“We come to college not alone to prepare to make a living but to learn to live a life.” – M.J. Riggs as quoted in “One Hundred Years of Action: The University of Illinois YMCA” by Harold Hannah
A Brief History of the University YMCA
The YMCA of the University of Illinois was founded in 1873. The first President (Regent) of the University was a Baptist minister, John Milton Gregory. President Gregory led a daily chapel service that all the students were required to attend; but students wanted a religious organization of their own, thus began the YMCA at the U of I.
In total, the University Y has had 5 different locations–all on Wright Street. In 1938 the University YMCA moved to its current building on the corner of Wright and Chalmers, in the heart of campus.
The University Y began with Bible studies and service projects. One was the “Student Handbook”, later called the “I book”. The Y provided this free service to students until 1955 when the I book was taken over by the University.
The University YMCA helped students find housing from the earliest years. In 1908 the Y provided the first Dormitory on campus for 88 U of I students in the Y building later purchased by the University and now known as Illini Hall.
In 1918, the University YMCA began organized service to International students. At that time there were 201 students from 31 countries. Now there are over 10,000 international students at the U of I.
The University Y continues to have cooperative programs for these students such as our International Student Reception each fall, and the International Dinner each spring.
The Y serves as the home to different student organizations focused on social justice, environmental protection, faith in action and global engagement. More information about these groups is available by clicking here.
We receive no money from the University budget and no tax money. We are a 501 (c3) non-profit organization and we exist solely from the donations of private individuals. You can make a tax-deductible donation on our Donate Now page.