James J. Stukel

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James J. Stukel
James J Stukel.jpg
James J. Stukel on September 29, 2004.
15th President of the
University of Illinois system
In office
Preceded by Stanley O. Ikenberry
Succeeded by B. Joseph White
Personal details
Born (1937-03-30) March 30, 1937 (age 80)
Joliet, Illinois
Alma mater Purdue University,
University of Illinois College of Engineering
Profession Academic

James J. Stukel (born March 30, 1937) served as the 15th President of the University of Illinois.

Early life[edit]

James Stukel was born on March 30, 1937 in Joliet, Illinois to Philip and Julia Stukel.[1][2] James and his sole sibling, a sister 13 years older than he was, had a modest upbringing. His father, a pulp mill worker, and his mother, a homemaker, maintained a small, clapboard house. While neither of his parents had more than an eighth grade education, Mr. Stukel would say of them, "my father had a real gift for numbers. He could do things in his head that were remarkable, and my mother was extremely sharp until the day she died...they were...bright."[2] His parents began to save for his college education soon after his birth.[2]

Mr. Stukel's parents instilled in him a strong work ethic. He would later say, "they were pretty stern regarding my grades and homework...and I always worked."[2] In third grade, James joined the school band. He would practice three to five hours each day on his saxophone. Of his band experience, he said, "nothing was given; it was earned." [2] He would credit his band experiences to force him to set goals. According to James, his "whole life...is based around competition and goal setting."[2]

In junior high, James started a paper route to earn income. In high school, he entered into student politics and was elected junior class president. His opponent would later remark that James was a, "class act" and an, "outstanding student and quiet leader."[2]


A high school chemistry teacher, recognizing Stukel's potential in engineering, drove James to visit Purdue University. He would later joke, "the University of Illinois wasn't in his vocabulary, but he took over the decision making process."[2] James enrolled at Purdue and joined the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. To help pay for school, James played saxophone with his dance band, The Spotlighters. The band played music from Woody Herman, Stan Getz, and other jazz artists. During the summer, James would play at resorts.[2]

It was at Purdue that James met his wife Joan Helpling, a majorette with the Purdue marching band. The two toured Europe as members of a variety band. They would marry during their senior years. Stukel would later comment on his wife, "I [have] been...lucky in that I have a very supportive wife who...influenced the way I developed...in...positive ways."[2] Stukel graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Purdue shortly after his marriage. The couple then moved to Virginia.[2]

He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Technology Administration Under Secretary Bond (left), former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (center), and James J. Stukel (right) on September 29, 2004.

After the completion of his Ph.D., President Stukel joined the faculty of the Engineering College. He rose to the level of Associate Dean before transferring to the University of Illinois at Chicago. While there, he served in a variety of administrative capacities, assuming the roles of the Vice-Chancellor for Research, the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and finally, Chancellor of the campus.

After his four-year tenure as Chancellor, James Stukel was selected as President of the University of Illinois system by the UI Board of Trustees. He served in this capacity for approximately 10 years (1995–2005) and was succeeded by B. Joseph White.

The newest residence hall at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the James Stukel Towers, was named after the former president.


  1. ^ "UIUC Library Archives: James J. Stukel Papers" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-09-01. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mabry, Becky (July–August 2004). "Grace Under Pressure". Illinois Alumni Magazine. 

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