Congrats Jim Vainisi ’17 – Orange Krush Chair and Editor in Chief of The Champaign Room

vainisiJim Vainisi ’17 has been recently named Orange Krush Chair and Editor in Chief of “The Champaign Room”, a very cool Illini Fan Blog site.  You can follow Jim’s blog at –  It includes game previews, threads and wrap ups for Illini football, basketball and more.  Great work Jim!!

Stu Meacham ’78 and Jim Bremhorst ’81 cheer on their daughters

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Jim, Mel, Chantel and Stu

Jim Bremhorst’s ’81 daughter Mel and Stu Meacham’s ’78 daughter Chantel are teammates on the Wheaton College women’s basketball team.  Mel is a 6’1″ freshman post  from Springfield and Chantel is a 5’8″ sophomore guard from Champaign.  Both are key players who have led their team to a 17-2 start and the top of the CCIW Conference.

Congrats Tim Lavery ’99! – inducted in Naperville Central Sports Hall of Fame – and ATO Illini multi sport stars…

Mike Stine '84 and Tim Lavery '99 (photo by Colleen Abrahamovich)

Mike Stine ’84 and Tim Lavery ’99 (photo by Colleen Abrahamovich)

Tom Hicks ’75 happened to be at the Naperville Central Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony this past weekend (with his wife who coaches XCountry and teaches at Central) and was excited to learn that another Gamma Zeta, Tim Lavery ’99 was one of the honorees.  Tim starred in both football and baseball for the Redhawks.

He gave both sports a shot as an Illini as well starting several games his freshman year at QB for the Illini football team before ultimately settling on baseball.  He went on to play five years in the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates minor league organizations.

Coincidentally, Mike Stine ’84, who is Naperville Central’s current head football coach presented the award to Tim.   Here’s an article about the 2015 Naperville Central Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  Congrats Tim!!

As an aside… Tim wasn’t Gamma Zeta’s only multi sport Illini star.

Harold Pogue '16

Harold Pogue ’16

The Illini’s legendary football coach Bob Zupke recruited Harold Pogue ’16 off the Illini track team to ultimately star for the football team and be named All American.  Pogue was considered by many to be the Illini’s greatest football player prior to Red Grange.  He also served a term as Worthy Master of Gamma Zeta.  How’s that for the definition of a busy college student?!?


Burdette Thurlby

Burdette Thurlby 50

Burdette “Pirate” Thurlby ’50 played baseball and basketball for the Illini before coaching and playing in the Cubs minor league system.





Walt Kersulis 50

His classmate Walt “Slip” Kersulis ’50 starred on the football and basketball teams.





Rich Callaghan 65

Rich Callaghan ’65 collected an absolutely incredible nine varsity letters for the Illini in football, wrestling and baseball.




john wright

John Wright 69

John Wright ’69 was an Academic All American in football and Big Ten high hurdle champion in track.  His son John Wright Jr. ’92 was also an Academic All American for the Illini football team.  They are the first father-son first team Academic All Americans in NCAA football history.




Jeff Finke 90

Jeff Finke ’90 played both basketball and football for the Illini.  Jeff’s son, Michael is a freshman on the Illini basketball team.



tom hicks

Tom Hicks 75

Tom Hicks ’75, who got this whole thing rolling with his mention of Tim’s HOF selection specialized in football as an Illini before going on to a successful pro career with the Bears.  However, he most certainly could have played multiple sports in college as he was an All-State selection in football, basketball and baseball while attending Willowbrook High School.  He did lead the Taus to four straight intramural basketball championships so I think he deserves a mention!!

… pretty impressive list!!

Chancellor Wise… “these are the men of Alpha Tau Omega!”

Jack Klues '77 with Jimmy Kowalczyk '16 and Chancellor Wise

Jack Klues ’77 with Jimmy Kowalczyk ’16 and Chancellor Wise

On Wednesday evening, January 21 at the invitation of Gamma Zeta Board of Trustees Chairman Jack Klues ’77, Chancellor Phyllis Wise visited the Thomas Arkle Clark Memorial Chapter House for dinner.  The visit went great! The house looked it’s best in the last three years and our guys put on a great showing.

Norm Bilsbury ’92 was there early in the day working with the undergrads making sure everything was picked up inside and out.

Greg Scott ’76, House Corporation President, Joe Grazioso ’16, House Manager and Jimmy Kowalczyk ’16, Worthy Master did a fantastic job making sure that the inside of the house was detailed, all of the mess from last weekend’s move in was removed and getting some last minute small repairs made.

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Restored Heldman Trophy

Thanks to Dave Krug ’95, the very impressive Heldman Trophy has been restored and returned to it’s rightful place at the base of the stairs in our front hallway.  It looks fantastic.


Jeff McGill '73 with Jim Dobrovolny '70 and his wife  Katie

Jeff McGill ’73 with Jim Dobrovolny ’70 and his wife Katie

Jeff McGill ’73 stepped up big time and had everything organized in the dining room… extra tables including comfortable seating for 100, table cloths and flowers on the tables. He also arranged for Illinois Doctoral piano student and Krannert Award winning Sam Gingher to be playing when Chancellor Wise arrived.

The undergrads were all on time, dressed in suits and ties and were very respectful. Jimmy, Joe and others were working on last minute details pretty much all day.

Jack gave Chancellor Wise a quick tour of the common areas before dinner.  We told her a little history of our 113 year old newly restored Bechstein Grand piano and she was clearly impressed to find such a beautiful antique inside a fraternity and such a nice house.

All of the undergrads went into the dining room while Jack led the tour. When they entered the dining room, Jack announced… “Chancellor Wise… these are the Men of Alpha Tau Omega”.  Everyone, all dressed in their suits and ties stood and clapped for the Chancellor. It was very impressive.

photo 3The food and setting was excellent. Jeff McGill had arranged for the U of I Triathalon Club to act as servers and they did a great job. So we actually had a good old fashioned sit down meal. Chef Colin and his team from Upper Crust out did themselves with a beautiful setting and excellent dinner.

photo 2Greg Scott had even prepared menus/programs which were laid out at each place setting… very classy.

After dinner, everyone retired to our beautiful East Living room under the watch of the portraits of Thomas Arkle Clark and Robert Simonds.  Dane Luhrsen ’77, Director of Alumni relations reviewed a brief slide show history of Gamma Zeta and Jimmy provided an update on the current undergraduate chapter.  Here’s a link to the slide show that Dane and Jimmy presented –   ATO Gamma Zeta Legends 1 20 15 (1)

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Chancellor Phyllis Wise addresses Gamma Zetas

Then Chancellor Wise spoke for a few minutes about her vision for the university. She told our undergrads what a great opportunity that they had with caring and supporting alumni and urged them to take full advantage.  She was very gracious, clearly enjoyed herself and was impressed with her visit.  Jack presented her with a gift of appreciation, a glass box with ATO engraved on it that was provided by Wynn Smiley, ATO National CEO (THANKS Wynn!!)  Then Jack and Chancellor Wise went on to the State Farm Center to cheer the Illini on to a big win over the Boilermakers.

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Jack presents Chancellor Wise with gift from ATO National

Overall, the evening was a great success.  We should all be proud of our fraternity on a great showing.  The house looked great!  Special thanks to Jack for orchestrating the visit which we believe may be Chancellor Wise’s first visit to a fraternity and to the entire team for pitching in to make it a memorable evening.

Here’s a link to some additional pictures.