News & Features

Jim and Karen McKechnie are the primary donors for the McKechnie Family LIFE Home
Jim and Karen McKechnie are the primary donors for the McKechnie Family LIFE Home

McKechnie Family LIFE Home opening a milestone for Wendy Rogers

Even for someone as accomplished as Kinesiology and Community Health Professor Wendy Rogers, the night of Oct. 7 represented a milestone.

Rogers has so many appointments and affiliations—she is a Khan Professor of Applied Health Sciences; she directs the Collaborations in Health, Aging, Research, and Technology, or CHART, initiative in AHS; the Health Technology Education Program, which offers a one-of-a-kind master’s degree in health technology; and the Human Factors and Aging Laboratory—that during her introduction for the dedication of the McKechnie Family LIFE Home on Oct. 7, College of Applied Health Sciences Dean Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell had to pause and catch her breath.

But with all the federal funding Rogers has received and the collaborations she’s sparked, the McKechnie Family LIFE Home holds a special and unique place for her.

The McKechnie Family LIFE Home is a cutting-edge research center focused on innovations in home environments. This facility mimics existing home dwellings as well as provides space for the development of next generation smart homes that would allow people of all ages and abilities to live fuller, healthier, and autonomous lives.

“I am delighted that the name of the facility is the Family LIFE Home because that is what home is all about—family,” Rogers said during the dedication ceremony. “Family has always been at the heart of my life and my work. I am the youngest of six children. I grew up in a small house in Massachusetts—we had eight people in a three-bedroom home with one bathroom—imagine that. We had no choice but to be close.”

Rogers said that of her inspiration for creating a facility such as the LIFE Home is that because of the support of her and her siblings, her parents were able to continue living until their final days in the family home.

“I remember when my Dad was near the end of his life (back in 2005) and we were all coordinating his care, he said to me, “We need more of that smart technology of yours,”’ Rogers told attendees of the dedication ceremony, which included University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones and Jim and Karen McKechnie, the primary donors of the LIFE Home.

“After he died and my mom, was alone we certainly relied on technology tools to remain connected with her and to provide the support she needed,” Rogers said.

That is Rogers’ goal for the McKechnie Family LIFE Home.

“Our vision is to develop technologies that can support quality of life in the home for everyone, people of all ages and abilities. We want to think about all of the activities that occur in the home from fundamental activities of daily living such as bathing, eating, mobility through to the enhanced activities of daily living such as social engagement, community participation, and lifelong learning.”

For Chancellor Jones, the opening of the facility was the culmination of what the university sought in bringing Rogers aboard.

“Professor Rogers, in some ways, today marks the completion of a full circle for the two of us,” Jones said. “I had the honor of speaking at your investiture ceremony just a few months after I came here to Illinois. You were recruited here under one of the initiatives laid out in the university’s Visioning Future Excellence strategic plan. And now, just four years later, we can draw a bright and clear line from that starting point to today’s dedication of the McKechnie Family LIFE Home.”

To an observer, the LIFE Home looks like someone’s home: it has two bedrooms, a bathroom, an open-concept kitchen—we all know, thanks to HGTV how popular that is these days—a living room, dining room and even some green space outside. But the LIFE Home is foremost a research facility. The site is available for use by researchers from within and outside the university, or for collabortions with companies who want to use the facility to conduct research and test new products.

You can find more information about the McKechnie Family LIFE Home here.

“It is a space in which researchers from across the campus, industry partners, healthcare providers, and community stakeholders can come together to develop and test technologies that support all dimensions of healthy, socially connected, independent living,” Dean Hanley-Maxwell said.

Chancellor Jones praised the McKechnies for their generosity and said, “I don’t think there are any more visible examples of the impact of private investment in public universities. These gifts are direct investments in ideas and in human potential. They are feeding the true heart of this college and this university.”

And as much as the dedication ceremony of the facility proved to be a key step, Rogers said there was much still to do.

“It really has been a labor of love –we are all passionate about improving people’s quality of life and believe in the potential of this space to support that mission. This is only the beginning.”

You can watch the recording of the ceremony here:

Click here to see the full transcript.


CHERYL HANLEY-MAXWELL: Good evening. I'm Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell. I'm the Dean of the College of Applied Health Sciences here at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and I'd like to welcome you to an event that we've been eagerly anticipating for more than a year-- well, maybe more than that. Yeah, maybe two years. Of course, we've had to wait until it was safe to dedicate and celebrate this remarkable facility, and with a few precautions in place, it's finally here. Thank you all for coming to this momentous occasion.

We are excited and proud to build the now-opened McKechnie Family LIFE Home, as it's a site of research, education, and outreach that will significantly enhance the quality of all of our lives. It will change the way we think about aging, as well as the way we age in significant and fundamental ways. It will further improve the lived experiences of people with disabilities, an area in which this university has been a leader for more than 70 years. It will make a difference in the lives of people with small children, people who are caregivers or partners, parents, or others, people who want to connect with loved ones who are far away, people who need or want to access the services of health care providers from the comfort of their own homes. And I think we've all tried that during the pandemic.

In short, the research development and educational activities here in the McKechnie LIFE Home will help all of us live better lives in our own homes and in the future. A project like this does not reach a conclusion without commitment of many, many people, and you'll hear about some of them later.

At this time, I'd like to acknowledge the support of campus leadership in completing this project. You expressed a belief in our vision to advance technology by providing the financial assistance to help this project and related programmatic changes come to fruition. The University of Illinois is deeply committed to a kind of innovative interdisciplinary research that will be the hallmark of the McKechnie Family LIFE Home. It's fitting that this unique facility is here on this campus. Chancellor Robert Jones is one of our outstanding partners on campus, and I'd like to invite him up to make a few remarks.


ROBERT JONES: Well, let me start by saying good afternoon to each and every one of you. Good afternoon.

AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.

ROBERT JONES: OK, thank you, Dean Hanley-Maxwell. On behalf of the entire university community, just want to say thank you to Jim and Karen, for this transformational investment in the College of Applied Health Sciences. The McKechnie Family LIFE Home is certainly a tremendous physical addition to our university's research enterprise, and I'll add it's a very unique addition. Not everyone has the great opportunity to have this tremendous research vessel that is going to be driving some of the most innovative, sorely needed research in the country.

But more critically, it is a program that is perfectly aligned with our land-grant mission, which is to translate knowledge into real life impact for citizens of our state, our nation, and the world. So this is a big deal. And let me just add that I've done some things in the last seven days I haven't done in 43 years of higher education. This is-- I did three building dedications on Friday. I have one today, and one tomorrow. But I can tell you, this one stands out as a unique, powerful research tool that is going to help redefine what was thought to be impossible. And so for that, we are very, very proud.

Also, want to thank Dan Fisk for your support of the LIFE Home in ways that really enhances the facility while honoring the generations of your own family that came before. So thank you very much for your commitment. And my good friend Professor Rogers-- in some ways, today really does mark a completion of a full circle for the two of us. Where is she? There she is. We both spent some time in Georgia and got out on good behavior.


That's a joke. Georgia was a form of penal colony, if you didn't know. Read your history. But anyway, it is a great honor to be speaking at your-- it was a great honor for me to speak at your investiture a few months after I arrived here as chancellor. And so we recruited you here under an initiative that really laid out the university's vision for future excellence, which was the strategic plan. And now, just four years later, I can tell you we all are just so proud that we can draw a bright and clear line from that starting point to today's dedication of the McKechnie Family LIFE Home.

It is a very clear example, from my perspective, of the strategic focus of the College of Applied Health Sciences on truly being a national leader in scholarship that leads to healthier communities and to fuller and more robust lives for individuals across the lifespan. But it's also one of the prominent demonstrations anywhere, I think, across this university of what happens when our strategic goals are so closely matched and aligned with the personal values of friends and donors and, I might add, neighbors like Karen and Jim McKechnie. We really do thank you for your generosity, and thank you for entrusting your gifts with us to do this life-changing work. It is really gratifying.

So as we stand here in this amazing facility today, there can be no possible doubt that we have two amazing friends who truly believe this college and this university has the power, the will, and the desire, and the responsibility to truly change the world. So Karen and Jim, I've done this many times before, and every time I see you walking through the neighborhood, I'll do it again, so you may as well get used to it. Thank you. Thank you profoundly for your strong support across this university enterprise, from professorships to student fellowships to athletics to the McKechnie Family LIFE Home. Your investments have been absolutely critical to critical to our ability to remain a truly comprehensive university.

And I don't think there are any more visible examples of the impact of private investments in a public university than this example that we celebrate today. These gifts are a direct investment in ideas and in human potential. They are feeding the true hearts of this university and this college. So congratulations to you, Professor Rogers, for this amazing new home and, as I said to Wendy a few minutes ago, this amazing research tool that, clearly, will allow your amazing research and scholarship to go forward and will continue to have a profound impact, not only on this country but nationally and internationally, as well. So congratulations, Dean to the College of Applied Health Sciences, on this tremendous investment, this leap into a better and more independent future for people of all ages and all abilities.

And I'm getting a little long in the tooth, as they say. I got a friend who's the same age, and he always reminds me that we're both getting a little long in the tooth. But I remind him that he was born three months before I was. Thank you.


Sorry, Wendy. I'm trying to take your notes. Thank you very much, Dean.

CHERYL HANLEY-MAXWELL: Oh, dear. Well, speaking of old people, here I am again. And speaking of old people, as a child, I used to watch a TV show called The Jetsons. Some of you who are old enough will remember The Jetsons. They did do a movie remake, but it doesn't do justice to the original Jetsons. It was a cartoon about a family living in a future world where everything was automated. I have a hard time doing this next line without thinking of the theme song.

Father George Jetson, wife Jane, daughter Judy, and his boy, Elroy, had a robot maid named Rosie, who did all the household chores. Meals appeared at a push of a button. George used a flying car to commute to his job at Spacely's Space Sprockets. And people communicated with each other-- it looked presciently like tablet computers, smart TVs, and smart watches, using what we now would call Zoom or FaceTime. It was really amazing. When you go back and you look at-- boy, they were really thinking ahead.

When this show aired in the 1960s, as a nation, we were obsessed with atomic power, space travel, and automation. Remember, this is just after Sputnik. We are right there. Movies and shows featured futuristic themes, and there were many of them at the time. I was both fascinated by and slightly nervous by the future that they showed us. Many of the technological advances they depicted turned on their human creators. Remember Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey? I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.


I thought a lot about whether technology could be safely harnessed to make our lives better, or whether we needed to be careful about what we thought we needed. You know what else was going on in the 1960s? Scientists were developing the first smart automation system that people could use to turn on their appliances and turn them off, to make their homes warmer and cooler. Doesn't that sound like something we're doing right now? As you can imagine, the cost of the systems were far out of reach for the majority of consumers, and it never reached commercial success.

Now, fast forward to the 21st century. I recently put a smart thermostat in my house. Yes, I did it. You guys didn't do it.


From something as simple as the coffeemaker that you can program for a certain time, to the watch that tells you not only the time with atomic accuracy but also serves as your telephone, your calculator, your camera, your GPS navigator, and more, to an oven that can retrieve a recipe and preheat to a desired temperature, we've seen a proliferation of smart technologies that make the Jetsons seem really quaint. How do we bring all this together in a coherent home-based system that maximizes the benefit of that technology in an affordable manner? How do we adapt the smart technologies to serve the needs of physical, mental, cognitive, and emotional health?

This is where the LIFE Home comes in. It is a space in which researchers and students from across the campus, industry partners, healthcare providers, and community stakeholders can come together to develop and test technologies that support all dimensions of healthy, socially connected, and independent living. I'm going to let Wendy Rogers, the director of the McKechnie Family LIFE Home, tell you more about the facility. But first, I want to tell you more about Dr. Rogers.

Dr. Rogers' research resides at the intersection of health, aging, and technology. That's good for the nearly 80 million of us who are in the baby boom generation. The youngest members of this generation are turning 57, but more than two thirds of us are in our 60s and our 70s. I hate to talk poorly about us, but we're putting an enormous strain on our healthcare system, with chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension requiring us to interact frequently with our health care professionals. Our bodies are getting less robust, and our minds are becoming less nimble.

But we grew up in the Cold War. Duck and cover drills-- boy, do I remember those. And boy, were those stupid, when I think back on them. Bomb shelters and The Twilight Zone. Aging doesn't scare us. We simply want to embrace and enjoy our lives, even as they change. And we want to age in our own homes. Wendy, I'm so glad you're doing this work, because that's exactly what I want to do, and it's your work that will help us do that.

Dr. Rogers defines successful aging as being able to do what you want when you want, where you want, and with whom you want. Dr. Rogers and her colleagues seek to support the successful aging by enabling independence, supporting social engagement and community participation, and assisting in caregiving needs, while sustaining the quality of our lives. Dr. Rogers joined our faculty under the Visioning Future's Excellence campus initiative, as a result of a successful proposal developed jointly with AHS and the Grainger College of Engineering.

A Shahid and Ann Khan professor in the College of Applied Health Sciences, she recognized early in her career that aging individuals want more from their lives than just the bare necessities. At a time when research presented successful aging as the ability to perform activities of daily living, such as brushing your teeth or bathing or eating, and instrumental activities of daily living, such as paying your bills, maintaining your home, Dr. Rogers added a new component to what it means to be successfully living independently. She termed that enhanced activities of daily living. This includes social communications, hobbies, volunteering, generally, the quality of our lives.

Before joining our faculty, Dr. Rogers pursued her research as a professor of psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she obtained her PhD. She was the director of the Human Factors and Aging Laboratory, a principal investigator in the NIH-funded Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement, and a co-director of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technologies to Support Successful Aging with a Disability. She brought her labs to Illinois but continues to be actively collaborating with her colleagues in Georgia Tech, as well, and colleagues worldwide. In fact, she just came back from France.

A professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, Dr. Rogers has an appointment in educational psychology and is an affiliate faculty member of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Center for Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Illinois Informatics Institute, and the Discovery Partners Institute. I don't know about you guys, but there's a lot. In addition to the McKechnie Family LIFE Home, she directs Collaborations in Health, Aging, Research, and Technology, or CHART, an initiative in AHS, the Health Technology Education Program, which is one-of-a-kind master's program in health technology, and the Human Factors, an aging laboratory. She is a fellow in the American Psychological Association, the Gerontological Society of America, and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Wendy Rogers.


WENDY ROGERS: Hi. I'm so excited just to see everybody. Thank you so much for being here to celebrate the dedication of this wonderful facility. I'd like to focus my remarks on our name. So we've been hearing about the McKechnie Family LIFE Home. Let's start with the family part. I was so delighted to have this name, the Family LIFE Home, the McKechnie Family LIFE Home, and I know that family is Central to Karen and Jim. And I'm so happy that members of the family are here with us to celebrate. I'm so grateful, and I've just so enjoyed getting to know them. They've been to visit multiple times. They have great ideas for what we can do with this facility. It's wonderful.

Second, I'd like to talk about my own family a little bit, because that's my heart. I'm the youngest of six children. I grew up in a very small house in Massachusetts. We had three bedrooms, one bathroom, and eight people. So imagine that, if you will. We're very close, because, I think, we had to be very close. We've supported each other throughout. My parents were able to spend their final days in that home. I remember when my dad was near the end of his life in 2005, and he said to me, Wendy, we need more of that smart technology of yours. And so, dad, we're still working on it.

After he died and my mom was living alone, we relied on technology tools to remain connected with her and provide the support that she needed. And she started to winter with me and Dan in Atlanta. Winter with us-- she thought that sounded really cool. And she would advise us on our research. Wendy, you should be doing this. Wendy and Dan, you need to think about this. So she loved to help guide us with her own experiences.

My siblings have followed the progress of the LIFE Home from afar and provided a lot of support and encouragement. And the couple of them have been to visit, and they dutifully came and looked at the hole in the ground where this was going to be. Look, it's going to be right there. I promise, someday it will be there. So I look forward to having them visit now that it's open. And they really are all here with us in spirit today.

And of course, my husband, Dan, has been a tremendous support throughout the process. And he was so inspired by our mission that he also has made contributions that you'll hear more about later today. I'm so glad you're here, Dan. He's such a big supporter of mine, both personally and professionally. And he even chose the scarf that I'm wearing today. He bought it for me for this event. He has good taste.


So third is our university family. So we really pulled together to develop this facility. And so many details have gone into every little thing that you're going to see. As soon as I accepted the position, Jeff Woods and Bill Goodman and I started our meetings. We had many, many meetings. And often, Cash [INAUDIBLE] was there at those meetings with us. We received so much guidance from him about the design of this facility.

So many people have been instrumental in what we are having to celebrate here today. Harshal Mahajan is the Assistant Director of Research for the LIFE Home. Bryan Pastor, who many of know, has been very supportive. He is now working for the Illinois Department on Aging, so we have a good connection there. Dina, where are you? Dina [? McDonough ?] has helped us with some of the design features. Brian Jones-- I didn't see Brian. Brian has been instrumental in supporting us with the facilities. Suzanne Reinhardt-- yay, Suzanne, with the financials. And then Mark Joseph-- where's Mark? Mark, back there with all the AV, and he'll tell you more about that and the IT support.

I'm just naming a few. So everybody here has been a supporter of this. And our leader through it all has been our Dean, Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell. She's just been a huge supporter of everything that we've done. I don't think I've ever asked her for something, and she said no. She's like, well, OK, we can probably make that happen. So many people have contributed. It's really been a labor of love, because we're all passionate about the purpose. We want to improve people's quality of life. And we see the potential of this space.

Now, LIFE is an acronym-- Living in Interactive Future Environments. Each of those words has meaning, and we thought about them carefully. Living connotes active engagement. Interactive refers to the people and the technologies working together. Future is forward thinking. And environments is deliberately plural, because people live in a lot of different places. Homes come in many shapes and sizes, and we want to think about all of them.

Our vision is to develop technologies that can support quality of life, as we've heard, for people of all ages and abilities, all of the different activities that people engage in that contribute to their health and wellness. This space provides a unique opportunity to explore interdisciplinary research, industry engagement, community participation, and international collaboration. You will see on the tour we have a home simulation space, advanced video recording and audio recording capabilities, live observation space, development space, office space, everything we need to support this mission.

As you tour the facility today, you'll see examples of some of the initial projects that we've been conducting that include smart technologies, robotics, healthcare apps, leisure activities, mobility assistance, wellness support, and social engagement. This is only the beginning. We haven't even opened yet, and we're already doing all of these different things.

One of the components of the University of Illinois Vision Statement is, we will have impact locally, nationally, and globally through transformational learning experiences and groundbreaking scholarship. The McKechnie Family LIFE Home provides the infrastructure that we need to radically advance the design and access to technologies that will support us, our families, and future generations.

The last part of our name is Home. The word home has a different connotation than a house or an apartment or a unit. There are many cliches about home. Home is where the heart is. Your home is your castle. I think about home as where you want to be. It provides a sense of comfort and support. And that cannot be lost, but instead should be enhanced as we introduce technology into the home. There you have it. The McKechnie Family LIFE Home. Thank you all for being here to celebrate with us today.


CHERYL HANLEY-MAXWELL: Thank you, Wendy. Every time I hear you I feel inspired. I referred to Wendy as the driver of the LIFE Home, and it's certainly true that her vision guided us to this moment. But this day would not have been possible if her vision hadn't inspired two of our dearest friends. And I remember that moment at breakfast when you guys went [GASP]. We were at the Pancake House. Do you remember that?

They are ardent supporters, and they made the financial commitment to taking this facility from blueprint to construction. Jim and Karen are both alumni of the University of Illinois. Jim's degree is in the Department of Chemistry and Liberal Arts and Sciences. Now Karen, on the other hand, is ours. She completed her degree in the College of Physical Education, the forerunner to the College of Applied Health Sciences. Jim went on to become an orthopedic surgeon, retiring from practices in Mattoon and Urbana-Champaign that Karen managed. You kept everything going, didn't you? They are also proud parents of three daughters who graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Karen and Jim are keenly interested in physical activity and healthy aging and deeply committed to giving back. In the College of Applied Health Sciences alone, they've endowed the James K. And Karen S. McKechnie Professorship in Applied Health Sciences, which Amy Woods has, and the James K. And Karen S. McKechnie fellowships in Applied Health Sciences. And we give those to the students who are part of our master's in health technology program. I've got to find out where I am on this, because you guys have done so much.

They also named the James K. And Karen S. McKechnie Laboratory, located in the Khan annex of [? Hough ?] Hall. Additionally, Karen shared her time and expertise with us as a board member in the Applied Health Sciences Board of Visitors, and then her term expired in 2021. I owe you some [INAUDIBLE] from today, don't I? Jim and Karen are generous supporters of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Fighting Illini Athletics, as well, and members of both the President's Council and the Chancellor's Circle. They also supported a number of community groups, such as the Little Theater on the Square in Sullivan and the Stephens Family YMCA.

When asked what motivates their generosity, Jim said, as an orthopedic surgeon, I often worked with people who had problems and disabilities related to aging. So when the opportunity arose to support the College of Applied Health Science, it seemed like a perfect fit. Karen added, you go to school and get an education that allows you to make your life as productive as possible. People have helped you along the way, and we just wanted to give back in gratitude for what you've accomplished. And I can't thank you anymore for all that you've done.

That attitude makes James Jim and Karen not only outstanding philanthropy-- what is wrong with my mouth today-- philanthropists but, also, very nice people whom have been my pleasure to get to know. Please join me in thanking them for their support.


OK, Jim and Karen, we're going to see if we can do this. Will you please come up and accept this plaque in gratitude from the College of Applied Health Sciences for all that you've done for us in getting this facility up and running. Thank you, guys. We'll box it up and get it to you later.


Now, let's hear from them. You guys can do it.


KAREN MCKECHNIE: Where do you want me?

JIM MCKECHNIE: I don't know.

KAREN MCKECHNIE: I'll just stand here and look pretty.

JIM MCKECHNIE: No, thanks, everybody, for coming. We really appreciate it. Prior to today, the time that I walked into a place that really had electricity to it was when I was able to finagle tickets to get to the Cubs' play-in game that they had against San Francisco. When you walked into Wrigley Field, I mean, you could just feel something going on in that whole stadium. And when we came in this room today, that's a lot of what I felt again, I think. It's surprising. It's surprised me, frankly, that I had that same sensation about it. But it's very nice that we can be able to do this.

Our thanks go to all our friends that have come to join us today for this occasion, certainly to Dr. Woods and Dr. rogers and to Dr. Mahajan. Is that how you say it properly? OK, I'm glad I got close, anyway-- and the faculty that's been part of this, to the Dean, to the Chancellor, to everyone, and, certainly, to our family. Julie and Kerri, who are here with their husbands, Jason and Steve, and we were able to get one grandchild to come out of the five that we have. But you know, they're kind of busy at this time of year, as well, now that they're actually back in school for a change. So thanks for coming, Keith, too.

As Cheryl said, Karen's the one with the most direct connection to this particular college having graduated from BEW, but you guys have made it a little difficult by changing the name every time you turn around. This is the third iteration of a name since she was here. What's next?

KAREN MCKECHNIE: I hope not anything.

JIM MCKECHNIE: And as she indicated, I thought my career really kind of fit into the things that we're trying to do with this particular facility here now. Though one person that couldn't be here today, and it's, again, because of the quarantine protocols associated with COVID is my mom, who, as many of know, is living at the Windsor Savoy. They had a positive contact. And not that anybody is sick, but because of that, she's not able to be here today. But she's an example, too, of what I think we're trying to do with this home. She-- and I won't tell you the year, because she didn't give me the freedom to do it, but she can look it up if you want. She and Mickey Mouse are the same age.


It it's easier for the cartoonist to freshen up and enliven people with brush strokes than it is for us. But I'm sure she'll admit that she felt a bit younger in 1948 and 1958 than she feels right now on the ability to do things. She's still independent. We're pleased for that. She can still give Karen a more than competitive game of Scrabble from time to time. So you have to look out for her. You can't take that for granted at all. Karen can sure attest to her ability there.

When I was in medical school, one of the few things I remember was an ophthalmologist giving us a lecture. He was talking about eyes, of course. And he pointed out that, from the age of 13, it's all downhill from there.


JIM MCKECHNIE: A lot of our other systems last a bit longer than that. But certainly by the time you're in your 30s and 40s, you're well past the plateau and the zenith of things and on your way to having things that, if possible, could work a bit better for you than they are at the present time. And they're not working quite the same day same way as they used to. I wasn't left a lot to tell you new about the particular things going on in this center, at least as we're anticipating, or even the nomenclature for it. Dr. Rogers, of course, gave you the definition. But I have to admit, and I had written this down before, actually, Cheryl, when I first heard the acronym explained in longhand, the Living and Interactive Future Environments, I kind of wondered myself, what in the world does have to do with the Jetsons?


But so then I thought, should the name be changed a little bit different? Should it be in Functioning Environments, rather than Future Environments? Or should we just flip it and make it FILE, so that we're Functioning In Life's Environments? But then that would be a little confusing, I think, and since this is about life, it's probably better that we just stick with what you guys came up with. And it tells us better what the purpose of the place really is.

We're really excited about this home, in particular, providing a platform of collaboration between AHS and Engineering and the new med school here at Carle. Can't imagine the kinds of things that will come together as a result of the various people that will have the opportunity to come here and to use their expertise and their backgrounds to try to make life better for all of us. Problems come from trauma. Problems come from developmental defects, genetic abnormalities, and, simply, the gradual decline. Sensory deficits neurologic deficits, physical incapacities-- they all contribute to things that make life harder. But I think what this home is going to be able to do, with the ability to actually watch what is happening with the interactive or the assistive devices being brought into play, is to make it so that we get to the best possible end result.

People design things, and they manufacture and market them. But that doesn't always mean that they're going to do exactly what they were intended to do, and it doesn't mean that they're going to do it in the best way possible. But by having the opportunity to actually observe what's happening and to refine what's happening before it's distributed more widely and to build on the process that's taken place, that's where I think the real future of this particular facility is. And I think it's what makes it a truly unique thing and something that will be helpful for not just the university community but for us and everyone, really, when you get right down to it.

The goal of all of us is to stay as healthy and strong and independent as we possibly can for as long as we can. Our whole family is pleased to be in a position to sponsor this laboratory where the work of the scientists and researchers can, indeed, take place. We think that this can lead to genuine help for the hurdles that we need to overcome and face in our personal limitations in life. We are proud of what this should help our university to accomplish. Would you like say anything, honey?

KAREN MCKECHNIE: I don't know. I think you said it all.



CHERYL HANLEY-MAXWELL: I think he said it all. You didn't need to make me feel old, too. Oh dear, isn't this fun.

So one of the funny aspects of a facility like this is that there are many opportunities to support its mission. One of them is to name a space within the building. And I'm pleased to recognize today the donor of the first named room, the Arthur D. Fisk Interview Room. And I'm going to tell you that the first time I saw the paperwork coming through as Arthur D. Fisk, I went, is that a relative of Dan's?


And they said, no, no, that's Dan. Arthur D. Fisk also goes by the name of Dan. He named the room in honor of four generations of Arthur D. Fisk's-- his father, Art, himself, his son, Danny, and his grandson, Daniel. Dan also established the Rogers Family LIFE Home Research Fund to support the research activities of the McKechnie Family LIFE Home.

Dan established the fund to honor his wife, Wendy. He said they became my family-- I'm sorry, to honor his wife, Wendy, and her family. He said they became my family when Wendy and I married. Carol and Jerry Rogers are very education-oriented, encourage their six children to pursue their dreams, and to work hard. He added that his father and mother-in-law didn't just show support for his and Wendy's research activities but often served as participants in their studies. And sounds like they directed a few of them, too.

Dan received his PhD from the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. And have we talked about this? Were we here at the same time?

DAN FISK: Close, but not exact.

CHERYL HANLEY-MAXWELL: Yeah, OK-- and was a manager of human factors engineering with AT&T before joining the University of South Carolina as an assistant professor. He moved to the Cognitive Aging and Engineering Psychology program at the Georgia Institute of Technology and met Wendy, coordinating and growing the latter program for more than 20 years. Dr. Fisk was the president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, as well of Division 21 of the American Psychological Association and editor of the Journal of Human Factors. He received numerous awards for his research and his mentorship. He has a long standing commitment to harnessing science that advances the design to enhance quality of life and believes in the mission of the McKechnie Family LIFE Home. And he's a really good chef, too. Dan, please join me at the podium to accept the award.


And like I said to Karen and Jim, we'll box it up and send it home.


Don't get too comfortable there. Dan, do you want to have any comments, or are you good?

DAN FISK: Well, I'm always [INAUDIBLE]


I guess. No, I don't have anything, really, to add, except to say that I'm really pleased to support the mission of the LIFE Home, but also to support the mission of Wendy. One of Wendy's missions, if you want to call it that, and goals, is to provide quality, more quality, to the extra years that medical science has given us. And as we think about those around us who have aged, sometimes those last years are not great. And I'm just so pleased to be associated with Wendy in lots of ways. And to help her with that mission.



Now when you tour the McKechnie Family LIFE Home, be sure to notice the beautiful artwork that adorns the walls throughout the facility. The wonderful photographs you see in the HOME simulation spaces are generously donated by Larry and Elena [INAUDIBLE] from the Larry [INAUDIBLE] Photography Gallery. And Larry, you're here. So could you stand up and let us thank you?


There are also a number of canvasses throughout the facilities office space and they were painted by Max Makewell and donated by Christopher G. [? Peale. ?] And finally, we would not have reached this point as successful as we had if it wasn't for the efforts of Bill Goodman.


Initially as Associate Dean and then in his first few years of retirement, Bill oversaw every aspect of this project, from conception to completion. And I'm going to tell you, there were so many times that I thought, oh, thank God that's on a Bill's plate, not mine.


Through his diligence, his attention to detail, and advocacy, we have this outstanding facility. Bill, would you stand up so we could thank you properly?


Thank you, Bill. Thank you to all of you for coming today and helping us dedicate this exciting and important addition to the University of Illinois' outstanding research and educational facilities. Now I'm going to introduce you again to George. He's being empowered by Dr. George [? Moise, ?] a new postdoctoral researcher here at Illinois who's controlling the omnipresence robot from the remote access lab. George, I believe you and your robot have something to say?

GEORGE MOISE: Absolutely, thank you everyone for today's ceremony. Please follow me for refreshments.

CHERYL HANLEY-MAXWELL: Thank you everyone.


back to news