University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will award the Chancellor’s Medallion to Reuben G. Soderstrom. Soderstrom dedicated his life to elevating the cause of workers throughout the nation, and was instrumental in lobbying the state for a labor school in the 1940’s.

Reuben G. Soderstrom is one of the most dynamic and legendary leaders in the American labor movement. He presided for 40 years—from 1930 to 1970—over 1.3 million members in the Illinois AFL-CIO. In 1930, during the Great Depression, the 42-year-old Soderstrom became president of the struggling Illinois State Federation of Labor. He rebuilt the organization through the lean years of the 1930s, rallied behind the policies of the New Deal, and committed his members to a big domestic push to win World War II.

Soderstrom’s push began in earnest for an Illinois “labor school,” culminating in the opening of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations in 1942. He celebrated the dedication of the Labor and Industrial Relations Building in 1962. In 2008, the Institute was renamed to the School of Labor and Employment Relations. The Soderstrom family and trust were instrumental in completing the building renovation and addition in 2019.

The Chancellor’s Medallion is the highest campus honor, given for exemplary work on behalf of the campus. It is designed to recognize exceptional individuals who have done meritorious work. The award reflects both the recipient’s unique contributions and personal values, and the sense of community they possess for the campus.

The Medallion has been awarded just eight times since it was first presented in 1999. The latest recipients in 2020 were three University of Illinois police investigators who helped solve the murder of UI graduate student Yingying Zhang.

The ceremony, followed by a reception, will be held at 3:30 on April 22, featuring Chancellor Robert Jones and Carl D. Soderstrom. The event will be held at the School, 504 East Armory Avenue, Champaign. To RSVP, visit: