The Rockford Area Illini Club has been in existence since the early 1960’s, after Dwight “Dike” Eddleman ‘49 called Bill Erickson ’50 to start an Illini club, saying the Grants-in-Aid program wanted to get in better touch with the Northern Illinois area. Bill called Bob Reitsch ’57 and set up a meeting in the spring of 1962. Dike came up from Champaign with a couple of assistant coaches, and they met at the Erickson’s home. The initial meeting that formed the chapter included: Karl and Barb Erickson, Roger and Pat Floody, and Joan Hardy, among others. The sole mission of the club was to support the Grants-in-Aid program (now called the I-Fund), which provided scholarship funding for University of Illinois student athletes.
On November 20, 1962, William J. Carmichael, the president of the U of I, arrived in a limousine with Dike who then picked up Bill and Ginny Erickson, who hosted a reception at Mauh-Na-Tee-See Country Club where the president presented the charter, signed by Gene Vance, executive director of the University of Illinois Alumni Association, to the Greater Rockford Illini Club.
For many years, the club held an annual men’s golf outing and luncheon called the Illini Caravan, where Dike, the current athletic director, and Illinois head coaches came to Rockford to raise funds, with all proceeds going to Grants-In-Aid. Over the years, the unofficial name became the Rockford Illini Club, and the men’s luncheon turned into an evening cocktail party for all members.
The 1980’s saw changes in the club. In 1986, an affiliation with the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford was formed, where semi-monthly meeting have been held since. In 1988, with the help of board member William Branom, the club officially changed its name to the Rockford Area Illini Club, for alumni and friends of the University.
As the years have gone by, the club has become more multi-dimensional, featuring educational, social, and entertaining as well as athletic events. The R.A.I.C. has won the Alumni Association’s highest club award five times: in 1996, 2002, 2006, 2009, and 2013. In addition to hosting the annual Grants-In-Aid/Fighting Illini Scholarship Fund caravan from 1963 until 1995, a greater emphasis was placed on raising funds for our own club scholarship fund. In conjunction with the U of I Alumni Association, The R.A.I.C. presented its first scholarships to three incoming Rockford area University of Illinois freshmen in 1986. Over 100 scholarships have been awarded since then, totaling more than $100,000.