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An Illini legacy
November 1st is an important day in our family, especially this year. You see, my dad is 90 and lots of people are coming to Champaign County to wish him well this All Saints Day. His story is worth telling for many reasons, but several of the chapters are deeply interwoven with the University of Illinois. Rolf Vogen followed his brother to the U of I in 1942 to study agriculture. He hailed from a farming community in Kendall County, where he had been a member of the Lisbon 4-H Club and a charter member of the Newark FFA. But it was the land-grant university that gave him, his two brothers, and other members of his family access to higher education following America’s Great Depression. Our country was engaged in great global conflict when dad began his studies in the College of Agriculture. Duty called in 1943, and like so many of his fellow students, he served his country with distinction for the next three years in the United States Marine Corps.
Dad returned to the University of Illinois in 1946 to complete his degree in agriculture, where he soon met Jean Chastain, who was a fellow student in advertising. They were married in 1947 and recently celebrated 66 years of their union. Mom’s parents had also met in Urbana, while my grandfather studied engineering at the University of Illinois. After his graduation from U of I in 1948, dad was employed by the Cooperative Extension Service, now called University of Illinois Extension. For the next decade, he advised farmers and led 4-H youth development programs in Ogle and Jo Daviess Counties. Dad returned to the farm and later finished his career in banking. Meanwhile, two more generations and many other family members have passed through the halls of the University of Illinois, the most recent of whom was a granddaughter who earned her degree in ACES.
So the Illini legacy lives on. Others in this lineage will have aspirations to learn at this great institution. The orange and blue has a prominent place in this corner of history, and I’m proud of my dad for his unswerving loyalty to the University of Illinois.