Illinois State University

Coordinates: 40°30′40″N 88°59′35″W / 40.511°N 88.993°W / 40.511; -88.993
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Illinois State University
Former names
Illinois State Normal University (1857–1964)
Illinois State University at Normal (1964–1967)
MottoGladly We Learn and Teach
TypePublic research university
Established1857; 167 years ago (1857)
Endowment$204 million (2023)[1]
Budget$509.3 million (2023)[2]
PresidentAondover Tarhule (interim)[3]
ProvostAni Yazedjian (acting)[4]
Administrative staff
Students20,989[5] (2023)
Location, ,
United States
CampusUrban Campus, 1,180 acres (477.5 ha)
NewspaperThe Vidette
ColorsRed and White[6]
Sporting affiliations
MascotReggie Redbird

Illinois State University (ISU) is a public research university in Normal, Illinois. It was founded in 1857 as Illinois State Normal University and is the oldest public university in Illinois. The university emphasizes teaching and is recognized as one of the top ten largest producers of teachers in the US according to the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education.[7][8] It is classified among "R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity".[9]

The university's athletic teams are members of the Missouri Valley Conference and the Missouri Valley Football Conference and are known as the "Redbirds," in reference to the state bird, the cardinal.


ISU was founded in 1857, the same year Illinois' first Board of Education was convened and two years after the Free School Act was passed by the state legislature. Among its supporters were judge and future Supreme Court Justice, David Davis and local businessman and land holder Jesse W. Fell whose friend, Abraham Lincoln, was the attorney hired by the board of education to draw up legal documents to secure the school's funding.[10][11]

Founded as Illinois State Normal University, it was the first state university in Illinois. Its classes were initially held in downtown Bloomington, occupying space in Major's Hall, which was previously the site of Lincoln's "Lost Speech." With the completion of Old Main in 1860, the school moved to its current campus in what was then the village of North Bloomington, which was chartered as the town of "Normal" in 1865. The new town had named itself after the university.

The editor of the Bloomington Pantagraph wrote in 1882: "The intention was to gather around the institution the different colleges, - classical, agricultural, industrial, law medical, and the other departments of a university, - until, in the end, the State should have here a grand university, equal to any."[12] Thus the school was originally designed as a wide-ranging university with one department of teacher training. However the newer University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, founded in 1867, used political machinations to take over its other functions. That left only a teacher-training school--indeed what was then called a "normal college". It later added many other roles and became a wide-ranging university in the 20th century.[13]

On January 1, 1964, the institution's name was changed to Illinois State University at Normal, and then again in 1967 to the current Illinois State University.[11]

The school's motto was originally "and gladly wold he lerne and gladly teche," in the Middle English spelling of Geoffrey Chaucer which has since been updated to modern English in the gender-neutral form "Gladly we Learn and Teach."

Academics and organizations[edit]

Founded as a teachers' college, the university now offers a range of programs at the bachelor, master, and doctoral levels. Illinois State is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The teacher preparation programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and certified by the Illinois State Board of Education. In addition, 22 programs hold discipline-based accreditation.[14]

The Illinois Board of Higher Education in 2022 approved plans for a new College of Engineering, with the university seeking to add three programs: general engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering.[15] In January 2023, the university announced that Thomas Keyser would be the first dean of the College of Engineering, which was set to welcome its first students in 2025.[16]

Academic colleges[17][edit]


Academic rankings
U.S. News & World Report[20]209
Washington Monthly[21]64

In the 2024 rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Illinois State University (tied for) 209 among a combined list of America's best 439 private and public "national universities" and (tied for) 112 among 227 public "national universities" in the United States that qualified for the list.[22]

Forbes magazine ranks Illinois State #245 out of 500 American colleges.[23]


As of the fall of 2021, total on-campus enrollment was 20,233, with 17,674 undergraduate students and 2,559 graduate students.[24] As of 2019 56.6 percent of students are female, while 43.4 percent are male. About 28.8% of all students were from minority groups. Of the 558 international students 422 are graduate students.[25] International students come from 69 countries.[26] The average new freshman student had an ACT score near 24 and a gpa of 3.6 out of 4.0.[24]

The Quad[edit]

John W. Cook Hall on the quad's west side

Initially designed by William Saunders,[27] the Illinois State University campus quadrangle (commonly known as The Quad), is a popular outdoor venue for students and the local community. Lined with benches and shady trees, the site is a popular spot for students to relax, study, and play informal games of sports. Outdoor events such as the annual RSO showcase, Festival ISU[28] and Concerts on the Quad[29] are popular in the campus community.

The ISU Quad is also host to the Fell Arboretum, which is part of a 490-acre site that represents over 154 species of trees from the state of Illinois. Trees on the north side of the quad are from Northern Illinois, and those on the south side of the quad from southern parts of the state. The Fell Arboretum is part of the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Campus Higher Education Institution.[30]

Milner Library[edit]

Milner Library

Milner Library has a collection of more than 1.63 million volumes and an ever-increasing number of electronic materials accessible by the Internet to students and faculty. The library's collection is distinguished by materials related to educational theory and policy, curriculum development, and issues related to special education and assistive technology. The Special Collections include extensive Circus and Allied Arts materials and a children's literature collection that features more than 100 first edition volumes signed by author Lois Lenski. Milner Library is also a selective federal depository for government information. Combined Milner's collections contribute to the university's relatively high standing in regional, national, and world rankings. In 2007, the library received the John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award, an award given to only seven libraries nationwide.

Milner Library administers the Dr. Jo Ann Rayfield University Archives, which houses selected official records from university departments and organizations, faculty papers, and memorabilia and ephemera on student life. The archives also hosts a branch of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD).[31] In addition to making physical collections available for in-person use,[32] the Rayfield Archives has made many of the university's official publications freely available for online research use.[33]

Additional library facilities include book storage both on and off-site as well as a preservation department.

The Milner Library was named for Angeline "Ange" Vernon Milner (1856–1928), a Bloomington-Normal native and the first full-time librarian of Illinois State Normal University. Milner is credited with organizing the university's initial collection of more than 40,000 items and was a prolific author of more than seventy articles and short monographs in library and education journals during her tenure as University Librarian from 1890 to 1927.[34]

The current library building, opened in 1976, is the second facility constructed to be a dedicated library. The university library has resided in five campus locations: Old Main (demolished 1958), John W. Cook Hall, North Hall (demolished 1965), Williams Hall (first known as Milner Library), and the current Milner Library.[35]

Residence halls[edit]

Illinois State University has six residence halls, one apartment complex, and dedicated apartments for upper class and graduate students. Facilities are administered by the ISU's University Housing Services.[36]


Watterson Towers is not only the largest residence hall on campus, it is also one of the world's tallest student residence halls, and provides the highest vantage point in Illinois between Chicago and St. Louis.[37][38] Watterson features areas for wellness, quiet, substance-free, and restricted visitation. Built between 1968 and 1970, the facility is named for Arthur W. Watterson, a geography faculty member and chair. Watterson went through a massive renovation from March 2010 through August 2012.

East Campus[edit]

Hewett and Manchester Hall are in East Campus. Built in 1966, they were named after Edwin C. Hewett, the third University president, and Orson L. Manchester, Illinois State Normal University dean from 1911 to 1928.

Both are for the most part coed, with specialty floors designated as all male or all female. Until recently, Hewett was all-female. Between both Hewett and Manchester, there are floors dedicated to students majoring in art, business, communication, co-sciences, curriculum and instruction, Geo-Environmental, Honors, Information Technology, Math, and Music. Other floors are dedicated to students with interests and preferences such as service and leadership, substance-free, quiet, and international house.

These residence halls were renovated in 2008–09. During this renovation, the dining center in the basement between each hall was transformed into the Julia N. Visor Center which is dedicated to helping students achieve academic success through free tutoring and other services.

Manchester Hall and the Vrooman Center

West Campus[edit]

Haynie, Wilkins, and Wright Hall are in West Campus, next to Redbird Arena and Hancock Stadium. Also known as "The Tri Towers", they feature floors for ROTC, Wellness, Substance-Free, and Quiet. These halls are the most remote residence facilities on campus and are known for housing a majority of athletes because of their proximity to practice areas. They were built in 1962 and named for Martha D.L. Haynie, the first female Illinois State Normal University professor, Daniel Wilkins, principal of the Female School Institute of Bloomington in the 1850s, and Simeon Wright, one of the university's founders.

Haynie, Wilkins and Wright Hall

Cardinal Court[edit]

In 2012, the university opened the new Cardinal Court Apartments to replace a complex by the same name and on the same site built in 1959. Much like the old Cardinal Court, the new Cardinal Court provides apartment-style living combined with the benefits of university housing. Besides simply being more modern, the primary difference is that the old Cardinal Court had been reserved for married couples and graduate students.[39]

South Campus[edit]

Until recently, there were several residence halls in what has been known as "South Campus". There are no longer any students housed in the area now, and the buildings were demolished in the summer of 2016.

Hamilton and Whitten Hall (aka "Ham-Whit) shared a joint entrance and front desk. They featured lifestyle floors such as Upper-class and Graduate, Student Nursing, and Speech Pathology and Audiology. Constructed in 1959, the facility was named for Alma H. Hamilton, the first recipient of an Illinois State Normal University bachelor's degree, and Jennie Whitten, the former head of the Foreign Language Department.

Hamilton-Whitten Residence Hall and Feeny Dining Center

Atkin and Colby Hall, though built later than "Ham-Whit", were essentially a mirror image of the former, and shared a dining center with the same. Built in 1962 as female-only dorms, they were converted to co-ed. They were named for Edith Irene Atkin, Illinois State Normal University mathematics professor from 1909 to 1940 and June Rose Colby, English professor from 1892 to 1932.

Central Campus[edit]

Three residence halls, Dunn, Barton, and Walker Hall, were demolished in 2008 to provide space for the Student Fitness, Kinesiology and Recreation Center.

Student life[edit]

The school newspaper, The Vidette first published in 1888 as a subscription-based newspaper serving both the university and Town of Normal. In 1915, the paper received funding from the university and dropped its subscription model.[40] In 2021, The Vidette ceased printing newspapers and became an entirely online news source.[41]

ISU owns a public radio station WGLT ("News, Blues and All That Jazz"), which broadcasts on 89.1 in Normal, 103.5 in Peoria, and by streaming audio. The call letters are from keywords of the school's motto: "Gladly-Learn-Teach." The university also maintains a student radio station, WZND. On January 20, 2010, WZND changed its format from a dual format (Rock and Jamz) to a college shuffle format. The station broadcasts on 103.3 FM, channels 4 & 5 in the residence halls and on the web. TV-10, a part of the School of Communication, provides the only live local television newscast produced entirely in Bloomington-Normal.

ISU has over 400 registered student organizations (RSO) and several university groups that sponsor student-focused events.[42] The Multicultural Center is home to student diversity advocacy organizations such as the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC), the Association of Latin American Students (ALAS), Black Student Union (BSU), and Pride.[43]

Student organizations[edit]

Illinois State is home to over 400 registered student organizations or "RSOs". These organizations can range from intramural sports to branches of nationally recognized student organizations. Every year RSOs are able to advertise themselves to students during Festival ISU where RSOs can reserve a booth on the quad where they can meet passing students looking to join an organization.

Illinois State University also boasts one of the largest student spirit organizations in the United States, RED ALERT. This registered student organization has over 4,100 members, roughly one fourth of the student body. The group was founded in 2006 to promote student involvement in university athletics and has grown exponentially.[44]

ISU is the home of the Gamma Phi Circus, the oldest collegiate circus in the world, founded in 1929.[45] It is one of two collegiate circuses in the US; the other is run by Florida State University.

The Student Government Association at Illinois State University is a unique governing body for the ISU Student Body. It is unique in that it sends 21 voting student members to serve on the Academic Senate which is composed of student, faculty, staff, and administrators.

Greek life[edit]

The Illinois State University Greek community was established in 1967. Statistics kept by those involved claim more than 10% of the student population as active members of Greek Life.

Nationally ranked teams[edit]

The ISU Forensics Individual Events team is one of the most successful forensics individual events teams in the country. In 1995, 1999,[46] and 2000 it won the National Forensic Association team championship and in 2005 its team won the American Forensic Association team championship.[47] Illinois State has been selected as the host of the 2011 NFA National Championship. Famous alumni include Nelsan Ellis of HBO's True Blood.[48]

The Student Fitness Center and Kinesiology and Recreation building completed in 2011

In recent years the Illinois State football team has been consistently ranked at the NCAA Division I FCS level.

The Illinois State Club Baseball team was ranked No. 18 in the country in the spring of 2010 for much of the year, but ultimately finished second in the Great Lakes South Conference behind the University of Illinois. The Redbirds compiled a 15–5 overall record, including 9–4 in conference.[49]

Horton Field House

The Illinois State University Mock Trial Team has enjoyed continue success since its inception in 1987. The team competes in intercollegiate tournaments sponsored by AMTA (American Mock Trial Association).


The school's fight song is "Go, You Redbirds," a song written specifically for ISU and frequently played at sporting events. The Alma Mater song, also played at sporting events from time to time, is "Glory Hast Thou," written to the tune of Haydn's "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser," and better known as the tune used for "Deutschlandlied," the German national anthem. The Grossinger Motors Arena located in downtown Bloomington is home to the universities 3 club ice hockey teams which compete in ACHA Divisions 1, 2, and 3. The Ice Hockey club is also the oldest registered student organization on campus.

Folklore and legends[edit]

The ghost of Angeline Vernon Milner, the university's first librarian, is said to haunt the former library building, now called Williams Hall.[50][51][52][53][54]

Laboratory schools[edit]

The university has two laboratory schools: University High School and Thomas Metcalf Laboratory School.

Bloomington/Normal Japanese Saturday School (ブルーミントン・ノーマル補習授業校 Burūminton Nōmaru Hoshū Jugyō Kō), a Japanese weekend school, was established in 1986 and held at the Thomas Metcalf School.[55] It has a separate office in Normal[56]

Notable alumni and faculty[edit]

The Illinois State University Alumni Center, located at 1101 N. Main in Normal, is designed to serve over 215,000 alumni of Illinois State University, as well as current students, faculty/staff, and the Bloomington/Normal community.[57]

University presidents[edit]



  1. ^ "Illinois State University raises more than $34 million during fiscal year 2023; Illinois State". July 27, 2023.
  2. ^ "Budget Data | Budget Office - Illinois State". July 5, 2023.
  3. ^ "Board of Trustees names Dr. Aondover Tarhule as interim president". February 17, 2023.
  4. ^ "ISU Board of Trustees accepts resignation of Terri Goss Kinzy, appoints Aondover Tarhule as interim president". WGLT. February 17, 2023.
  5. ^ "Freshman, overall enrollment up at ISU in new academic year". September 7, 2023. Retrieved September 8, 2023.
  6. ^ ISU Graphic Standards (PDF). January 1, 2009. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  7. ^ "College of Education, Illinois State University". Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  8. ^ Poshard, Glenn (September 2007). "A Message To Alumni From SIU President Glenn Poshard". Southern Alumni.
  9. ^ "Carnegie Classifications Institution Lookup". Center for Postsecondary Education. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  10. ^ Inaugural Meeting of the Board of Regents, Illinois State University, April 1967.
  11. ^ a b "A Concise History of the University" (PDF). Illinois State University. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 19, 2011. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  12. ^ John Freed, "The Founding of Illinois State Normal University: Normal School or State University?" Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (2008) 191#2 pp.106-126 at 107. online
  13. ^ Freed, "The Founding of Illinois State Normal University: Normal School or State University?" pp.106-126.
  14. ^ "Quick Facts". Archived from the original on September 29, 2014. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  15. ^ Wood, Connor (March 16, 2022). "What to know about Illinois State University's new College of Engineering". Retrieved February 20, 2024.
  16. ^ Jacobs, Olivia (January 13, 2023). "Illinois State University names leader for new College of Engineering". Retrieved February 20, 2024.
  17. ^ "Academics at Illinois State University". Retrieved February 23, 2024.
  18. ^ "Meet the College of Engineering founding chairs". News. October 23, 2023. Retrieved February 23, 2024.
  19. ^ "Forbes America's Top Colleges List 2023". Forbes. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  20. ^ "2023-2024 Best National Universities". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  21. ^ "2023 National University Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  22. ^ "Illinois State University Overall Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. 2023. Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  23. ^ "Illinois State University". Forbes.
  24. ^ a b "Illinois State shows strong enrollment, growth in freshmen and transfers". September 2021. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  25. ^ "University Factbook Fall 2019" (PDF). Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  26. ^ "International Students". Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  27. ^ Freed, John (2009). "Educating Illinois: Illinois State University, 1857-2007". Educating Illinois (2nd ed.). Virginia Beach, VA: The Donning Company Publishers: 67. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  28. ^ "Festival ISU". Festival ISU. Dean of Students, Illinois State University. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  29. ^ "Concerts on the Quad". Concerts on the Quad. Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  30. ^ "Tree Campus High Education". Fell Arboretum. Fell Arboretum, Illinois State University. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  31. ^ "Dr. JoAnn Rayfield Archives". Rayfield Archives. Rayfield Archives, Milner Library. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  32. ^ "Finding Aids at Milner Library". Finding Aids at Milner Library. Milner Library. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  33. ^ "University Archives Online Collections". University Archives Online Collections. Rayfield Archives, Milner Library. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  34. ^ "Milner, Angeline Vernon". Milner, Angeline Vernon. McLean County Museum of History. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  35. ^ Anderson, April Karlene (2017). Illinois State University (1st ed.). Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 20, 47, 107. ISBN 978-1-4671-2748-6.
  36. ^ "Residence Halls - Locations". Living in Residence Halls. University Housing Services, Illinois State University. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  37. ^ "Wattersons Believe it or not... – Features". Archived from the original on August 13, 2007.
  38. ^ "Admissions | Illinois State". Archived from the original on July 1, 2007.
  39. ^ "Cardinal Court". Archived from the original on December 29, 2014. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  40. ^ "The Vidette Digital Archives". About the Collection. Milner Library. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  41. ^ Vidette News Staff (December 9, 2020). "Vidette moving to digital-only format next fall". The Vidette. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  42. ^ "Redbird Life". Redbird Life. Illinois State University. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  43. ^ "Multicultural Center". Multicultural Center. Illinois State University. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  44. ^ [1] Archived October 25, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  45. ^ "Illinois State University Circus". Retrieved October 25, 2008.
  46. ^ "NFA National Tournament: Team and Individual Champs 1990–1999". Archived from the original on May 29, 2010. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  47. ^ "Afa-Niet National Champions". Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  48. ^ "1999 NFA Interpretation Elim Rounds". Archived from the original on September 4, 2006. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  49. ^ "Home – Illinois State Club Baseball". Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  50. ^ "Western Illinois University at the Legends and Lore of Illinois". Archived from the original on May 23, 2011. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  51. ^ Angie Milner: The Woman, the Librarian, the Ghost." The Vidette October 27, 2004
  52. ^ Favorite Haunt; National Cable Show to Tell ISU Ghost Story." The Pantagraph October 22, 2004
  53. ^ Library's Founder said to Haunt Stacks." The Pantagraph October 30, 2000
  54. ^ Milner Played Great Role in Developing ISU Library." The Pantagraph October 30, 2000
  55. ^ Home page Archived February 5, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. Bloomington/Normal Japanese Saturday School. Retrieved on March 31, 2015. "The facility of Metcalf Laboratory School that we have been using since 1986 allows us to enjoy full use of class rooms as well as gym and outdoor playground."
  56. ^ "~ 学校の概要 ~ Archived February 5, 2015, at the Wayback Machine." Bloomington/Normal Japanese Saturday School. Retrieved on March 31, 2015. "郵便送付先: 1413 Heritage Road West, Normal, IL 61761"
  57. ^ "Redbirds Across the Country | Alumni - Illinois State".

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

40°30′40″N 88°59′35″W / 40.511°N 88.993°W / 40.511; -88.993