the MP3 as an attachment

Once you transfer the file to your phone, place the ringtone file into the Audio folder of your phone, then select the new ringtone in your Tools or Options menu.


Professors John Knoepfle and Marcellus Leonard with poet Kevin Stein

John Knoepfle is Professor Emeritus of Literature at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Regarded as a distinguished poet of “place,” he is author of some 18 books of poetry, as well as many prose pieces on a variety of subjects.

  • Oh Sangamon
  • One Last Time: Taps for SSU

Knoepfle served in World War II. He has tape recorded some 50 steamboat men of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. He has taught at Southern Illinois University in East St. Louis, Maryville College, Washington University, St. Louis University and Sangamon State University (now UIS).

Formerly of Auburn, Illinois, he now lives in Springfield with his wife Peggy. They have four children and four grandchildren.

Awards include Illinois Poet of the Year (1985), the Mark Twain Award for Distinguished Contributions to Midwestern Literature (1986) by the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, Michigan State University; 1986 Illinois Author of the Year by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English; the Illinois Center for the Book Literary Heritage Award (1995); Doctor of Humane Letters, Maryville University (1996); Doctor of Humane Letters, Springfield College in Illinois (1999); the WILL Award Signaling Excellence in the Arts (2002), and the President’s Award for Exemplary Achievement in the Literary Arts (2004) by the Poets and Writers Literary Forum, Springfield.

Oh Sangamon

by John Knoepfle

[lines for the fortieth anniversary celebration of the founding of the university of illinois at springfield]

it was the dream of something special
set a temporary campus and above
dominant on the hill the library
and it was with its mandate
not any starting school
but a public affair concerned with
the public and the public’s affairs

so from that first day this place
announced this is who we are
this is the business of sangamon state
we will win national championships
we will bring the nations leaders to springfield
there will be scholars and authors
diplomats and political thinkers and tribal leaders

and the women will speak out with confidence
that was a given from the beginning for faculty and staff
and writers would be drawn to springfield
and a mix of students local and foreign
that was the school’s birth right realization
an activist committed university
fashioned whole cloth from activist times

this is how it was conceived
how it grew into the present university
this center for studies in springfield
and may it always be a source of learning and of life
where a native illinois people could have said
wahahjockdaybowayetahwaheeahkon to all gathering here
may you be happy in a happy place

One Last Time: Taps for SSU

by John Knoepfle
June 29, 1995

now that we are here one last time and we have done
what we were called on to do under a sun
glittering off the lake
and these our old fields
their summer riot beneath our prairie sky
I want to say with you that we all know well
what our mandate was the good the bad and the rest
and no one can take that from us whatever is nigh

The Slideshows

We combed through 40 years of photos to create these slideshows commemorating the 40 year anniversary of SSU-UIS.

  • 40 Years in Review: The Campus. The People. The Events
    3 minutes
  • Campus Buildings through the Years
    3 minutes

University of Illinois Springfield: 1970 - 2010

40 Years in Review

Campus Buildings through the Years

The Stories

Read about staff, faculty, and students who have passed through the halls of SSU and UIS.

  • See the links at left for stories by Shannon O’Brien.

And click on the following links for stories posted to our 40th Anniversary discussion board:

  • Thanks, SSU, for Introducing Me to Paul Simon and Public Policy Journalism

Shannon O’Brien is a writer and photographer who works for the University of Illinois Springfield Alumni Association.

The stories on this website started out as contributions from UIS alumni. Shannon contacted the individuals and wrote the stories linked at left as a way to celebrate the University’s anniversary.

The Community Arts Management Program


The 40th anniversary of SSU-UIS has snuck up on me.

I joined the faculty of SSU in May of 1973, some 37 years ago, so I wasn’t quite there at the beginning.  I was one of three faculty who were hired under one of the SSU “experiments,” hiring faculty members who had real-life experience but did not have the typical academic credentials. Paul Simon, later to become Senator Paul Simon, was another to be hired under the same experimental program.

My job was to create a masters degree program in arts administration and Paul was hired to create a program which was called “Public Affairs Reporting.”  My program was named “Community Arts Management,” and was aimed at preparing students to work with multi-arts non-profit organizations such as community and state arts councils.

The CAM program functioned from 1973 into the early 2000’s at which time it was dropped from the curriculum.  Graduates of the program fill responsible positions in the arts nation-wide, and one of the first two graduates, Robert Vaughn, is currently director of the auditorium at UIS.  The second of our first two graduates, Angus Randolph,is director of the art museum in Springfield, Ohio.

During my three years with the program we brought in speakers from all over the country, courtesy of a grant from the Donner Foundation, and produced a series of video-tapes of those speakers, a unique collection which resides in the UIS library.

Another star graduate of the CAM program is Michael Dunbar who has been director of the Percent for Art program for the State of Illinois for over 25 years, and who has become a renowned sculptor.  And yet another star performer is Cheryl Alters Jamison who received an outstanding alumnae award from UIS last year.

While there were other arts adminisration programs at other universities, the CAM program at SSU-UIS was distinctive in its emphasis on preparation for work with multi-arts organizations.

There are over 160 graduates of the CAM program scattered from coast to coast doing SSU-UIS proud, and adding to the splendor of this 40th anniversary.

David Sennema, CAM Founding Director, 1973-76

First Impression


While still living and working in the Chicago area, I was accepted as a charter student at SSU.

My higher education had begun right after high school graduation in 1961.  I attended the University of Illinois – Chicago which was located at Navy Pier.  After one year there, I entered the U.S Army and served for almost five years including a tour of duty in Vietnam.  After my return, I worked and attended school on a part time basis going to the Chicago Community College and a private college.

My desire was to save enough money to attend the university full time and finish my degrees.  Since this new university was just beginning, my expectations were not exceptionally high for the looks of the campus when I first visited it in the spring of 1970. Unfortunately, it fell well below my hopes. My car got stuck in the mud in the corn field while I viewed what appeared at a distance to be quonset huts being constructed – flashbacks to jungle living occurred.

It was my good fortune that I endured because not only did I receive a first class education but I also came to understand that the setting does not have to have splendid grandeur for the learning process to succeed.  Many insights were gained in the classrooms, in nearby pizza parlors, and, on occasions, during after class meetings in other adult establishments in my years at SSU.

Dan Schram

About UIS Alum Nick Penning

By Shannon O’Brien

Nick Penning credits Sangamon State University with changing the course of his life.

Read Nick’s earlier post below, to the 40 Year Anniversary discussion board.

Prior to returning to school, he was a dissatisfied school teacher in Springfield. “I figured out teaching wasn’t for me,” he said, “but I didn’t know what to do next.” He knew he was interested in two subjects: communications and public policy. He discovered his love for writing when he was working on his undergraduate degree and taking the required writing courses. “No matter what the topic was, I loved to write,” he recalled. He liked the idea of writing about things that could make a difference to the community, and was drawn to public policy for this reason.

He started classes at SSU. He knew he wanted to combine writing with public policy, but he wasn’t sure how, so he decided to work under the umbrella of Individual Option, an option at SSU where the student creates his or her own program. While he was perusing the university catalog in search of classes, he found a pubic affairs reporting course taught by Springfield politician Paul Simon. Simon founded the Public Affairs Reporting program at SSU. “My dad, who was a doctor, had a lot of respect for Paul Simon,” Penning said. When he tried to enroll for the writing course, he was told he would have to be interviewed before he could join the class. Chris Vlahoplus, the Director of University Relations at SSU, and Burnell Heinecke, the Springfield Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, interviewed him; they convinced him to enroll in the Public Affairs Reporting program.

The program satisfied Penning’s interests. “It was more than I could have ever possibly imagined. I’d never done newspaper work; had no idea about journalism,” he said. “When I found out you could write for a living I thought this is amazing.”

After he finished the program, though there weren’t any openings for reporters in Springfield, he eventually had the opportunity to interview with the Illinois State Register. The interviewer asked him what he saw himself doing in the future and Penning said he imagined himself working for someone in Congress. When he wasn’t offered that job, a friend advised him to not be so honest. Later, when he learned the reporter that covered the legislature for the Illinois State Register had left to take another job, Penning contacted the managing editor and made his case for why he should be hired to cover the legislature. The managing editor agreed and gave Penning the position.

He was there for nine months before the Illinois State Register, an afternoon paper, merged with the State Journal, the city’s morning paper. He left the newly merged paper rather than be relocated to Chicago, and the next opportunity he found was as a reporter for Channel 20. He worked there from 1974-1977 before leaving for Washington D.C., where he went to work for Paul Simon during Simon’s second term. Penning and his family have stayed in Washington D.C and since 1985, Penning has worked for the American Association of School Administrators where he writes for the public policy department.

About SSU, Penning says he’s “grateful that SSU came into being. It’s because of SSU that I was introduced into a new profession. If it weren’t for SSU and Paul Simon, I would not be where I am today. I never dreamed I’d be a writer for a living. I had stories in the Washington Post three times. I was Arlington’s only weekly newspaper columnist for 19 years. That was fun.”

Penning still writes a column that can be found at his website:

Thanks, SSU, for Introducing Me to Paul Simon and Public Policy Journalism


SSU changed the course of my life.

I was a dissatisfied teacher who had no idea I could actually be paid to write, something I loved to do, and further learn more about public policy, an area in which I’d hoped to ‘make a difference.’

I owe a debt of gratitude to founding President Bob Spencer for helping form Sangamon State and, even more, for allowing me to meet then-Lt. Gov. Paul Simon, who was at that moment creating the Public Affairs Reporting program.

That seminal project of Paul’s introduced me and 14 others to the vital field of public affairs journalism and, via Capitol bureau internships, allowed us to enter the profession I felt so privileged to join.

I served my reporting internship under the gifted pro, John Camper, who was chief of the Capitol Bureau of the Chicago Daily News, Mike Royko’s home paper.  I met so many fascinating Daily News journalists, including Henry Hanson and Charlie Nicodemus, for whom I did a lot of legwork in the corporation division of the Secretary of State’s office.

John taught me about the legislature and its operations and how to cover it all.  He helped me conduct an investigation of ‘double-dipping’ legislators, who got paychecks from both the state and ‘back home’ local governments.  He even shared his byline with me on that one.

The pressroom, then overseen by Shelby Vasconcelles, was in a huge, cavernous room, divided by partitions for each bureau.  It was full of typwriter and newswire clacking, riotous jokes, and Shelby’s occasional yells, “UPI! Pick up your phone!” when someone wasn’t answering an incoming call.

We interns met and worked alongside such great reporters as Tom Laue, Mike Robinson, Bob  Kieckhefer, Burnell Heinecke, Charlie Wheeler, Larry Kramp, Gregg Ramshaw, Taylor Pensoneau, Simeon Osby, and Al and Mary Lou Manning (and many more I’ve forgotten at the moment).

We met and worked alongside the gifted photographers Les Sintay and John Filo, who just two years before had won the Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography for his shot of the girl kneeling, pleadingly, over the body of a Kent State student who’d been killed by the Ohio National Guard in an infamous 1970 incident.

SSU and Paul Simon gave me superb training that led to a newspaper job, and gave me friendships that have lasted for a lifetime.

Because of SSU and Paul, I had the credentials to take over a fortuitous opening for legislative correspondent at the now defunct Illinois State Register, just months after receiving my degree.

And, when the Copley family decided to merge the PM Register with the AM Journal (creating today’s Springfield J-R) and I suddenly didn’t fit into their new editorial plans, I was able to continue reporting thanks to the intervention on my behalf of fellow PAR graduate Roger Wolfe, who was covering the legislature for WICS-TV in Springfield and helped me land another aptly-timed opening at Roger’s station.

Eventually Paul asked me to join his congressional office in Washington to cover education issues (and energy, the environment, agriculture, foreign language education, transportation, and other public policy topics) as one of his legislative assistants.  Through him and his staff I learned, over the course of nearly seven years, how Congress and its committees work and was able to assist Paul on a number of education-related bills and resolutions.

After I left Paul, I ended up as a legislative specialist (lobbyist) for the American Assn of School Administrators, the professional membership association for local school superintendents, where I have been able — for the past 25 years — to advocate on behalf of school leaders and the interests of disadvantaged children and their education.

Again, thanks to Paul, I had the skills to become a freelance biweekly columnist for the ‘Tempo’ (lifestyle) section of the suburban Washington Journal Newspapers (circ. 120,000) for a year; and then the only weekly columnist published by Arlington, Va.’s only weekly newspaper for 19 years.

Many of those columns and subsequent blogs that became ‘recommended reader’ posts during the ’08 campaign at The Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo, can be read at, the tag that had been the name of my 19-year, “Penning Thoughts” newspaper column.

The paper decided in early ’08 that I was too hot to handle, when I became the subject of fierce postings on at least two gun blogs.  Those groups were reacting to my last column, “Honey, Grab the Derringer, We’re Taking the Kids to McDonalds!” a story of how an anti-gun bill, ‘Guns may not be carried into bars,’ got turned into, ‘Guns may be carried into bars, as long as the gun-toter doesn’t drink’!

Thanks to Bob Spencer, Paul Simon and SSU for what each of them did to help me become a newspaperman, columnist and education advocate who made it to Washington, D.C., where Mary Ann and I raised four daughters and jut celebrated our 42nd anniversary.

What a life you gave me.  What a joy it has been.

Melanie and Phillip Reinhardt

Melanie and Phillip Reinhardt think they probably met for the first time during a game of midnight euchre in a Lincoln Residence Hall lounge during the first week of school at the University of Illinois Springfield.

“A group of us played euchre every night at midnight in one of the lounges, and we were both in that group,” Melanie wrote in an email.

The two were part of the first class of 116 freshmen Capital Scholars at UIS in 2001. Prior to then the University served only juniors and seniors. Melanie, whose maiden name is Cain, remembers her time at UIS with fondness. “It was an incredible experience, and it was just so cool to be part of something so historic and significant as the first freshmen class at the university. One of the best parts about it was how close we all became during that first year,” she writes.

Melanie and Phillip Reinhardt

She and Phillip started dating during their sophomore year. They were in a couple of classes together, they became close with their classmates, and they bonded over their love of sports. In fact, the pair sites a game of basketball as one of their best memories as a couple at UIS. “When we first started dating, we went to the Rec Center to play some one-on-one basketball, and even though it got a little competitive, we had a blast. We played a lot of pick-up games with other people during our time at UIS, but we still both remember that first one-on-one game,” Melanie says.

Another one of their favorite memories is Springfest from their sophomore year. Their friends “put together a Springfest team, and we called ourselves the Teenage Mutant Ninja Cappies,” Melanie explained. She said they took part in all the activities of the week, competed in the various games and their team ended up “winning the whole thing.”

The couple graduated from UIS in 2005; Melanie earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in Business Administration and one in Communication, and a minor in Accounting. Phillip earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. They married in 2006 and have a daughter, Alexis, who was born in December 2009.

Melanie and Phillip say they keep in touch with several of their Capital Scholar classmates, and that a few of them were in the couple’s wedding party. “Facebook makes keeping in touch with everyone a lot easier, but we still manage to see these friends a fair amount. We also really enjoyed seeing everyone at the recent Capital Scholar reunion,” Phillip says.

Besides meeting some of their closest friends at UIS (and meeting each other), Melanie says UIS has had a positive effect on their lives in other ways, too. She said the opportunity to play intercollegiate sports was an incredible experience for her, and their degrees have helped them in their careers. Melanie works as a Communication Specialist in the Public Information and Marketing department at Southwestern Illinois College, and Phillip works as an Information Technology Specialist for DISA CONUS at Scott Air Force Base.

When asked what advice they’d give to new students at UIS, the couple says, “Get involved! Take advantage of all of the programs, events and opportunities the college offers. You will get a chance to meet some great people, experience new things and create memories that will last a lifetime.”