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Garrett, Dean, Chancellor
Dean Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell, Chancellor Jones and Garrett Anderson participated in Friday's Purple Heart university designation ceremony. (Photo by Fred Zwicky)

University of Illinois designated as Purple Heart University

The University of Illinois was designated Friday as a Purple Heart university, awarded the honor because of the university's longstanding commitment to military veterans.

"This university has a tradition unlike any other that goes far beyond just remembering those who lost their lives in service," Chancellor Robert Jones said. "This has been a place of world-changing ideas, innovations and, sometimes just plain old hard-headed determination to help those who come home to find success in their educational hopes and to lead lives and careers of impact after they earn their degree."

Illinois was the first university to call for compulsory military training at all land grant colleges, as part of the Morrill Act of 1862, and developed the first post-secondary disability support service program in the world for Veterans. Established by Dr. Tim Nugent, this program allowed injured World War II veterans to use their GI Bill benefits for higher education.

In 2015, UIUC opened the doors at the Chez Veterans Center to provide an open, welcoming space for all student veterans and military-connected communities.

"During my tenure as dean of the College of Applied Health Sciences, I have had many opportunities to feel proud of leading such an outstanding unit. Today, that pride deepens with this truly humbling recognition by the Military Order of the Purple Heart," said AHS Dean Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell.

"The commitment of this college and this university to helping wounded veterans pursue their degrees goes back more than 70 years, when Dr. Timothy Nugent established the very first support program in higher education for World War two veterans with disabilities. At a time when people in wheelchairs were not expected or encouraged to attend college and dream of careers, Dr. Nugent said, “Why not?”'

The Chez Veterans Center is the largest, most comprehensive facility of its kind in the United States, and serves more than 550 military-connected students.

"AHS continues to be the unwavering force pushing us forward to do more and to find new and better ways to open doors of access and success to the student-veterans who trust this university with their academic futures," Chancellor Jones said.

The event was well-attended and VIPs included Matt Janes from the office of Congressman Rodney Davis; State Senator Scott Bennett; State Senator Chapin Rose; State Representative Mike Marron; State Representative Brad Halbrook, Champaign Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen, members of the Chez Veterans Center advisory board, and members of the Veterans Assistance Commission and Department of Veterans Affairs.

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