The School of Labor and Employment Relations has been a leader in human resources and labor relations since 1946.

The movement to establish a school for labor research and teaching was initiated by a resolution adopted in October 1942 at the 60th annual convention of the Illinois State Federation of Labor. An act of the state legislature in 1945 established the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and it began operating in 1946. A stand-alone building was erected in 1960 to house the then-institute and its faculty and classes.

Originally, both on-campus degree programs and extension programs were included. At first only a master’s degree was offered; a PhD program was added in 1966. Joint degree programs were added with the College of Law in 1976 and the College of Commerce (now College of Business) in 1998. In October 1997, the name of the degree changed to Master’s of Human Resources and Industrial Relations (MHRIR) to reflect the evolution of the field. In 2008, the name of the institute was changed to the School of Labor and Employment Relations to reflect its elevated status as a school on campus.

Historical Timeline

1945Reuben G. Soderstrom shepherds effort to create a “labor college” in Illinois; approval of University appropriations to establish the Institute of Labor Relations
1946Albert J. Harno of the College of Law and University Provost, chair, in his final report to President Willard gave the Institute responsibility for fostering, establishing and correlating resident instruction, research and extension work on labor relations
1946The Griffith committee recommended to the trustees that the Institute name should be changed from the Institute of Labor Relations to the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations to broaden the jurisdiction and meet constituent needs
1946Phillips Bradley named first Director of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations
1946Institute opens in one large room on the fourth floor of Mumford Hall with five students in one graduate course taught by Professor William H. “Mac” McPherson
1947Professional Librarian appointed to develop labor library collection
1947Labor Education Extension formally established
1947W. Ellison Chalmers follows Bradley as second Director of ILIR
1949ILIR confers first three A.M. degrees to Peter B. Liveright, James W. Shanks, and Seymour Chalfin
1949ILIR leveraged small budget thought joint efforts with other departments to have 20 courses, 45 students and 13 faculty; Moved from Mumford Hall to the second floor of a private building on Sixth Street after arranging appropriate renovations
1949Eva Galambos becomes first female master’s graduate
1950Melvin Humphrey becomes first African-American graduate
1951Milton Derber named acting director of the Institute following Director Chalmers decision to step down after suffering a heart attack
1952Robben W. Fleming named fourth director of the Institute; initiated a fund drive to construct a dedicated building
1956Funds received from State of Illinois, Steelworkers of America, William Green Memorial Fund, and State Federation of Labor for the ILIR building with strong support of Reuben Soderstrom
1962Martin Wagner named fifth director of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations
1962Kenji Okuda is the first international graduate of the program, hailing from Japan
1962Beginning of management extension program; forming of ILIR Alumni program
1962Institute moves into new building at Fifth and Armory
1962Formal separation of labor education and management extension programs, establishing a labor education extension unit with Phillips Garman as director, and Earl Wolfe as director of management extension
1963The Institute enters a five year exchange program of students and faculty with Keio University in Tokyo furthering Japanese-American understanding of labor relations: Director Wagner, and faculty members Solomon B. Levine and Bernard Karsh head the program which is funded in part by the Ford Foundation
1965Opening of the Chicago Labor Education Program to provide courses, conferences and other educational services for Chicago-area trade unionists
1966PhD program established
1968Melvin Rothbaum named Institute’s sixth director
1970First Doctorate degree awarded to John Niland, an Australian
1971Richard Mannweiler named head of Management Education Program after Earl Wolf’s retirement
1973First donation made to ILIR by Alan D. Ferrell, AM 92, in the amount of $5
1976Ronald J. Peters named head of Labor Education Program
1976ILIR offers Joint JD/AM program with College of Law; Joyce Ingram is the first graduate in 1981
1981Walt Franke named Institute’s seventh director
1982ILIR creates Alumni Annual Giving Program, consistently one of the most successful annual giving programs on campus
1984Arnold Weber A.M. ‘51, President Emeritus of Northwestern University, receives the first Distinguished Alumni Award
1986Corporate Fellowship Program (now Corporate Scholarship Program) begins, providing funding for numerous students based on academic merit and accomplishment; first gift made by General Mills Foundation in the amount of $2500
1987Chicago Federation of Labor AFL-CIO establishes Brabec Fellowship
1987Women comprise more than 50% of the enrollment for first time in program history
1990Inaugural Milton Derber Lecture
1991Center for Human Resource Management (CHRM) founded to match corporate interests with faculty research skills
1991School surpasses 1,000 graduates
1993Multicultural Student Association formed to meet needs of growing number of minority students enrolled at ILIR
1993ILIR sends major delegation to conference held in conjunction with Japan Institute of Labor; faculty and staff also visit Hong Kong and Taiwan
1994Peter Feuille named Institute’s eighth director
1994An endowed fund in honor of Hachiro ‘Buddy’ Koyama is established to “open the doors of opportunity” for international and internationally-involved students
1996ILIR and Japan Institute of Labor jointly host conference in Chicago
1997ILIR 50th Anniversary Celebration
1997ILIR changes the master’s degree from A.M., Labor and Industrial Relations to Master of Human Resources and Industrial Relations (MHRIR); first degrees awarded in 1999
1998The Martin Wagner Education Center dedicated during fall alumni weekend;  Previous classroom/lounge was remodeled, enlarged and updated for the first-ever building enhancement
1998ILIR Faculty Teaching Excellence Award introduced; Professor Wally Hendricks first awardee
1998Joint MBA program started conditionally Fall 1998 and became official program in Fall 2001; Lisa Linke received first MBA/MHRIR in December 1999 and last two degrees were conferred in December 2021
1999Family fellowship program is established to support student education; Alumni Wayne Anderson, Lee Loichle, and Alan May make significant contributions to establish endowed fellowships
1999The Industrial Relations Research Association organization moved headquarters to the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (now LERA)
2000Craig Olson named first ILIR Alumni Professor
2002Emma Jean Mahoney, ILIR’s longest-serving employee, is honored for 43 years of service by campus and ILIR at her retirement
2002Ron Peters retires as Head of Labor Education Program; Ed Hertenstein (Champaign) and Bob Bruno (Chicago) fill the position
2004100% of December class placed in jobs before graduation
2005ILIR hosts Alumni Professorship Symposium
2005ILIR hosts HR Games
2006ILIR hosts a 60th anniversary celebration
2006School surpasses 2,000 graduates
2006Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld named Institute’s ninth director
2007The international student population composes one quarter of students
2007Professor Bob Bruno named Head of Labor Education Program
2008Renovations are completed to make six professional recruiting suites and an administrative area named the Walt Franke Suite, replacing the former library space as library services shift to digital formats; project made possible through gifts totaling $200,000 from alumni, friends and corporations
2008Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations officially becomes School of Labor and Employment Relations; director positions become dean titles
2009Labor Education Program introduces distance learning courses as part of new undergraduate curriculum in Global Labor Studies
2009LER hosts a memorial service for Archie Green, LER librarian from 1960-72 and founder of the Campus Folksong Club who lobbied Congress to establish the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress
2010The former second-floor administrative suite is converted to a faculty office suite, funded by Director Emeritus Peter Feuille and his wife, Susan
2012Professor Joseph Martocchio is named Interim Dean of the School; he is the school’s 10th dean/director
2013Professor Fritz Drasgow is named Interim Dean of the School; permanently appointed to the position in 2014 and is the School’s 11th dean/director
2013Renovations are completed for the basement corridors and the first floor corridors/offices, upgrading the general building space for the first time
2014Peter B. Liveright, AM 1949 and oldest living graduate of the School, delivers the May Convocation address
2014Building renovations continue with complete upgrades to all second floor corridors and offices
2015LER delivers the first online degree classes to the inaugural cohort of students
2015LEP adds the Project for Middle Class Renewal to investigate the working conditions in today’s economy and elevate public discourse on issues affecting workers
2015 Minority Students Association changes their name to Multicultural Students Association to reflect and include the growing number of international students in the program
2016School surpasses 3,000 graduates
2018Immediately following May commencement ceremonies, ground is broken on a $6 million renovation and addition to the LER building, the first addition to the physical space since the building was constructed; two new classrooms and an outdoor gathering space are among amenities
2019Building grand opening for the addition is held in September 2019, featuring the Chancellor, Provost, and key donors
2020All classes and activities for the School are moved to completely remote formats due to the COVID-19 pandemic; 20-21 school year is conducted in a hybrid format, with most student contact happening virtually and full in-person instruction resumes in fall 2021
2022Ryan Lamare is named first Reuben G. Soderstrom International Labor Relations Professor
2022Reuben Soderstrom is awarded the Chancellor’s Medallion by Chancellor Robert Jones; it is the highest honor awarded by campus and this is the first posthumous award
2022Professor Ingrid Fulmer is named the first female Dean of the School, becoming the 12th dean/director
2022LER 75th + 1 Anniversary celebrated one year late, due to pandemic restrictions
2023School surpasses 4,000 graduates
2024Professor Simon Restubog is named Interim Dean designate, becoming the 13th dean/director