Chancellor Robert Jones awarded the Chancellor’s Medallion to Reuben Soderstrom on Friday, April 22, 2022. The medallion is the highest campus honor, and this was only the ninth occasion this award has been given. It is the first time the award was given posthumously.
The Medallion reflects Reuben’s lasting legacy on campus after he lobbied the state legislature for a “labor college” in Illinois. That work culminated in the opening of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations in 1946. His later efforts and partnership with the Teamsters resulted in the funding and building of the current LER building in the 1960’s.
Reuben was the forty-year president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, and known for his tireless support of workers and working families. The ceremony also featured remarks from current Illinois AFL-CIO president, Tim Drea, and LER Dean Fritz Drasgow. The award was accepted on behalf of Reuben by Carl Soderstrom, Reuben’s grandson.
Carl told many stories about his grandfather’s history, his deep love for the University, and the importance that Reuben placed on families and worker well-being. He accepted the honor on his grandfather’s behalf, and relayed what a great honor it was to have his grandfather acknowledged in such a way, particularly given the importance he placed on education. Reuben, himself, was self-educated in the Streator public library while he worked in the local bottle factory.
Following the ceremony, the School held a reception outside, on Soderstrom Plaza. The Plaza is an integral part of the recent building renovation, and the result of a gift from the Soderstrom family. It features a statue of Reuben Soderstrom giving remarks to his AFL-CIO constituents. For this occasion, the statue featured a replica medallion, created on campus by the Siebel Center for Design.
The School would like to express enormous gratitude to the Soderstrom family, and Chancellor Robert Jones. We strive to continue Reuben’s legacy of supporting workers and their families with each graduating class.