Marching Illini honor alumnus Fred Nearing


Daniel Dexter, ECE ILLINOIS

In September, the Marching Illini honored one of its most dedicated past members: ECE ILLINOIS alumnus Fred Nearing (BSEE '43).  

Nearing was honored by the Marching Illini
Nearing was honored by the Marching Illini

The Marching Illini director Barry Houser introduced Nearing to the current members and presented him with a cape the band wears during its halftime performances.

Houser values any opportunity to interact with past members of the nation’s first collegiate band program. He said many of the traditions from Nearing’s time with the band remain the same today, which is how the program unites all of its past and present members.

“We value our alumni so much and rely on them tremendously, not just financially, but for support of the program in all facets,” Houser said. “We all can contribute in making our students' time on this campus an experience of a lifetime.”

In high school, Nearing played the clarinet and would often go with his bandmates to see the Marching Illini’s performance at football games, which is how he first gained his interest in Illinois.

When he started school at Illinois, he was a part of the second regimental band, but was eventually moved up to the concert band for his final two years at school. He described the experience as being a one of the highlights of his time at Illinois, and even though he was an engineer, he didn’t feel out of place.

“The interesting thing was, even though the majority of students were music majors, engineering was following them very closely,” Nearing said. “Engineering students now outnumber the music majors in the marching band. They both involve relatively accurate mechanisms - mathematics is very strong in engineering and the same in music - you play it to the beat.”

Nearing is presented a Marching Illini cape by Houser
Nearing is presented a Marching Illini cape by Houser

During his visit, Nearing also met with current clarinetists, and he told them of his time with the program. He then had the opportunity to watch the Marching Illini practice, and praised the band on its hard work.

Houser said it is important for current band members to be aware of Marching Illini's rich history. He added Nearing was a great motivator for the current group to continue to strive to live up to the high standards past members have set.

“When we honor those that have given so much of their time to this University through their time in the Marching Illini, we teach and show our current students what an impact they truly have on the greater good,” Houser said. “It is important to me so our alums feel like they are still part of our family here at Illinois.”