Where my ACES story begins
By Paige Jones
April 14, 2017
His work boots echo through the kitchen as he walks up the front stairs. His shirt has a mud stain on the sleeve, and there’s a pen in his front pocket. He washes his hands since he’s been moving cattle all morning, and sits down at the head of the table ready for lunch. He reaches out his hand and grips mine as we bow our heads to pray. Between bites he tells me about one of his old livestock judging teammates, and where he used to take my grandmother on dates in Champaign. He even reminisces about the classes he sat through in Mumford Hall. This is where my ACES story begins, and I’ve been writing it ever since.

My ACES story unfolded at my grandparents’ kitchen table listening to the amazing things my great grandparents accomplished while they were at the University of Illinois and the incredible teachers that they had. They shared stories of their favorite memories and the life-long friendships they gained through ACES. I fell in love with Illinois while sitting at their kitchen table. Today, I’m proud to be the fifth generation in my family to attend this school.

As the university celebrates its 150th birthday, I think of all of my family members that were a part of those 150 years. From engineers to livestock judges, and from Illini football players to crop scientists, I see my family etched into this university, intertwined in its roots. We have all gained so many different things from the University of Illinois, but the one thing we all have in common are memories. My grandfather has fond memories of livestock judging trips and meeting my grandmother for the first time. My aunt remembers pacing through the hallway of the Animal Sciences Lab studying her meats judging notes. My grandmother looks back to her time here and reflects on the friendships she gained. My cousin recalls her transition from undergrad student to animal sciences recruiter and the professors and friends she met along the way.

Listening to their memories reminds me that the things we remember the most are not the scholarships we won or the big exams we aced. We remember the people and the little moments along the way that change our lives in bigger ways than we realize at the time. We remember the rich tradition that accompanies the University of Illinois as this school becomes a part of one generation to the next. Old memories make me wonder about the new memories I am making as an undergrad student in the College of ACES. What stories will I be telling my children and grandchildren about my time here? Have they happened yet? Am I still waiting for them to happen?

I’m back at my grandparents’ house again, and I hear the words of Charlotte’s Web coming from the television screen: “Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or hatch.” Our memories and our lives are what take place while we’re waiting around for the next big thing to happen. When I tell my grandchildren about the memories I have from the College of ACES at the University of Illinois, I don’t think I’ll tell them about any scholarships or awards that I received. Instead, I’ll tell them about the time I sat in Mumford Hall writing a blog post about my family all the while remembering that so many family members sat in this very same building years and years before. Perhaps that’s when their ACES story will begin.

A postcard dated May 15, 1942, from Paige's great-great grandfather to her great-great grandmother.