Department History: The New Department

The year 1982 was a landmark in Department history. This was the year when the Laboratory for Atmospheric Research became the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. The announcement to the world, made in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society as an article under Educational Affairs, followed the approval by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IHBE). The Department formed within the University of Illinois’s Graduate College, and offered only advanced degrees. Two new faculty, Ken Bowman and John Anderson joined the faculty in 1982 and 1984, shortly after the Department formation. The academic year beginning in 1985 also brought another landmark. After 16 years of service, Yoshi Ogura stepped down as Department Head. The leadership of the Department was turned over to Professor Mankin Mak, who continued as Department Head until 1993. Yoshi continued as Professor until 1988, after which he retired and returned to Japan. He has been spending his retirement with his wife Masako in Tokyo ever since. In honor of his unique contributions, the Department initiated an annual lecture series in 1988, the Ogura Lecture. In the past 20 years, many distinguished scientists have been invited to speak on topics attractive not only to atmospheric science but also to the general student body and faculty on campus.

The Coordinated Science Laboratory on Goodwin and Springfield was “owned” by the Engineering College, and a space crunch forced the college to reclaim the 5th and 6th floors of CSL. The University agreed at that time to find a new home for DAS, and decided after some negotiation to build a new building on S. Gregory St. in Urbana, just north of the Astronomy Building. Plans were drawn for the building, but the move out of CSL had to occur before the new building could be built. To accommodate the Department staff, the Department was temporarily moved to south campus in the Old Veterinary Medicine (“Old Vet Med”) building. For about a year, those of us who were around then had the pleasure of riding the “cattle elevator” from the parking area to the second floor of Old Vet Med. During the Old Vet Med stint, Professors Rauber, Ramamurthy, and Robinson were hired.

It took about a year to construct the new building. The move into the new building occurred in December 1987, right after a major blizzard. Somehow everything got moved despite the snow, and the Department began occupancy of the building where it is still housed today. Two new faculty, Michael Schlesinger and Mingfang Ting, joined the faculty in 1989 and 1993, respectively. The next major event in Department history occurred in 1993. When the Department first formed in 1982, we were housed in the Graduate College, a College that traditionally does not have academic departments. In 1993, the Department, mandated to find a new academic home, moved into the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In the same year, Professor Mak stepped down as Department Head. Bob Wilhelmson became Acting Head while a search was conducted for a new Head. The search culminated with the hiring of Don Wuebbles, who served as Department Head from 1994 to 1996, at which time he was asked to take the position of the first director of the newly formed Environmental Council. Don led the Environmental Council until 2000, after which he returned to the Department Head position. During Don’s tenure at the Environmental Council, Bob Wilhelmson again took over leadership of the Department as its Acting Head.

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