Recreating a masterpiece: Jane Bergman creates rendition of Altgeld glass dome

Jane Bergman has always held a special spot in her heart for the brilliance of stained glass.

“My very first memory is being held by my mother (in St. Patrick’s Church in Urbana) while people were singing,” Bergman said. “I was gazing at the enchanting brilliance of the sunlight streaming through the beautiful stained glass windows of the church. That memory still warms my soul.”

Jane Bergman displays her replica of the glass dome that once overlooked the library in Altgeld Hall.

Jane Bergman displays her replica of the glass dome that once overlooked the library in Altgeld Hall. (Photo courtesy of Jane Bergman.)

That’s why Bergman’s discovery in 2008 that there was once a large, stained glass dome over the library in Altgeld Hall, her very place of work, made such an impact on the university employee.

More than a decade of work later, through countless hours of painstaking research and artistry, Bergman has created a replica of the old dome some 77 years after it was taken down and plastered over.

Altgeld Hall last underwent major renovations in 1956, when the School of Law left and the Department of Mathematics moved in. The dome had been taken down over a decade prior, in 1942.

Bergman, an office manager for the Department of Mathematics, knew that Altgeld Hall was in need of renovation, but a renovation seemed to be a remote possibility in 2008 when she discovered that the dome had once existed. Still, she began work on a replica in hopes that Altgeld Hall would someday be renovated—and that a stained glass dome would be part of it.

Now, with the design firms of CannonDesign and Bailey Edward in the process of planning the renovation, with completion for Altgeld Hall set for 2024, the possibility of restoring or recreating the stained glass dome is, in fact, being investigated, according to building officials.

Long before she was aware of the current renovation plans, however, Bergman wanted to remind people of the beauty of the original work. And so, she set off on her mission to make her own rendition.

Bergman is artsy — she decorated her wedding dress with light blue Swarovski beads, for example, to match her husband’s eyes — and figured that she could learn the skills needed to create something that would allow others to see the beauty that the dome once possessed.

A historical image of the glass dome

This is the only historical image of the glass dome over the library in Altgeld Hall that Jane Bergman could find. It was taken down in 1942. (Image courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.)

“I’ve always had a huge love for stained glass,” Bergman said. “I started working on this and then I realized, ‘You know, if I really love stained glass so much, why don’t I do it?’”

While researching what the old dome looked like, Bergman began taking stained glass courses at Cracked Glass, a stained glass company in Urbana. She quickly worked her way through nearly every class offered.

Creating the rendition proved to be a taller task than Bergman could have foreseen, however. From roughly 2009 to 2011, she spent her lunch hours and much of her free time looking for colored photos of the dome or the original design. It took years of research and work before the two-dimensional, 50-inch by 33.5-inch foil rendition was even imaginable.

“It took me two years to figure out that there wouldn’t be a colored picture, so I stopped looking for that,” Bergman said. “I even met with the people over in (the University of Illinois) Archives and looked at old architectural drawings and stuff, hoping that we could find the design.”

She also scoured the Daily Illini and (Champaign-Urbana) News-Gazette archives, to no avail, and couldn’t find an image or sketch of the dome at any local libraries or historical archives. She even examined the university’s Board of Trustee minutes from 1880 to 1900 to find the company that did the design, but found nothing.

Eventually, she found a black and white photo in the University of Illinois Archives that showed about one-quarter of the dome’s design. While excited to have a reference point, Bergman knew it would take extreme attention to detail and some intuitive conclusions to get the design right.

Bergman blew up the photo and traced the lines of the design onto 60-inch by 40-inch poster paper, flipping the copy around in order to fill out the design’s oval shape and adjusting each aspect of the design to mirror the differing panels.

She also examined other stained glass designs in-depth, and, eventually, using skills gained in the courses she was taking, came up with a high-quality drawing. Confident that she had the design as accurate as possible, Bergman scanned it onto a disk and then began working on it in Photoshop.

What she thought would be a straightforward process turned out to be anything but. The scan of the design was too detailed and full of imperfections, and the pixels were off-color. So Bergman began to redefine the image, pixel-by-pixel, making thousands of corrections—and restarting after multiple computer crashes—until the image was to her liking.

A high-resolution image of Jane Bergman's stained glass dome replica

The Beckman Institute created a high-resolution image of Jane Bergman’s stained glass dome replica. (Image courtesy of the Beckman Institute.)

Once she completed the entire design, she obtained approval to have it printed on foam board and a transparency sheet. Then she began using the foiling skills she had learned, finally beginning to weave the final image of a nearly forgotten masterpiece.

Demonstrating the foiling technique, Bergman said: “I copy the design onto cardstock and onto transparent film. After covering the cardstock with a sheet of double-sided adhesive tape, I cut around each section with an Exacto knife to remove the plastic. Laying the colored foil on the exposed adhesive transfers the foil to the design. Once the foiling is complete, I align the film, with the same design on it, and lay it directly on top. The design on the transparency delineates between the sections, so you can really see the stained glass effect.”

The final product was capped off with the addition of a frame, and it’s now on display in the Mathematics Library in Altgeld Hall in hopes that it inspires support and becomes a precursor for the dome’s return. During all the years she spent on the artwork, Bergman knew that for someone to support a dome, they’d first need to see the full potential of this “beautiful adornment that once graced Altgeld Hall.”

“I knew nobody else was going to do this, because people who would be this interested wouldn’t have the skills to create this,” Bergman said. “I already knew how to do the foiling. I just had to make the design.”

Posted in News

Architecture firm hired for Altgeld Hall and Illini Hall project

The University of Illinois has hired a Chicago design firm to begin planning the Altgeld Hall and Illini Hall project to modernize learning spaces and increase capacity in data science and other mathematical sciences.

During their March meeting, the Board of Trustees approved CannonDesign to conceptualize and create schematic designs for the project, which will include the construction of a new building on the site of Illini Hall, and the renovation of Altgeld Hall. Campus officials expect the new building to be constructed by 2022, and for the renovation of Altgeld to be complete by 2024.

Altgeld Hall

A Chicago design firm will prepare architectural plans for the renovation of Altgeld Hall and the construction of a new building on the site of Illini Hall.

Once the schematic designs are complete—which will provide basically an overall visualization of the project—they will be brought back to the Board of Trustees for review. If the board approves, CannonDesign will proceed with planning the details of the project. The total design contract amount is estimated to be $4.4 million.

CannonDesign is the same firm that designed the renovation of Lincoln Hall, which was completed in 2012. It has also designed projects at several other universities, including the student union at the University of Florida, a residence hall at Boston University, the law school library tower at the University of Chicago, a chemistry laboratory renovation at Yale University, and many more.

“We are very pleased that the trustees approved CannonDesign for the Altgeld Hall and Illini Hall project,” said Derek Fultz, director of facilities for the College of LAS who also served on the selection committee that recommended the firm. “We fully expect the buildings to display the same, high levels of creativity and practicality that CannonDesign has provided in the past.”

Campus is still raising money for the Altgeld Hall and Illini Hall project. The new building will be constructed on the site of Illini Hall, which is scheduled to be razed at the corner of South Wright and East John streets beginning in fall 2020. It will be replaced with a larger, world-class facility for learning and discovery, including a data science center that does not currently exist on campus.

The new building will be an advanced classroom and research facility focused on creating knowledge through mathematics, statistics, data science, and machine learning. The departments of Mathematics and Statistics will continue to use space in the new building.

The new building will be funded in part with a portion of the $500 million in state capital funding that was approved last spring to launch the Illinois Innovation Network and Discovery Partners Institute. The university will also contribute to the new building.

The Altgeld Hall renovation will receive funding from campus in addition to funding from donations and other sources, some of which has already been secured. The building’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places means that certain historic features will be restored, while new features will be added to increase energy efficiency and accessibility.  State-of-the-art classroom space will be created to improve the learning environment for the thousands of students who take classes in Altgeld Hall each semester.

The renovation of Altgeld Hall will begin when construction of the new building is complete. Built in 1897, Altgeld Hall is the second oldest building on campus. It was named for former Illinois Governor John Altgeld and formerly served as the original university library and law school before becoming home to the Department of Mathematics. It was last renovated in 1956.

Posted in News

Erasing a chalky dilemma—Altgeld worker solves a tough math problem: dust

What do you get when you add mathematics and chalkboards? Grant Cole, a building service worker from Facilities & Services who worked in Altgeld Hall, can answer that question: Dust, and lots of it.

As a cleaner in one of the busiest buildings on campus—a mathematics building to boot—Cole knew how the learning process could be accompanied by clouds of dust as dense as the morning fog. The question was, what to do about it? Anybody who knows math professors knows how they love their chalkboards. But nobody seemed to have a good solution for the gritty side effects.

The chalk vacuum created by Grant Cole and Ralph Keil

A chalk vacuum created by building service workers in Altgeld Hall has helped clear up a chalk problem. (Photo by Samantha Jones Toal.)

“Some of the staff and faculty were beating their chalk erasers against the wall,” Cole said. “They were beating them on the radiators on each side of the chalkboard, and even on the wall going to the elevator. And then I observed another professor, walking across in front of the stage, and he was holding two of the longer erasers together, rubbing them and beating them to get the chalk dust out.”

Toshua York, director of budget and resource planning in the Department of Mathematics, said the problem seemed hopeless.

“Some of the faculty were getting chalk dust everywhere,” York said. “It was creating a huge mess, but they would say, ‘We don’t know how else to clean them!’”

Cole did his best to combat the problem. At the request of faculty, he switched out erasers in the middle of the day and washed chalkboards between classes. But Cole was resourceful, and he brainstormed an easier solution.

“I thought about finding grating wire or chicken wire to hang on a cable so they could beat it on that, into a trash can,” Cole said, “but as I was looking around, I came across an old backpack vacuum that was collecting dust in one of the rooms of Altgeld and had a new idea.”

Grant Cole

Grant Cole, pictured here, and his friend Ralph Keil got creative to solve a chalk dust issue. (Photo courtesy of Grant Cole.)

With some scrap metal, wood, and the help of his friend, Ralph Keil, Cole created a chalk vacuum at zero cost. It was a hit. A year later, Cole’s popular chalk vacuum sits in Altgeld Hall, where students and professors alike slide the erasers over the device and condemn all those dust particles to a proper holding place.

“A few professors told me that they think it’s wonderful, that they come and see it, and they think it’s pretty cool,” Cole said. “Altgeld is a math building, and math professors, they don’t do anything without a piece of chalk in their hand.”

Rinat Kedem, professor of mathematics, would agree. Kedem actually has her very own chalk vacuum in her office. It was a gift from colleagues from Osaka, Japan, where she lived and taught for years. That’s where she developed a respect for chalkboards and chalk; every classroom in Japan has a chalk vacuum, she said.

“They have the studies where if you take notes, it makes a difference because it allows you time to reflect on what you just wrote. Writing changes the way you think, and the writing medium changes the way you think. It’s very important for me,” Kedem said. “Mathematicians all over the world prefer blackboards.”

Kedem is enthusiastic about Cole’s solution to Altgeld’s dust problem.

“Every classroom with a blackboard should have a chalk vacuum,” Kedem said. “Chalk dust is a major irritant for mathematics professors in general and me in particular, and this little machine makes a big difference in my office.”

Cole’s supervisor, James Matthews, assistant superintendent of building services at Facilities & Services, is pleased with Cole’s initiative.

“Grant coming up with this idea shows how much he cares about what he does here at the university,” Matthews said. “We truly appreciate that quality in people.”

Posted in News

Former chair contributes to the Altgeld Hall renovation

Philippe Tondeur, professor emeritus of mathematics, has worked and studied at universities around the world, but the University of Illinois holds a special place in his heart and mind.

Tondeur has donated in support of the Campaign for Altgeld and Illini Halls, which includes a plan to renovate Altgeld Hall. The building—which serves as home to the Department of Mathematics where Tondeur once served as chair—was last significantly renovated in 1956. The university has announced that a major renovation of Altgeld is targeted for completion in 2024.

Tondeur said he is proud to contribute to the project.

A desire to improve the educational experience for students led Philippe Tondeur, professor emeritus of mathematics and former chair of the Department of Mathematics, to support the renovation of Altgeld Hall. (Photo courtesy of Philippe Tondeur.)

“State of the art facilities will greatly enhance the student learning experiences,” he said.

Tondeur attended college at the University of Zurich, where he earned a PhD in mathematics. He went on to serve as a research fellow and lecturer at the University of Paris, Harvard University, and the University of California at Berkeley before taking on the role of associate professor at Wesleyan University.

In 1968, Tondeur came to the University of Illinois and became a full professor in 1970. After serving as department chair, Tondeur served as the director for the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation.

Tondeur has given over 200 lectures at institutions all over the globe. He has also served as a visiting professor at about a dozen universities including the University of Buenos Aires, the University of Rome and Keio University in Tokyo.

Even after spending so much time at other universities, however, Tondeur feels a strong bond with the University of Illinois. He noted that the “fantastic Department of Mathematics” is what originally drew him to working full-time at Illinois.

“The attraction of the university was a position in a world-class institution, with a faculty wholeheartedly devoted to mathematics research and teaching,” he said.

The renovation of both Altgeld and Illini Halls is projected to cost about $100 million, which will be funded by the state, campus and generous donations, including one from Tondeur.

The renovation is coming at an important time. In the past 10 years, enrollment in the mathematics department has increased about 40 percent, which means updates to the facilities are needed to help accommodate a larger influx of students. Tondeur said he’s thrilled to be a part of much-needed renovations that will convert the building into a modern and enduring learning environment.

Tondeur said he loved teaching at the University of Illinois and wants to ensure that students here receive the best possible education for years to come.

“Being part of a faculty entirely devoted to research and teaching has been a life-enhancing experience and the contact with students has been an integral part of it,” Tondeur said. “The assimilation and admiration of the achievements of my colleagues over time at Illinois and elsewhere has been an exciting part of it. These activities have been the substance of my wonderful professional life.”

Posted in News

The art of playing Altgeld Hall

The clock struck 12:50 p.m. and the Quad teemed with students during passing period. High above them, in Altgeld Hall, Jonathon Smith moved quickly, organizing his sheet music. He knew what many of them would think—that a machine was playing the chimes in the tower. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Purposefully, with passion, Smith began to “play the tower,” so to speak. Playing the chimes is different than virtually any other instrument. It requires footwork. Smith glided from one end of the bell levers to the other, pressing them downward to adjust tension on the long lines that activated the clappers—metal balls within the bells. As the clappers swung and struck the chimes, the notes of “Hail to the Orange” pealed across campus.

This isn’t the first time the Altgeld chimes have been played, not even close. They’re almost 100 years old. But after a recent renovation took them offline, their comeback has been relatively quiet compared to the rather downbeat publicity that occurred when they went silent. Now, the future of the Altgeld chimes appears stronger than ever.

Smith is the first of a new lineage of chimes players. The lead player is now a position for graduate students in the

Jonathon Smith plays the chimes in Altgeld Hall.

Jonathon Smith plays the chimes in Altgeld Hall. A recent renovation has made the future of the chimes stronger than ever. (Photo by Jesse Wallace.)

School of Music who have been actively playing the bells. Smith oversees a registered student organization, Altgeld Ringers, which is dedicated to making the playing more organized.

Meanwhile, the renovation that silenced the chimes in the first place has improved the environment greatly. It was the first renovation in 60 years and the chimes needed it badly.

The room housing the instrument has new walls and has been repainted. New emergency and safety systems have been installed, new flooring has been put in place to make the floor level, railings were installed and gates put in place along the steep sets of staircases. The Department of Mathematics also supplied the room with new furniture, a computer, printer and a scanner for music arrangements and other administrative needs.

The chimes instrument, as well as the practice playing console, were completely refurbished.

“It used to wobble, but it doesn’t anymore,” Smith said, of the chimes console. He’s been playing the chimes since 2011.

A new automatic system was also installed to keep the time, and changes were made to the chimes to ensure easier playing.

“(Playing the chimes) used to seem a lot more athletic than it does now. They actually did some work to make the playing less tiresome and smoother,” Smith said. “We’re really happy to be back to playing, happy to be back to playing renovated instruments, especially the practice console. This is a night and day difference, we practice everything here before we play it.”

While Smith and the rest of the chimes players have been grateful for the updates, Smith is committed to letting the history of the iconic place echo, too. Reminders of Sue Wood, who started playing the chimes in 1971 and served as chimesmaster from 1995 until the recent renovation, are all around.

“We have a ton of Sue’s music, like Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter. She never put her initials on it, but she wrote very tiny so you can tell it’s hers,” Smith said. “It’s a really neat thing to have this instrument up here, but (it’s also historical) and really unique to this school and our program here.”

“Every person that plays up here has probably left some remnants of their time here,” Smith added. “When I’m done here, my music will still be here.”

Illinois is one of the last schools to continue their chimes program, according to Smith. Many universities have implemented automatic systems or have failed to maintain their bells due to finances. But the chimes in Altgeld Hall have remained a unique fixture at Illinois. Players teach each other how to play the instrument.

“I learned how to play the chimes from Sue (Wood),” Smith said. “It’s not really a standardized instrument. There are only 15 bells, and all of the music we have we arrange ourselves. Most of our music, going back to 1920, has all been arranged by somebody here.”

The chimes themselves were created with the specific intent of playing Illinois Loyalty. But today, students can hear everything from the theme song of popular cartoon Futurama to classical harp tunes from the 1600s, a testament to how the chimes continue to adapt to modern times.

“So many students use Reddit and we hear a lot of complimentary things, we get song requests on our Facebook page, there’s a little more interaction with the digital media,” Smith said, adding that he is currently in the process of digitizing song arrangements. “The players all want to hold onto the integrity of what (Sue Wood) started.”

Since the initial renovations, public tours are no longer available. However, Smith is determined to share the charm of the chimes with the community and students, many of whom, like he himself once mistakenly believed, think the chimes are just some pre-recorded speaker. In fact, playing the chimes is a one-of-a-kind musical feat.

“Playing the chimes is much different than sitting down at another instrument because you have to move so much — you move your entire body,” Smith said. “It’s the action of moving and putting your body and weight into the instrument to play the notes. The building has to do with the acoustics. You’re playing the building.”

Posted in News

Renovation, construction plans move forward with architect selection

The University of Illinois is moving forward with plans to expand its leadership in the mathematical sciences by constructing a new building west of the Main Quad by 2022 and renovating Altgeld Hall by 2024.

Derek Fultz, director of facilities for the College of LAS, said the university is negotiating an architect contract for the roughly $100 million project which is expected to increase capacity, modernize learning spaces, and encourage innovation in data science and other mathematical sciences. Fultz anticipates that the university will sign the contract for the project by spring of this year.

Altgeld Hall

“We’d like one architectural team to do both projects,” Fultz said.

Campus is still raising money for the project. The new building will be constructed on the site of Illini Hall, which is scheduled to be razed beginning in fall 2020. It will be replaced with a larger, world-class facility for learning and discovery, including a data science center that does not currently exist on campus.

The new building will be funded in part with a portion of the $500 million in state capital funding that was approved last spring to launch the Illinois Innovation Network and Discovery Partners Institute. The university will also contribute to the new building.

The Altgeld Hall renovation will receive funding from campus in addition to funding from donations and other sources, some of which has already been secured. The building’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places means that certain historic features will be restored, while new features will be added to increase energy efficiency and accessibility.  State-of-the-art classroom space will be created to improve the learning environment for the thousands of students who take classes in Altgeld Hall each semester.

The new building will be an advanced classroom and research facility focused on creating knowledge through mathematics, statistics, data analysis, and machine learning. The departments of Mathematics and Statistics will continue to use space in the new building.

The renovation of Altgeld Hall will begin when construction of the new building is complete. Built in 1897, Altgeld Hall is the second oldest building on campus. It was named for former Illinois Governor John Altgeld and formerly served as the original university library and law school before becoming home to the Department of Mathematics. It was last renovated in 1956.

“This is an exciting and meaningful time for this project,” said Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS. “We’ve been talking about this for many years. The selection of an architect is significant. It means that we have a clear timeline to use for planning and preparing.”

Posted in News

Campus plans new data science center near Main Quad, renovations to Altgeld Hall

A new data science center will be funded in part with a portion of the $500 million in state capital funding that was approved last spring to launch the Discovery Partners Institute and Illinois Innovation Network.

Plans for a new statewide innovation network to accelerate job creation and economic growth include building a world-class center devoted to the fast-growing field of data science, U of I System officials have announced.

The data science center will be created by replacing the university’s Illini Hall, which currently consists of primarily classrooms, computer labs, and faculty offices, with a state-of-the-art classroom and research facility focused on creating knowledge through statistics, data analysis, and machine learning.

Additionally, the university plans to renovate Altgeld Hall. Built in 1897, Altgeld is the second-oldest building on campus, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It hasn’t been renovated since 1956, when it became home to the Department of Mathematics.

The data science center will be funded in part with a portion of the $500 million in state capital funding that was approved last spring to launch the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) and Illinois Innovation Network (IIN). The university will contribute to the project.

The Altgeld Hall renovation will receive funding from campus in addition to funding from donations and other sources, some of which has already been secured.

“The DPI is a $500 million vote of confidence and support from our state leaders in this university’s ability to be the most important driver of innovation and economic growth in our state,” said Chancellor Robert J. Jones. “And we’re extremely excited that one of the inaugural investments recognizes the unmatched expertise in data sciences and advanced analytics we have at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.”

Illini Hall, located a block west of the Main Quad on Wright Street, will be replaced with a new data science center. (Campus photo.)

Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, said the building and renovation projects will link the data science initiative through DPI to the departments of Mathematics and Statistics while providing the departments with long-needed infrastructure improvements. The two departments currently share the bulk of the space in Illini Hall.

“This has tremendous implications for the departments of Mathematics and Statistics, and the entire college,” said Hu. “The new data science center will be pivotal to further establishing LAS as a leader in this field, and, taken together, the building projects will allow for the incredible growth we’ve seen in the mathematical sciences to continue unabated.”

The data science center project will create a new, 60,000- to 80,000-square-foot classroom and research facility on the current site of Illini Hall, which sits roughly a block west of the Main Quad on Wright Street. The new facility will be an incubator for collaborative research and education in data science, which is rapidly growing to include faculty and students from all over campus.

In addition to a new data science center, campus plans to renovate Altgeld Hall. (Campus photo.)

Undergraduate enrollment in the departments of Statistics, Mathematics, and Computer Science have doubled in the last decade. The units also have deep connections with businesses that would serve IIN’s mission through internship agreements and alumni who work at Fortune 500 firms across the state and beyond. Faculty from the units are involved in interdisciplinary research that touches all fields at the core of IIN’s mission.

Another campus project under DPI will expand EnterpriseWorks, an incubator for early-stage tech firms at Urbana-Champaign’s Research Park that has been named one of Forbes magazine’s “12 Business Incubators Changing the World.”

Plans for DPI and IIN were announced in October. Work is currently underway on an implementation plan that will establish a timetable for opening and other details of the enterprise, where world-class researchers will work side-by-side with students and businesses to foster next-generation innovation and workforce development and address societal grand challenges of great importance to the state of Illinois and beyond.

The DPI will be developed on a donated site along the Chicago River. The state is currently working on a bond sale that will provide capital funding to help develop the DPI, an innovation center that will be home to leading-edge research, and the IIN, a virtually connected network of regional hubs that bridge the distance between communities and foster collaborative discovery, education, and entrepreneurship, bringing energy and economic development to the entire state.

The DPI will bring together top faculty in agriculture, health care, computing, environment, and other critical fields from the U of I System and partner universities that already include the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Tel Aviv University. Nearly 100 new researchers also will be added and together they will connect with hundreds of businesses and thousands of students over time, as well as with entrepreneurs and venture capital firms.

Posted in News

Campus pledges $27 million in student funding to renovate Altgeld Hall

Altgeld Hall on a snowy evening.

Altgeld Hall on a snowy evening.

By Samantha Jones Toal

The renovation of Altgeld Hall is coming closer to reality after a campus committee conditionally approved allocating $27 million in student funding to modernize and upgrade the iconic building.

The Academic Facilities Maintenance Fund Assessment (AFMFA) Oversight Committee approved the amounts for fiscal years 2020 to 2021 contingent upon the university securing the remainder of funds from campus, the state, donor gifts, and other sources.

The renovation of Altgeld could be part of a larger project for both Altgeld and Illini Hall, immediately to the west. Modernizing both buildings will cost an estimated $90-$100 million.

The AFMFA Oversight Committee includes student representatives who play a role in deciding how the deferred maintenance funds will be spent. Students at Illinois currently pay $334 per semester into the fund.

“The funding commitment for Altgeld from our students is inspiring, and I deeply appreciate their leadership to help get this important renovation in progress,” said Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. “It’s exciting and meaningful to have student support for this critical project.”

Altgeld will be equipped with contemporary learning spaces, while also maintaining a focus on the roughly 121-year-old building’s historic significance. Mosaics, murals, and woodwork in Altgeld Hall’s library will be restored.

“The committee comprised of student and administration representatives did an outstanding job supporting transformative projects that will contribute to the university’s excellence by upgrading building systems, enhancing energy conservation initiatives, and aiding in accessibility and life safety improvements. These selections will positively impact student experience for generations to come,” said Doris Reeser, assistant director of capital planning, deferred maintenance, and classroom programs at Illinois Facilities & Services.

Other improvements include the restoration of the Mathematics Library by replacing missing glass floor panels in the stacks and restoring the open appearance of the colonnade to the east. If funding permits, the library renovation will also include installation of a back-lit ornamental glass dome to illuminate the atrium properly for the first time since the original glass dome was removed in 1942.

The last time Altgeld Hall received significant renovations was in 1956, when the School of Law moved out of the building and the Department of Mathematics moved in. Mathematics is still located in the building.

Heating and air conditioning will be replaced throughout the building, vastly increasing energy efficiency, improving the classroom environment, and protecting the valuable collection of the Mathematics Library. Furthermore, a second elevator will be added to make all portions of Altgeld Hall accessible.

The renovations to Altgeld Hall will encourage environmental sustainability with the project targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)+ Gold certification through the U.S. Green Building Council.

While campus is still assessing capital improvements to Altgeld, repair work continues on the chimes. The playing chamber room and the playing and practice stands were repaired last summer. Work on the bells, clappers, pulleys, cables, and supporting frame should be completed this upcoming spring semester, according to Steve Breitweiser, manager of external relations for Illinois Facilities & Services.

AFMFA is currently the primary source of funding for deferred maintenance projects on the Urbana campus. Since the program’s inception in 2007, student contributions have addressed more than $200 million in building projects that strive to make a significant impact on teaching and learning environments.

Posted in News

Restoration of the ‘sound of the University of Illinois’ moves forward

By Joel Steinfeldt

The restoration work on the historic Altgeld Chimes at Illinois is progressing rapidly, said Matthew Tomaszewski, the associate provost for capital planning. He’s leading a diverse team of Facilities and Services engineers, carpenters, movers, upholsterers, painters, and others who are bringing the beloved chimes back to life.

“The chimes are the sound of the campus. One of the things that everybody remembers, whether it’s guests, or students, faculty or staff, everyone knows the Quad, the Alma Mater, and then of course, the sound, the sound of the chimes in the background – it’s the feel of the campus,” he said. “I think that creates the full experience, all of your senses, while you’re here. It’s the sound of the University of Illinois.”

While the chimes are still being played through automation on the quarter hour, the live, weekday afternoon concerts had to be suspended to allow the restoration work to be done. The playing chamber has been leveled, eliminating tripping hazards, and orange and blue carpeting tiles have been installed. The walls have been repainted, damaged furniture replaced, and refurbishing of the playing and practice stands for the chimes is 90 percent finished, Tomaszewski said.

“It’s pretty amazing from what it was to what it is right now, but there’s a long way to go yet,” he said.

That’s because the restoration work on the bells, clappers, pulleys, cables, supporting frame, and masonry is yet to be done. The university expects to sign an agreement with a company that specializes in clock and bell repairs soon. After that, it is expected that repairs will take six months, unless additional damage is found, he said.

Tomaszewski hopes current and future chimes players will be delighted with the detailed restoration work on the playing and practices stands, which have been stripped and re-stained. Handles that play sharps have been painted black and all of the note identifiers have been applied and polished. New pieces were fabricated, crumbling nuts and bolts replaced, and new felt and pads have been installed. “All the chimes players care so much about the instrument itself; they want to make sure it’s in good hands, and of course it was done beautifully,” he said.

New cables and special cone-shaped guides will help keep the cables from freezing, Tomaszewski said. “It would be very nice if we didn’t have to worry about that, because basically that shuts down the chimes. In years past, players would open the hatch door and shake the cables (to free them), but we don’t want people going above the playing room.”

“The furniture shop and mill shop team, they have done an outstanding job with the repairs,” he said. “Basically, when the players played, the whole rack would shake from side to side, and it was becoming unstable.” Because of the years of wear and tear, and because of water infiltrating the room at times, many pieces were too damaged to re-use and have been replaced, he said.

“The chimes are such an important part of people’s experience of our campus. It’s sad that it’s closed right now, but wonderful that we have the opportunity to actually take care of something that’s such an iconic piece of campus, and when we re-open, during the Sesquicentennial celebration, to have all of this attention on it, I think it will be wonderful to have the chimes playing again,” Tomaszewski said.

Posted in News

Altgeld Chimes still a campus tradition, 96 years later

Editor’s Note: This article about the Altgeld Chimes was originally published in July 2014.

Altgeld Hall chimes.

The Altgeld Hall chimes.

By Meaghan Downs

Thousands of students attend Sue Wood’s daily concerts simply by walking to class.
Many of them have never seen her.

Six stories up in the Altgeld Hall tower – where chimesmaster Sue Wood has played the bells for the last 43 years – the day’s chimes performance resembles a finely tuned ballet.

Poised in front of what looks like a seven-foot-long marimba, Wood grabs a wooden “pump handle.” She pushes down and releases the lever quickly, the attached cable vibrating through the ceiling to wake up the bell above. The handle is still clattering as Wood moves on to the next lever and the next note, her eyes focused on the sheet music.

Weaving hand over hand, Wood rings out the Illinois State Song with fluid ease before five automated hammers toll the Westminster Chime and the hour.

Because concerts are performed during the traditional class “passing times,” Wood has about 10 minutes to play as many songs as she can before the clock chime automatically strikes 1 p.m.
But she isn’t worried about getting cut off in the middle of “Hedwig’s Theme” from the “Harry Potter” film soundtrack or the Illinois anthem “Hail to the Orange.”

Mistakes do happen, Wood said, but no one knows who’s made them.

That’s one perk of being the anonymous conductor of a 15-bell choir.

Decades ago, Wood said she even helped provide chime cacophony to accompany the university band’s performance of the “1812 Overture” on the steps of Foellinger Auditorium. When Wood got a telephone call in the tower, she’d ring the chimes “lickety-split” on cue so that concert goers in the Main Quad would hear chimes behind them at Altgeld Hall and in front of them at Foellinger.

The Altgeld Hall tower was built specifically to hold the bells, not students. The Classes of 1914 through 1921 managed to raise enough money for 13 bells, but not the 15 total required to perform “Illinois Loyalty,” the main school song.

Following the end of World War I, the U.S. School of Military Aeronautics – which held exercises during wartime and was preparing to leave campus – gave $2,000 in a memorial fund to add the necessary two bells.

The rest is a rich history that includes more than 2,000 different arrangements transposed for the Altgeld Hall chimes since the bells’ dedication at Homecoming in October 1920.

Even after four decades with the bells, Wood said she doesn’t know any chimes music by heart yet. Well, except for “Hail to the Orange,” a change ringing fragment and the Illinois State Song.
Wood grew up playing the piano, but ultimately became an analytical chemist, receiving her Ph.D. in plant pathology from Illinois and retiring early from the Illinois Natural History Survey.
Being a chemist and playing the chimes aren’t so different from each other, Wood said.

“Math and music always connect,” she said.

Her first introduction to bells was as a graduate student and the former carillon – a bell system with 23 or more bells – located at University Lutheran Church near campus.

She soon found Albert Marien, Illinois chimesmaster from 1958 until 1995, and learned the technique of playing the Altgeld Hall chimes from him.

Altgeld Hall chimes.

The Altgeld Chimes are played with hammers in the third floor of Altgeld Hall.

Wood said Marien took great pains to promote a regular chimes program at Altgeld Hall. She’ll continue to do the same, as long as she’s still ringing the bells and has student volunteers willing to learn.

“To learn from Sue has been wonderful because she’s such a master of the art, and also just a very lovely person,” junior and chimes student Amy Liu said of Wood.

Like Wood, Liu enjoys the anonymity that comes from playing the chimes, too.

“To me, it’s really romantic to be able to play music for so many people and to be anonymous,” Liu, an urban planning major, said.

Sometimes romance seeps into what Liu performs.  If you catch strains of “Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder” coming from Altgeld Hall, that’s Liu playing “The U.S. Air Force Song” as a nod to her boyfriend, a former Illinois student planning to join the United States Air Force.

When Liu comes to play at Altgeld Hall – about every other week depending on her schedule — she mixes it up with a song from “Lord of the Rings,” “Star Wars” or “Fireflies” by Owl City. A maintenance worker has also requested a chimes cover of Moody Blues’ “Knights in White Satin.” She’s still working on that one, as well as “Bold As Love” by Jimi Hendrix.

In Liu’s hands, the bells often sing George Gershwin.

“People probably hear that often,” Liu, a classic jazz lover and banjo-playing member of the Folks and Roots club on campus, said with a laugh.

Altgeld Hall chime closeup.

An Altgeld Hall chime.

The chimes are not chromatically complete, Wood said, because the eight classes arranged to have only enough bells to play “Illinois Loyalty”; the chimes are missing a lower D sharp and both F naturals, so music has to be transposed into the keys of G, D, or A major.

Her students come up with “all the contemporary tunes,” Wood said.  Students have introduced chimes arrangements of modern tunes such as Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

New music is still being created, however. One of Wood’s chimes students, Jonathan Smith, arranged a version of “Alleluia! Let Praises Ring” as an Easter duet for him and Wood to perform.
Like her predecessor Albert Marien, Wood continues to mentor Illinois students interested in learning the chimes and allows visiting children to test their chimes skills by tickling the keys of the practice keyboard with “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

If you hear music coming from Altgeld Hall, Wood said, that means someone is always up in the tower, playing. Wood said the building has survived to become home to the Department of Mathematics with a tower full of bells that continue the tradition of the chimes concerts.
“And I guess it’s going to survive a little longer,” Wood said.

Posted in News