Big Guns — some of the real heavy-hitters influencing UIUC.

Time to talk about some of the really big guns $ sources involved in what goes on at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (“UIUC”), and in particular inside players in the ever-expanding push of UIUC to raise $135M to pair up with its partner Carle hospital (putting in $100M itself) to build a medical center over the strenuous objections of UI Chicago (“UIC”).1


1. Some history.

Some quick historical background:

1. The “Cluster Report.”  On January 20, 2014, UIUC released a report on suggested areas for technology development at UIUC — the “Identification of Technology Clusters for Economic Development” report (the “Cluster Report”).2

2. The “Economic Development Advisory Group.”  This report’s executive summary revealed that “[r]ecently, the Chancellor convened an Economic Development Advisory Group composed of a small group of campus and business leaders, to discuss economic development for the campus and community.”  This Economic Development Advisory Group (“Economic Advisory Group”) was responsible for commissioning the Cluster Report.

3. The Strangeness at the Urbana City Council meeting.  On March 3, 2014, the head of the UIUC Research Park, Laura Frerichs, presented a summary of the Cluster Report to the Urbana City Council3  At about 10 minutes into the presentation,4 council member Diane Marlin asks Ms. Frerichs about the reference to the Economic Advisory Group in the Cluster Report, specifically who’s in that Group.

A very weird back-and-forth ensues where, for whatever reasons, Ms. Frerichs won’t say who’s in the Group.  No one has ever explained Ms. Frerich’s behavior; could be she’s just not sure if she’s allowed to say what the membership is, could be she doesn’t want to say.

4. I file FOIA with UIUC to find out who’s in the “Economic Development Advisory Group.”  I watched Ms. Frerich’s presentation, and thought it would be really interesting to find out who was a member of this group, and whether this information would be publicly available or not.  So I filed FOIA with UIUC, and on 3-21-14 got this back from the UIUC-FOIA office:




To summarize who these people are:

  1. Phyllis Wise — Chancellor of UIUC;
  2. Ilesanmi Adesida — Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost, UIUC;
  3. Dan‎Peterson — Vice Chancellor, Institutional Advancement, Senior Vice President, UI Foundation;
  4. Michael DeLorenzo — Associate Chancellor, UIUC;
  5. Pradeep Khanna — Associate Chancellor for Corporate and International Relations, UIUC;
  6. Laura Frerichs — UIUC Research Park Director, UIUC Director of Economic Development;
  7. Peter Fox — “Peter B. Fox is the Founder of Fox Development Corporation (FDC), a real estate development firm which develops, manages, and leases approximately 1.5 million square feet of office and retail space in Champaign, Illinois”;5
  8. Jim Leonard — President & CEO, Carle Foundation Hospital;
  9. Greg Lykins — Chairman of First Busey and a director of Busey Bank and Busey Wealth Management, Inc; and,
  10. Rick Stephens, founder, Horizon Hobby.


2. Who’s in, who’s not.  Nepotism (Fox); nepotism (Leonard); nepotism (Lykins); nepotism (Stephens?).

Let’s focus on the non-UIUC people on that list — Fox, Leonard, Lykins and Stephens.6  These are names that crop up continually in high-level dealings at UIUC, obviously at least partially because they’re all community leaders.

These members of the working group also aren’t shy about Chancellor-boosting in public — here, for example, is an open-letter published in the local paper (The News-Gazette) on 9-11-14 about the Salaita Affair,7 with the funky academic-y columns cropped out:




Now of course we’re a country that believes in free speech, whether that speech is by an outraged Jew (including an outraged Jew donor) or outraged leading light of the community.  So what we should conclude — and in fact must conclude — is that the degree of separation of either individual — outraged Jew or outraged leading light — has to be scrutinized in any fair analysis of influence.

Yes, well, it’s a funny thing, but the degree of separation between Wise/UIUC and Fox, or Leonard, or Lykins — and probably Stephens — is very very little.  In fact, I think it’s pretty clearly nepotism, which is defined as:

The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.

Thus Fox is the developer of the UIUC Research Park (which is run by his former employee, Laura Frerichs), and would seem the likely developer for the proposed medical center.8

And Leonard is of course the CEO of Carle Hospital, which aims to build the medical center with UIUC, and which says it will put in $100M towards that center.  That’s a whole lot of influence, and it shows in, e.g., Associate Vice Chancellor Eardley shilling for Carle’s bed expansion, as I wrote about previously (Big Donor, Little University).

Now regarding Greg Lykins, who’s the Chairman of First Busey, turns out Chancellor Wise is on the board with at least $20K in compensation per year from that entity:

University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise has been appointed to First Busey Corp.’s board of directors, the company reported in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Wise, who has been chancellor of the UI’s Urbana-Champaign campus since 2011, is entitled to receive a base retainer of $20,000 a year as a First Busey director. She is also entitled to a grant of restricted stock.

She has not yet been appointed to any First Busey board committees, service on which could boost her compensation.

First Busey is the holding company for Champaign-based Busey Bank, which has offices in central Illinois, Indianapolis and southwest Florida.9

So obviously that’s a rather close relationship; of course it must be ethical since it’s publicly disclosed?  It would be interesting to find out what committees at Busey Wise is now on, and whether she’ll get any $ for a Busey involvement in, e.g., financing Carle’s put for the medical center.10

Finally, Rick Stephens.  I really don’t know much about Mr. Stephens, any thoughts on him would be helpful.  I will note that same article in the Gazette on Wise’s involvement in Busey also note that Joseph M. Ambrose, president and CEO of Horizon Hobby, is also on the Busey board.  I’m sure there are more connections there.


3. Where would you like to go next?

I’ll conclude this post with two points:

First, while you’d expect community leaders would and should be highly connected into UIUC affairs, there are plenty of issues raised by the incredibly close involvement of Fox, Leonard, Lykins and Stephens that need to be resolved, or, better yet, directly answered by UIUC.  I’ve noted many times how those Economic Advisory Group meetings are closed-door, and how there’s no representation by Urbana or Champaign city personnel. All of this isn’t per se suspicious, but it sure suggests a whiff of fire-and-brimstone.

Second, if you’re going to raise eyebrows about rich Jew donors, you can’t do that with any sort of integrity and not also demand answers about rich donor influence from Fox, Leonard, Lykins and Stephens as well.  This isn’t to say Jews aren’t involved; but it is to say that any “analysis” that doesn’t pursue the obvious influence these other people routinely exert is, frankly, anti-semitic, because it elevates Jews to a special level of suspicion that can, should and must be equally applied to others.

Unless, of course, it really is true that any two Jews in a conversation really are conspiring for world domination and Israeli supremacy.


The marquee images are of “Big Bertha,” a type of super-heavy mortar developed by the armaments manufacturer Krupp in Germany on the eve of World War I.  See Wikipedia — Big Bertha

Just think, Krupps.  Now they make your coffee machine.



  2. Available at Cluster Report. []
  3. See Frerichs Presentation Hardcopy. []
  4. Video available at Frerichs video to Urbana City Council. []
  5. See Fox Atkins Development. []
  6. Note that Laura Frerichs’s role is a hybrid one, as the Park Management has external functions.  I’ll have a lot more to say about Ms. Frerichs in future posts, as I think she represents (simultaneously) both the best and worst of UIUC’s attempts to go beyond academics.  One thing I’ll note now is that she used to work for Mr. Fox. []
  7. See Gazette Open Letter. []
  8. See, for example, David Prochaska’s reproduction of a likely proposal by Fox’s firm to bid on the medical center, in “How Public & Private Work Together Today: A UIUC/Carle Medical School?”  Available at Public -Private Partnerships. []
  9. See the News-Gazette, 1-3-14, at Chancellor on Busey Board. []
  10. I haven’t been able to find out how Carle’s going to find the $100M, whether it’s going to use bonds issued through Busey, or what.  Many Marvels, are you out there?  Would you like another DDoS-FOIA topic? []

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