Club History:  The Illini Club through the years........

The San Diego Illini Club has been in continuous operation since 1966 as the home of Illini who relocated to America's Finest City.   For over 50 years the Club has continued to grow and flourish under the tutelage of many dedicated Presidents and several hundred officers and directors.  The Club Presidents have been:


Potsy Clark, Class of 1916



Bernie Mix '57


Earl Smith '19



Eleanor Covey '39 


Paul Schminke '33



Bob Giles '66,'68


Art Michalek '52



Bill Engelbrecht '81 


Eddie Wiegle '28



Kathy Nolan Frost '80


Ferman Sims '59



Pat Giles '69


Paul Close '32



Al Zimmer '66,'69


Eloise Radenz '32



Beth O'Rahilly '77


Wayne Dameron '60 



Bob Giles '66,'68 & Al Zimmer '66,'69


Chester Cohagan '17



Denis Lougeay '66,'68


Burton Yount '29



Dave Humphrey '89


Greig Yarger '28



Andrew Cotner '99 


Ernest Morin '65



Tom Larwin '65


Al Brozowski '49

  2016- Jay O'Keefe '76


Janet Dameron '57


The Club has organized many memorable events during its existence.  In the early days the Club met monthly for lunch at a restaurant in Mission Valley.  Members discussed their Illini experiences and talked about current events.  This was "networking" in the 60s and 70s. Over many years the Club has organized events to Padres baseball games, plays, wine tastings, concerts, charity events, brewery tours, harbor cruises, behind the scene tours of the Midway Aircraft carrier, and many other special events, some of which are listed below. 

  • On September 4, 1989, many Club members travelled north to the Los Angeles Coliseum to watch the Illini play USC.  The game was originally scheduled to be played in Moscow and was deemed the Glasnost Bowl.  But political problems moved the game to LA. Both teams featured young, highly regarded quarterbacks, Jeff George for the Illini, and Todd Marinovich for the Trojans.  Jeff George threw two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter and the Illini won 14-13 after most of the USC fans had already left the stadium.  Also in 1989, the Club initiated a Scholarship Program which has benefited University of Illinois students ever since.
  • In 1992 Illini Coach Lou Tepper brought the Illini football team to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl to the delight of Club members.   There was a pep rally with Chief Illiniwek, the marching band, and the cheerleaders in the ballroom of the Hyatt on Harbor Drive.  During the first half of the game Illinois quarterback Jason Verduzco threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to John Wright and Chris Richardson kicked a 19-yard field goal and Illinois led Hawaii 10-7. Hawaii's explosive offense was held to only 87 first-half yards.  But Hawaii came back in the second half to win 27-17, and Lou Tepper's coaching career spiraled downward.
  • On September 9, 2000, the Illini football team came to San Diego to play San Diego State.  Bob & Pat Giles hosted a benefit dinner for 100 guests at their home with Athletic Director Ron Guenther.  Our Club worked with the Alumni Association and Athletics to sell about 500 game tickets, plus a pre-game tailgate at the stadium for Illini fans.  The Illini proceeded to beat SDSU 49-13 with the Illini fans out-cheering the home fans. 
  • Shortly thereafter, in April 2001, we held our Annual Banquet attended by 116 Illini at the La Jolla Country Club.  Our honored guest was Illini Alum & San Diego Mayor, Dick Murphy.  In 2001 our Club organized trips to a football game at Cal - Berkeley, and a basketball game at Arizona. 
  • In September 2003, the Club organized game tickets, busses, food, drink, and fun for 144 Illini to Watch the Illini/UCLA play football in the Rose Bowl.
  • In 2005 we had huge turnouts at Players Sports Bar to watch the basketball team that played in the National Championship game against North Carolina.  We also travelled back to Berkeley for another football game and to Portland for a basketball game against Oregon. 
  • In 2006 our Annual Dinner at the La Jolla Country Club had 98 Illini hear Illini President, Joe White speak about the University.  Shortly thereafter, the Club hosted pre-game pep rallies, and coordinated tickets as the basketball team played in the NCAA tournament in San Diego.  We developed the Palm Tree club logo and sold over 200 T-shirts with that logo.
  • In 2007 over 100 Club members travelled to Phoenix to see the basketball team play Arizona.  The "No Excuses University" (NEU) program was initiated at a disadvantaged grade school (Los Pen). Our Club routinely attends the annual events to acquaint youths with college opportunities and benefits.
  • In 2008 the Club leased 3 buses for Illini to travel to Pasadena to see the Illini play USC in the Rose Bowl.  Included were tickets, the Rose Parade, and pregame events. 
  • In 2009, our Annual Dinner drew 90 guests to the Admiral Kidd Club to see Jean Driscoll, Olympic and Boston Marathon champion, give an inspiring talk about wheelchair athletes.  Club members also travelled to Las Vegas for a Thanksgiving basketball tournament, one of many such Las Vegas basketball trips to see the Illini. 
  • In 2010 Club Illini travelled to Fresno to see the football team and then to Seattle to see the basketball team. 
  • In 2011 we travelled to Fullerton for Illini baseball, and were pictured in the News-Gazette and on ESPN.  The Annual Banquet at the Admiral Kidd Club was attended by 97 Illini with Illini basketball star and sportscaster Stephen Bardo.  The Ears & Beers event was initiated by Club President Drew Cotner, 130 Illini attended, and the event raised $600 for the Club scholarship fund.  Illini then travelled to San Francisco to see the Illini win a Bowl Game over UCLA.
  • In 2012 the Annual Dinner at the Captain Kidd Club drew 91 Illini to see volleyball coach Kevin Hambly.  In August Ears & Beers 115 Illini enjoyed corn, bratwurst, and beer.  Club members also travelled to Los Angeles to see the Illini compete in the NCAA Golf Championship at Riviera, where Illini Thomas Pieters won the individual National Championship.
  • In 2013, 70 Illini attended the Annual Dinner at the Admiral Baker club to hear University President Robert Easter speak, Ears & Beers drew 105 Illini, and we travelled to Portland and Las Vegas to see Illini basketball.
  • In 2014 San Diego Illini travelled to Seattle for football and Las Vegas for basketball.  We hosted about 150 Illini at a pre-game basketball tailgate in Las Vegas.  The Annual Dinner drew 85 Illini and Ears & Beers drew 96.
  • In March, 2015, the Illini men's and women's teams attended the San Diego Crew Classic on Mission Bay.  Club members provided housing and transportation for the student athletes, and hosted a group dinner.