Chapter 8. Gifts and Givers: Donor Buildings
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106 Chapter 8 Gifts and Givers Donor Buildings I think there will be two hundred thousand dollars to put into the building, and that ought to be a sufficient sum of money to really erect a great music building, and when constructed, I want it to stand alone as a monument to the memory of Mrs. Smith. —Letter from Thomas J. Smith to a Champaign friend, August 4, 1913 T  homas J. Smith, Civil War hero, successful small-town lawyer, and wealthy landowner, leaned into the task at hand. He would write a memorial booklet about Tina, his beloved wife, whose dead body lay near him in the big Victorian house on University Avenue in Champaign, Illinois. It was 1903. Fourteen years later, Smith laid the cornerstone on the Tina Weedon Smith Music Building—a monument to his late wifeandthefirstdonor,orgift,buildingerectedonthecampus. “Capt. Smith was the largest single financial contributor to the University of Illinois in all its history,” wrote the Daily Illini on April 17, 1918, in reporting his death the day before in Battle Creek, Michigan. “He has not only paid his share of taxes toward the support of the University on a large property for many years, but he finally presented to the University a munificent gift of 770 acres of the best farm land in Champaign County, the proceeds of the sale of which should go to the erection of a Music Hall on the campus of the University.” In the nearly one hundred years since Smith Memorial Hall opened, some thirty gift buildings and athletic venues, ranging from a state-of-the-art computer science center to a tidy softball field, have been donated to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by individuals and family foundations . Fully three-fourths of the gift buildings and arenas have come since 1980, and most contributions covered from a third to a half or more of the cost of the project. Each of them represents not only a commitment of substantial financial resources but a sign of trust and affection toward the U of I, its leadership, and its aspirations. The love story of Thomas and Pauline “Tina” (Weedon) Smith that yielded Smith Memorial Hall flows from the story of Capt. Smith, who served the Union during the Civil War and migrated to central Illinois, where the new Illinois Industrial University would be chartered in 1867. Smith would serve the University of Illinois as an elected trustee, 1897 to 1903, during the presidency of Andrew Sloan Draper. But it was Edmund Janes James, Draper’s successor at the university, who secured the gift of farmland and cash that would make possible the music hall. And it was James, whose sixteen-year presidency was marked by vigorous campus planning, ambitious building, and high academic aspirations 107 ——  Gifts a nd Gi vers  —— War service suited Smith. He rose from orderly to captain of his own company. On duty in middle Tennessee, a Confederate stronghold, Smith first met Pauline Weedon, some dozen years his junior and a month short of fifteen years old. Smith described the afternoon of March 6, 1863, when he spied Tina—nicknamed for her diminutive stature, including a size 2½ shoe—perched on her mother’s kitchen table with her legs hanging down. for the young university, who accepted the compromise that left Smith Memorial Hall a standalone building instead of one linked to the Auditorium, as planners had suggested. Thomas J. Smith was born in 1839 in Virginia and moved as a boy with his parents to Ohio; he studied law in Louisville, Kentucky, just before moving to Clay County, Illinois , where he taught and in 1859 was elected superintendent of schools as a Republican. But he resigned his term to enlist as a private in Company F, 98th Illinois volunteers. Figure 8.1.  Captain Thomas J. Smith, U of I trustee and husband of Tina Weedon Smith, donated land and cash to build a music hall in his wife’s memory. (Photo dated ca. 1895-1900. Photo courtesy of University of Illinois Archives 0003715.) Figure 8.2.  Smith Memorial Hall was named in honor of Tina Weedon Smith, a southern belle who married a northern Civil War officer. (Image undated. Photo courtesy of University of Illinois Archives 0003397.) 108 —— Chapter 8 —— acres donated to the city in 1854. In the early years, residents pastured their cows on the fenced-in rectangular green for thirty-five cents a month. Soon, prominent citizens would outline the park...