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The 16th Annual Sapora Symposium

RST Fall 2019 Newsletter

large group of students sitting at tables listening to speaker

Along with Illini football and Halloween, the annual Sapora Symposium is one of the highlights of the fall semester for RST students, faculty, and alumni.  This year’s event will take place on November 14th and 15th in the Colonnades Club at Memorial Stadium. With more than 350 students attending and a lineup of top speakers, this year’s event is slated to be the biggest and best ever.  It is sure to be informative and entertaining, and a great highlight of our students’ experience at Illinois.

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of College Football and the 100th anniversary of the NFL, the feature panel for the afternoon session on Thursday, November 14th. at Memorial Stadium is titled “Red Grange and His impact on Sport and Culture in the United States, 1924 -1989.”  The panel features some of the foremost experts and scholars on Red Grange, including:


  • Chris Willis, head of the Research Library at NFL Films. He is the author of multiple books on early pro football, including The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr (2010), Dutch Clark: The Life of an NFL Legend and The Birth of the Detroit Lions (2012), A Nearly Perfect Season: The Inside Story of the 1984 San Francisco 49ers (2014), and Walter Lingo, Jim Thorpe, and the Oorang Indians: How a Dog Kennel Owner Created the NFL’s Most Famous Traveling Team, all published by Rowman & Littlefield. Willis was nominated for an Emmy in 2002 for his work on the HBO documentary The Game of Their Lives and won an Emmy in 2016 for his work on HBO’s Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Houston Texans. He was awarded the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Ralph Hay award for Lifetime achievement in pro football research and historiography in 2012. In Fall 2019, Chris will release his fifth book, Red Grange: The Life and Legacy of the NFL's First Superstar.
  • Lars Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of six books, including The Storm and the Tide, Carlisle vs. Army, and The All Americans. A twenty-year veteran of Sports Illustrated, Anderson is a senior writer at Bleacher Report and an instructor of journalism at the University of Alabama. In 2009, Lars published The First Star: Red Grange and the Barnstorming Tour That Launched the NFL.
  • Ed Sherman’s long relationship with the Big Ten began as a student reporter for the Daily Illini in the late 1970s. A graduate of the University of Illinois, he began his career at the Chicago Tribune in 1981 and remained there for 27 years. His many assignments included serving as the national college sports and Big Ten reporter. He also oversaw the Tribune’s college sports coverage during a stint as an associate sports editor. A past president of the College Football Writers Association, Sherman covered the launch of the Big Ten Network as a sports media columnist and the business end of the conference as a reporter for Crain’s Chicago Business. Ed Sherman is the author of three books, including Babe Ruth’s Called Shot.  He has served as an adjunct professor of journalism and sports media studies at Northwestern and the University of Illinois. In Fall 2019, Ed released his 4th book, This is BIG: How the Big Ten Set the Standard in College Sports.
  • Mike Pearson is a freelance writer and video producer. He was the Sports Information Director at the University of Illinois from 1989 to 1996 and writes the "Illini Legends, Lists & Lore" column for the News-Gazette.  Mike is the author of Illini Legends, Lists, and Lore, which chronicles the history of University of Illinois varsity athletics since its recognized beginnings in 1883. This new edition also includes expanded information on women's athletics and a new section on the university's athletes with disabilities. 

On Friday, November 15th, invited speakers who are leaders in their field will speak about current issues, trends, and future growth in recreation, sport, and tourism. Speakers include Carmen Rossi (founder of the Chicago-based company, 8 Hospitality Group), Melissa Luebbe (publisher of Midwest Living Magazine), Deon Thomas (former American-Israeli basketball player, Illinois Mr. Basketball, and the all-time leading scorer in Fighting Illini history), and Dr. Alan Nathan (professor emeritus of the University of Illinois Physics Department) who will provide fascinating insight into the physics involved in baseball.

The Sapora Symposium was created and developed by the alumni advisory board of the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism in honor of the Department’s founder, Dr. Allen Sapora. Dr. Sapora was a cornerstone to the education and careers of many of our alumni. He believed in mentoring younger generations and in providing them with critical connections to professionals in the field. Our alumni continue this long-held RST tradition by sharing their knowledge and experiences, and by providing professional networking opportunities for students to help them in their academic studies and future professional careers.

Students, alumnae, and the general public are welcomed to attend! For more information please contact: Dr. Michael Raycraft.

Click here to download a copy of the program for the Sapora Symposium.