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Mary Henson hasn’t decided what she’ll wear for her halftime appearance Saturday at Memorial Stadium. But it’ll be appropriate.
“I’ve got to look in my wardrobe,” she said Monday. “Of course, I do have a little orange and blue in there.”
Mary’s been all about school spirit since the day she and her late husband, Lou, arrived at the University of Illinois in 1975. Fittingly, she’s the inaugural recipient of the Spirit of the Illini award, which celebrates her character, contributions and role in the community. She’ll be presented during the Marching Illini’s performance of Three-In-One.
“I never expected anything like that,” she said. “It’s overwhelming and mind-boggling.”
Saturday’s honor is part of a busy homecoming week for Mary: Monday’s Rebounders ladies luncheon, Thursday’s alumni association banquet and Friday’s Varsity I dinner. Before the 2:30 p.m. kickoff against Wisconsin, she’ll make the tailgating rounds.
Even better is that family will be in town, daughter Lori accompanying her Saturday before another wave arrives Sunday (she has 12 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren).
Lou, the UI’s all-time winningest coach, passed away in 2020.
“He would have been proud” of the award, Mary said. “I was his No. 1 supporter, and he was mine.”
Coming Sunday: Our gallery from Monday’s ladies luncheon at the I Hotel and Conference Center.
Illini Rebounders: Learn more at illinirebounders.com